Friday, March 30, 2012

Nom, nom, nomvana

    Yep. It's official. These Carrot-Cheese Filled Muffins are nom-a-licious. My family has declared it, so it must be true. Perfect for Easter brunch (or today, tomorrow, whenever) or to share, these moist carroty delights are not too sweet, but sure to please. As you can see, I was a little less than spot-on dropping the cream cheese filling in the center of the muffins, but the taste is perfect, even if my aim isn't.
     If you want to share just one, not a whole plate, here's an easy delivery method:
A clear plastic cup+ jelly beans+ muffin dropped in a cellophane gift bag.  Add a ribbon and a tag.


Here's the recipe:

Cheese Filled Carrot Muffins
Makes about 30
12 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. orange extract

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups oat flour (or oatmeal run through the blender then measured)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
3 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. salt
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups applesauce
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 cups finely shredded carrots, lightly packed

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 Tbls. butter, softened
2 Tbls. marmalade
1-2 Tbls. milk

Preheat oven to 400° F.

In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese, sugar and extracts until smooth.

In a large mixing bowl, measure the dry ingredients. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, and applesauce. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, mixing just until blended. Stir in the shredded carrots.

Prepare muffin pans by lining with paper liners. Drop about 2 tablespoons of the batter into muffin cups. Drop a tablespoon of filling on top of the batter. Drop another tablespoon of the remaining batter over the filling, making sure the filling is covered.  The muffin cups will be fairly full.

Bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cake part comes out clean.

While muffins are baking, combine glaze ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together until creamy.

Let muffins cool in pan for about 10 minutes; then transfer to a wire rack. Lightly spread or drizzle glaze over the top. (These are not cupcakes—the glaze should be just a thin layer on top.)

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Repurposed Baby Crib Necklace Tree

     My baby is in high school now, but I still have remnants of those baby years hidden around the house. One of those remnants is the Jenny Lind crib that saw several babies from birth to their own "real" beds. It was a garage sale find that was well past its prime by the time my baby moved into her own bed. After several moves it was apparent it was never going to hold another baby, but I looked at all those spindles and it seemed a waste to just throw it away, so I've been holding on to it waiting for inspiration to strike. Well, it finally did. When my daughter told me she needed something to hang her necklaces and bracelets on, the lights came on. I cut a piece of the crib, mounted it on a block of 2 x 4 stacked on a square of 1 x 5 and topped it with a wooden finial. I filled all the holes from the crib mounting hardware and spindles with wood filler, let it dry, applied another coat and let it dry again. I sanded it until it was totally smooth and painted it with black acrylic paint. The final step was to thread acrylic crystal beads on nails and hammer them into the spindle at about 12" and 16" from the base. I left the top bare so she can hang a hat on it if she wants or she can put rings up there instead. I also put some self-adhesive felt discs on the bottom so it won't scratch her vanity counter or dresser top.

Friday, March 23, 2012

A Cheerful Easter

     When I saw this little bunny playing a horn, I knew I had to use it--both my husband and my son are die-hard trumpeters. I used silver embossing powder to bring out the greeting, iridescent clear embossing on the egg, and just clear on the eyes and trumpet to give them sparkle. I then glittered some of the random clover with light and dark green and bronze ultra-fine glitter. I layered the card on pink scrapbook paper with a pearly finish on it, and then on spring green dotted paper. All of this was mounted on a piece of poster board cut to fit the lid of a disposable loaf pan. Final touches were a strip of lace, some twisted pink ribbon, a sprig of light pink crystal garland, and a little arrangement of pink flowers and white lilies. 
     Bake a batch of carrot cake in several of these pans, frost with cream cheese frosting, top with a sweet Easter greeting. No one will be looking for hidden eggs when you show up with this delightful treat!

