Mexican Wedding Cakes – Powdered Sugar and Spice – Always Nice

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Rescued from the depths of a past blog post and recreated today in my kitchen with a TWIST – cardamom and pistachio…  Inspiration – a dear friends 20th Anniversary Party!

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[insert ethnicity] Wedding Cakes – a favorite of my theater buddy ASB, from the tried and true Joy of Cooking, among many classic cookbooks.

About forty – sixty 1 ¼ inch cookies, easy to halve or double or any other fraction you can manage. I am always closer to forty….

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup confectioner’s sugar (aka powdered)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt (unless your nuts are salted, then omit)
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup chopped nuts – I love pistachios, walnuts and/or pecans (recommend toasting, below)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (gluten free flour works fine too)
  • ¾ cup confectioner’s sugar, for rolling
  • Spice like cardamon, cinnamon or nutmeg if you like, about 1-2 tsp, mixed in with powder sugar for coating

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease or line cookies sheets if you like although not necessary
  • Beat first 4 ingredients (butter, sugar, salt, vanilla) in a large bowl until well blended
  • Stir in chopped nuts
  • Stir in flour until blended
  • Once mixed, shape in 1 inch balls and arrange about 1 ¼ inches apart on cookie sheet. Bake, one sheet at a time, until cookies are lightly browned, about 12-15 minutes. Let stand to cool briefly. Then remove to a rack and cool more. Roll the cookies in powder sugar and spice.

These just melt in your mouth!  I am not sure why they are called Mexican, since nothing in the original recipe screams Ye Old Mexico, other than maybe vanilla. These cookies are sometimes called Russian Tea cakes but this name seems less common (based on unscientific survey of all my cookbooks, none referred to Russians. Sign of political times?). The main difference is traditionally the Russian version is made with walnuts. This cookie is also found in reference to many other countries under the names Swedish Tea Cakes, Italian Butter Nut, Southern Pecan Butterball, Snowdrop, Viennese Sugar Ball, Sand Tarts, and Snowballs. Basically, pick your favorite country or match to a party theme, use the nuts you have (don’t fret, even mixed party nuts) and enjoy. A last word of caution, neither inhale deeply or nor sneeze directly when eating these cookies due to the generous dusting of sugar.

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Toasted Nuts – easy and really brings out flavor and adds some new dimensions too

  • Heat oven to 325 F.
  • Line a cookie sheet with tinfoil
  • Add nuts in a single layer
  • Toast for 5-7 minutes. Don’t burn!

how to toast walnuts pecans nuts

original post – http://oddsandhens.com/2013/05/19/eat-the-cake-you-have/

DIY Sensory Mat Tutorial – Bits Baubles Glittery Goop

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Plenty of tutorials out on the inter webs for sensory mats, so nothing too revolutionary here BUT what makes this one different is I used my food saver to seal in the gloopy glittery beautiful mess. Nothing wrong with just sealing and taping a zip locking bag or ironing to seal but using the food saver allows you to make custom sizes and ensures a good seal. I still sealed two separate strips because oh lordy lordy imagine if this leaked.

Ideas for fillers

  • beads
  • glitter
  • packing peanuts
  • foam ear plugs
  • pompoms
  • google eyes (or one giant eye!)
  • rubberbands
  • partial string of fake pearls
  • marbles
  • wine cork (but i ended up pulling out because too big)
  • string, yarn
  • buttons
  • sky’s the limit, repurpose away!

Liquid – no magic ratio (buy a big cheap bottle), mixing water or paint with oil makes for fun blobby separation

  • scored green glitter poster paint for a song on clearance) plus baby oil
  • baby oil and water with glitter (another clearance steal)

Mix together, with liquid taking up about 1/3 of the space, fold out most of the air and seal shut (two rows of seal)! I didn’t use the vacuum function just flattened/folded out most of air. Enjoy! We have to put ours up when out of the house because our dog has a tendency to be ‘offended’ by things in packages and might just rip it open. That would surpass any mess made by a leaking ziplock bag.

If your kiddos are old enough let them help find and make the contents of the play sensory mats. I have a little stash of plastic animals for the next go around.

Share your photos!

contents green glitter sensory mat pompoms rubber bands beads foodsaver sealer contents green glitter sensory mat pompoms rubber bands beads foodsaver seale blue baby oil glitter sensory mat pompoms rubber bands beads foodsaver sealed giant google eyes contents blue baby oil glitter sensory mat pompoms rubber bands beads foodsaver sealed giant google eyes contents green glitter sensory mat pompoms rubber bands beads foodsaver seale

Nut Butters – Almond, Pecan and Walnut! Oh My!