Use your favorite recipe (yours might be more diet-friendly), or here's mine:

Carrot Cake

3 cups shredded carrots                     2 tsp. baking soda
2 cups flour                                        2 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup granulated sugar                        1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 cup brown sugar                              4 eggs
2 tsp. baking powder                          1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 tsp. salt                                            1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease and flour two 9-in round cake pans, one 9" x 12", or two large disposable loaf pans. In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients for cake except nuts. In a small bowl, beat eggs and oil together. Add to dry ingredients, mixing until well blended. Fold in carrots and nuts. Pour into prepared pan(s). Place disposable pans on a cookie sheet before placing in oven. Bake layers 25-30 minutes, loaves 30-40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. It may take longer if the carrots have a high moisture content, just be patient and keep checking. Cool completely, then frost.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 (8-oz.) pkg cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecan, if desired

In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese and butter until fluffy. Blend in vanilla. Gradually beat in powdered sugar, beating until smooth and creamy. Fold in chopped nuts if using. Spread frosting over sides and top of cake.

I usually omit the nuts in the frosting and use a couple of tablespoons of chopped nuts for garnish, instead.


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Thrifty Thursday

Today I'm starting a new theme, Thrifty Thursday. Every Thursday there will be a post with money-saving and/or up-cycling ideas to help reduce waste and save those precious bucks. Today, my project is a desktop organizer made from empty cereal boxes. Here's the finished product:
     I began with three cereal boxes. I taped them together with clear packing tape and cut the sides at an angle from the back down to the front, about 6" from the base. I didn't cut the front piece of the front box off at the 6" line, instead I scored it and folded it to the inside for added strength. I did the same for each joining of the boxes--I cut the back piece off to the height I wanted and scored and folded the front piece over the back piece and glued it to the inside. I used Tacky glue for this step. On the back piece, I folded the flap of the cereal box to the inside and glued it down for extra support across the back.

     I sprayed the outside sides with spray adhesive because I feel like it holds fabric more smoothly without seeping through between the threads than Tacky glue and glue guns leave ridges underneath which I didn't want. I laid the fabric out on the table wrong side up and placed the stack of boxes on the back side about 2" from the bottom selvage edge.This is important for a one way design like this. If the fabric didn't have a specific direction, I could have covered it more like wrapping a gift. I chose an upholstery weight toile fabric, about 1/3 yard that I had in my fabric stash left over from previous projects. If the fabric had been lighter weight, I would have sprayed the outsides of the boxes with a coat of light spray paint to cover the printing, but the heavier fabric covers the print on the boxes well. I decided to place the seam on the side so it would be less obvious than down the center of the back or front. Wrap the fabric around the boxes, leaving about 1 1/2" overlap. Using Beacon Adhesive's Fabri-Fix, I turned under about 1/2" of the overlapping edge and glued it down over the bottom piece of fabric.   

I cut the bottom overhang at an angle from the inside to the corner on the two sides and glued them down, keeping the fabric nice and smooth. Then I folded the other two sides in at an angle and glued them over the top. On the sides, I snipped the fabric straight in at the point where the boxes are joined, then cut each section at an angle to fit in place smoothly. The front and back were easy. I just cut from the outside edge to the corner, turned under the edges to make a slight angle and glued them down inside the box. I didn't cover the bottom of the box after turning in the ends, but if it bothers you, you can cover it with a piece of fabric or felt.

 As a finishing touch, I cut pieces of fabric the width of the box plus 1", turned the side edges under about 1/2" and glued them over the two center dividers. The fabric doesn't need to go all the way to the bottom of the box inside, just far enough to keep the fiberboard hidden from view. Finally, I wrapped a piece of taffeta ribbon around the box, leaving the end at the front. I cut it into a V shape and glued a decorative button on the top. Instructions for making the decorative buttons are here This one is done without the brad inside, but the process is the same, otherwise.
     I now have a no (new) cost organizer for my desk to keep my loose papers organized that is also attractive. Win-win as far as I'm concerned. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Running rabbits!

     Around our house, bunnies have always been the favored pet. I don't really know why. They really aren't as much entertainment as a dog or cat (or as companionable), but they are soft, sweet, and quiet. Spring always seems to be the best time for bunny themed decor, so when I came across this image as I was trying to come up with some fresh ideas for simple accents for the house that would last for the next few months, this filled the bill.
    The best part--no expense! The image came from The Graphics Fairy, If you haven't come across this site, it's wonderful! A warning though, you may have a hard time tearing yourself away once you start looking. The image is also available as a free printable page with 8 oval images (4 large/4 small) of vintage sheet music backgrounds with the rabbit centered on each here:
Think of the possibilities, bunny lovers!
     I printed the rabbit on a sheet of scrapbook paper designed to look like an old mail-order catalog. I applied it to an oval of foam core board and glued a ruffle of stained coffee filters around the outside edge of the underside.  A quick inking around the edge of the image, a layer of glitter on top of that, and attach a length of satin ribbon looped for hanging to the back and it's done. I had everything on hand., so it didn't cost a cent, even the ribbon. It had come wrapped around some blankets I picked up for the kids a couple of years ago. I couldn't bear to throw it out (it's about 1 1/2" wide, double sided satin), so I rolled it up, dropped it in a compartment of my organizer/tote and now I have a use for it, hurray for up-cycling!