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I love nut butter – peanuts? yes please! almond? Over here! But I recently tried making a batch of pecan and a batch of walnut. Now the big decision, is which nut butter to spread on my toast?

Nut butters are very easy to make at home and are a sure fire way for you to know EXACTLY was is in (or not) your spread. Nuts and a pinch of salt (if you like). Get a bit crazy and whirl in some honey.

What you need

  • Raw or roasted nuts
  • Sea salt
  • Food processor, spatula
  • about 10 – 15 minutes
  • Maybe ear plugs if your food processor sounds like a jet engine (as does mine – since upgraded)

How to

  • Put the nuts, whole is fine, into the food processor.
  • Turn on the food processor and let it whirl, swirl and pulverize away.
  • You likely need to stop it every few minutes to scrape down the sides.
  • Keep processing until it is the consistency you desire. Plan on about 10 minutes but watch as each nut and batch size will vary.
  • Add a pinch of salt, mix it in. Taste and add more if you like.
  • Scoop into containers, maybe enjoy a spoonful.
  • Nut butters keep just fine in a jar at room temperature. I made sure when filling the container to push out air bubbles.
  • Enjoy!

DIY nut butter

Almond butter is a staple, the walnut was good but I think next time i will roast the walnuts first as there was a slight bitterness. Pecan butter was the big surprise – it becomes spreadable really quickly (compared to almonds) and the taste has a lot more depth. After it sat for a few days some of the oil separated, which i poured off (you don’t have too), but it was still perfectly spreadable.

Starting my day off with a banana and pecan butter  toast!

Starting my day off with a banana and pecan butter toast!

Here is a great almond butter treat recipe! No Bake Almond Apricot Chocolate Cookies  Do you have a favorite nut butter recipe or variation?  Those pistachios in my pantry better watch out….

Dried Mango – Simple Snacking

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This isn’t rocket science but just a method that worked really well and made short work of a case of Kent Mangos. I scored the ripe box at Ranch 99 Market for a song – you could smell the mango-y-ness wafting from the box (after of course you left the questionable seafood herbal Pinesol legit asian grocery smell).

For slicing and serving I really like this method using a glass, although the mangos in this purchase were almost too big, I could only do this AFTER slicing half but still helpful.

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Dried Mango

  • Dehydrator (or can use the oven either on dry function or low low heat)
  • Ripe Mangos
  • Metal box cheese grater (slicing side)
  • Vegetable peeler

Peel the skin off only half the mango so that you can hold onto the fruit without it all over the place. Run your mango across the slicing side of the cheese grater to get strips that are a good thickness for drying. I used primarily the top two slicers. Of note, I tried to using the peeler to create the mango slices but they ended up very very paper thin when dehydtrated- actually sustained a mango paper cut. Don’t ask. Keep slicing and peeling until about half is gone, then use the glass method if you like to remove the giant pit and repeat, but do just peel away a part at the time so you have the skin to help hold it together. There was still a pile mushy indeterminate shaped mango, just put in a storage container and add to yogurt, ice cream or just spoon it right into your mouth.

In the dehydrator at about 130 F it took my batch about 4 hours to dry. I like to fill up each layer and put some sliced banana in at the end.

Enjoy!

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From Scrootches to Spinach to Saturday! First Seven days of Give It 100!

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That is 7% for those of you that showed up for the math portion of my blog…. Bee and I are having a great time reading poems together and are 7 days into our 100 day challenge. A few days we have read more than one – once you get started it can be hard to spot, especially when he starts to squawk along.  We read mostly poems but also included the book Little Pea in honor of National Spinach Day this past week.  We have also read some poems that I am not so sure about the message (day 4 alternate – Tiger who wore white gloves; tiger is shamed out of wearing them….) but filed away for later when it is time to talk about such topics. For now we like the fun sounds and Bee has joined in. Have you joined Give It 100 yet?  Feel free to share poem ideas with us!

Day 7: 

Day 6: Scritchy Scratchy Scrootches – a tongue yoga detox class

Day 5: 

Day 4: Knitted Things – this is s fun crafty one!

Day 3: Big Red Barn

Day 2: The Fish are in the Treetops

Day 1! – I Lost My Hippopotamus

Getting ready to read – also joining the #nomakeupselfie movement (aka last day of maternity leave!)  I post almost daily on istragram with 10 second teaser (and other randomness) or join me over at giveit100.com.

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Day 1 of #Giveit100 Project: aka Rhymes with Bee

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A few of our favorite reads right now.

There is no shortage or reading, singing or talking in our house with Baby Bee around but I came across the Give it 100 project and thought this would be a fun way to capture Bee McQT over the course of time and work our way through the tomes of books, especially fun poetry collections he has been generously gifted. So far I enjoy reading the rhymes as they move along, and Bee seems to like the rolling sounds/inflections and isn’t yet searching for that ‘hidden mouse’ or naming off all the colors he sees. Some baby books have such great pictures but are a tad boring to read right now without the reciprocal interaction. It has also been a while since I have posted a Reach & Read book review, and think that this just might replace that space in the blog. Stay tuned.

In short: 10 second videos of my ‘project’ for a 100 days and you can follow it on giveit100.com or my instagram feed #giveit100 #rhymeswithbee but I will link the full video of each poem or book. I am working on beefing up my instagram so be patient and do not fret that it doesn’t look like the website just yet.

I’ve Lost my Hippopotamous by Jack Prelutsky – Read by Mother Megan March 22, 2015

A few Favorite books (but there are so many: Llama Llama, Big Red Barn, Mother for Choco …..)

  • I’ve Lost my Hippopotamus
  • Little Blue Truck
  • Father Fox’s Penny Rhymes
  • Good Night Montana
  • Follow the Moon
  • Little Pea (and oink and hoot)

Creme Brûlée in Jars : Perfect, simple, deceptively easy

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creme brûlée recipe in jars

 

Previously, I was not a big creme brûlée fan. No good reason, just meh or I will have the seasonal sorbets please. I also had no idea how simple it is to make. Fancy French dessert? Must be complicated, require stilettos, twelve hours, culinary degree and secret ingredients grown in the shade of the Eiffel Tower. Well, it is not. It is the perfect combination of quality ingredients, topped off with flames! I looked at quite a few recipes as there are many variations and approaches – my version is a mishmash of Joy of Cooking, Ina Gartner, Alton Brown, Martha and Julia. You could certainly make a batch and bake in a single larger dishes (for a little longer) but I love jars and desserts in jars.  The 4 ounce Ball canning jars make the perfect personal sized dessert. My recipe makes about eight or nine of the 4 ounce jars, little ramekins work too but will hold a little more volume.  I easily tripled this recipe to make two dozen for our recent Lunar New Year Celebration. Dessert and a Show!

Recipe

  • 3 egg yolks; save the whites and make a quick batch of my coconut macaroons or freeze for future use.
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup organic sugar
  • 1 pint of heavy whipping cream
  • 1 1/2 (generous) teaspoon vanilla bean paste (I like the kind in the jar, but you could scrape out a bean too)
  • 2 (generous) teaspoons Cointreau (optional)
  • Another 1/2 cup or so sugar for topping and burning after baking
  • Raspberry, mint leaves and other garnishes: I also used coconut chips, sky is the limit
  1. Heat the oven to 325 F. In a backing pan, e.g. 13×9, place the jars and then fill pan with water until it reaches about 60% of the way up the jar.IMG_0116_2
  2. Whisk/beak with a fork the egg yolks, whole egg and sugar, vanilla paste and Cointreau in a large mixing bowl using a fork or whisk. I love my large glass measuring bowl with pour spout. IMG_0114_2IMG_0115_2
  3. Scald the cream in a sauce pan. Stirring most of the time. I scald by heating and stirring until tiny bubbles just start forming on the edge.
  4. Pour very slowly the scaled cream into the eggs/sugar stirring constantly until all combined. You don’t want to dump and scramble the eggs.IMG_0118_2
  5. Stir until well combined and then pour into prepped glass jars. Some people strain to remove any lumps, i did not and it turned out just fine and had Great Texture.
  6. Put the jars in the pan with water into the oven and back until creme  ‘trembles’ but is set in the middle. This was about 35 minutes when using the 4 ounce jars.
  7. When done cooking, remove jars for water bath/pan and refrigerate for at least 2 hours to finish setting. IMG_4331
  8. About 30 minutes before ready to serve, let the jars sit at room temperature. Then cover with a layer of sugar and use a torch quickly melt/burn the sugar. You can do this under a broiler preheated to high. This is a little trickier.  Yes, that is me RS babywearing and putting finishing touches on desert. For safety reasons (and because my guy loves the torch) – I let him put the “brûlée” in Creme Brûlée.