Friday, March 16, 2012

More St. Patrick's Festivities

Share some St. Paddy's Day treats with this gift tote made from a take-out restaurant drink carrier decorated with patterned paper and paper medallions and cutouts. Fill with your favorite Irish foods and spread the "Luck o' the Irish."   Another option is this card topper for a disposable cake (Mint Truffle Brownie) pan.

Here are a few recipes to get your Irish on...

Prepare the soup ahead of time, pour into a quart sized canning jar, cut a circle of green fabric or decorative paper, and place over the top of the jar. Wrap a rubber band around the top and tie a ribbon over the top of it to cover it. Attach a tag to let the recipient know what kind of soup it is and how to serve it. You may want to include a container of cream and some chives for garnishment.

I mix the dry ingredients together, place in a plastic bag and attach a label with wet ingredient requirements and preparation instructions. This allows them to make the bread fresh to serve with the soup. You can also make the bread ahead of time, and give the loaf as part of the gift.

I've included a bottle of sparkling apple cider, and some Mint-Truffle Brownies in my tote. Yum!

Leek and Potato Soup

2 lb. potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 lb. leeks, sliced
1 onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, sliced
5 cups homemade or canned chicken broth
2 1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup butter
1 bay leaf
2 Tbls. parsley, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup cream
Fresh chives, chopped

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add leeks, onions, and celery and sauté until tender. Add chicken broth, 1/2 cup milk, potatoes, bay leaf, parsley, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover and cook until potatoes are tender, about 25 minutes.  Remove the bay leaf and discard. Let soup cool for about 10 minutes, then puree in a blender or food processor. Return puree to pan. Add remaining milk. Thoroughly heat over medium heat. Ladle into bowls. Spoon a tablespoonful of cream over the top and sprinkle with the chives.

Irish Soda Bread

4 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1/4 oil
2 tsp. caraway seeds
1 cup raisins
1 Tbls. milk

Preheat oven to 350° F. Lightly grease a baking sheet. In a large bowl, stir the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together. In a separate bowl beat the eggs, buttermilk, and oil together. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the buttermilk mixture. Add the caraway seeds and raisins. Stir until soft dough has formed. Shape the dough into a large ball on a lightly floured board. Place on the prepared baking sheet, cut a cross on the top of the dough with a sharp knife. Brush with the milk. Bake until golden brown, 35-40 minutes.

Mint Truffle Brownies

Brownie Base
1 box (1 lb 2.4 oz) Betty Crocker® Original Supreme Premium brownie mix
Water, vegetable oil and egg called for on brownie mix box

2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
3 tablespoons whipping cream
2 oz cream cheese, softened
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon mint extract
2 drops green food color

1/3 cup whipping cream
1 1/3 cups (8 oz) semisweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup butter (do not use margarine)

  1. Heat oven to 350°F (325°F for dark or nonstick pan). Grease bottom only of 9-inch square pan with shortening or cooking spray. (For easier cutting, line pan with foil, then grease foil on bottom only of pan.) Make and bake brownie mix as directed on box. Cool completely, about 1 1/2 hours.
  2. In large bowl, beat filling ingredients with electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Spread over cooled brownies. Refrigerate about 1 hour or until set.
  3. Meanwhile, in 2-quart nonstick saucepan, heat topping ingredients over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until melted and smooth. Cool about 10 minutes or until lukewarm.
  4. Pour topping over filling; spread to cover. Refrigerate uncovered about 2 hours or until set. Before cutting into bars, let stand 10 minutes at room temperature. For bars, cut into 5 rows by 4 rows. Store covered in refrigerator.
Makes 20 brownies