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  9. Add your toppings and serve! IMG_4350_oh

Remember the coconut macaroon recipe!
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Simple single ingredient dog treats – Happy Cow Heart Chews

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Happy Cow? Yes, I asked the rancher. Also grass fed and local.  A friend and I purchased a quarter cow from a local farm near Seattle (Hallet Family) this summer. When picking up at the butcher they asked if I wanted an offal. Yes! Liver (made pate), kidney, tongue (can you say TACOS!) and heart. The intestines weren’t suitable this time, no loss – not a tripe fan.  The kidney and heart are saved for Mr. Mason, the family fur baby.

Making a wholesome, natural dog treat and not wasting part of the animal makes this tutorial a win-win. I am sure you could also add spices, flavoring, much like a jerky and the dogs would love but this is allergen free and no extra sodium etc. A cow’s heat weights about 3-5 pounds depending on age, so expect at least half that in treat weight.

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Supplies

  • Animal parts – can do this with really any piece of meat or animal part. I have seen esophagus et al turned into dog treats out on the inter webs.
  • Dehydrator
  • Zip locking bags
  • Sharp knife
  • cutting board
  • large rimmed baking sheet (options)
  • Disposable gloves, if you prefer
  • Biology book if you want to geek out and look for things like aorta, mitral valve etc.
  • Paper towel, lots.

Place your cutting board in a rimmed baking sheet covered with paper towels. if no baking sheet, put paper towels under your cutting board to help catch blood.
Slice the cow heart into thin uniform slices, less than a 1/4 inch if you can. The meat should be mostly defrosted if frozen – does make a little easier to cut. I did need to drain the blood from mine and give a quick rinse in the sink. From bigger pieces maybe cut into strips or make bite size nuggets for training treats if you like. Remove as much fat as possible. I didn’t do as good of a job with this and my treats have more fat than they should, so I am storing them int he freezer so they do not become rancid. But you can certainly store these at room temperature – plenty of beef jerky recipes out there; I recommend however fridge or freezer. Remember – the nose knows…. Note – I did not preheat the cook/heat the meat.

Lay on dehydrator trays and turn on and let it work its magic. I used the higher heat setting on mine – but you should follow your specific dehydrator’s recommendations. You could also dehydrate in the oven or other methods, especially if you have experience dehydrating meat/making jerky.

Expert Tip – move the dehydrator to the garage as the meat smell is not appetizing after a while and it will take at least four to five hours to dry out.  When done I placed dried bits of love on a paper towel to dab off any extra grease I could. Store in fridge or freezer.

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Finished product

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Treat Anticipation…… Check dramatic slow-mo of Mr. Mason trying out his treat for the first time.

Baby Prints : Crafts to do to your baby!

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For our first arts and crafts time together, Bee and I made Valentine’s day cards and some fun baby prints. IMHO nothing is reeeeaaaalllly off limits (ok a few things) – hands, feet, fingers, buns, ears, bellybutton, nose – pretty sure at some point these will all be memorialized at our house. Whatever you choose – you can easily create thank you notes, framed art for nursery or art wall, keepsake ornaments and really above all, is just a fun sensory activity to do with your baby.

There is a family story of my little brother making “butt pwints” with a friend all over the sidewalk in their wet swimsuits –  inspired by family lore, an adorable baby tush and a mother’s need to traumatize her child, Bee and I created some art.

Supplies

  • Washable non-toxic paint (if applying to glass or ceramic will need to use a different kind of paint)
  • Foam brushes
  • Plate for paint
  • Lots and lots of baby wipes or rags to clean up the craftermath
  • Adorably baby
  • Paper, stretched canvas, blank cards, tracing paper, yardstick or whatever
  • Sheet or we just used a pee pad that we line the changing area with.
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Snapshot of supplies. We used our adoption profile book to tape the paper down too….

Tips

  • Rather than dip the foot into a plate of paint, I found sponging it on with a brush applied just enough to make a good mark. Reapply after each print for a similar color intensity.
  • Practice before making the real deal
  • Make more than one of the end product if you can (i.e. I made more than one of each card in case i messed up at a later point)
  • Talk with your baby about the colors, sensations etc
  • Tummy time! Laying baby down on tummy, painting the bottom and then pressing the paper (taped to a firm surface, like book) to their bottom is easier then pressing the baby down onto something. HOWEVER, this may change depending on the wiggle factor. In that case, this becomes a two person craft most likely
  • For the feet hearts, rather than rotate your baby or twist their foot to make the heart/v-shape, adjust the paper to the angle
  • For bum prints, clean off any diaper cream/ointment first
  • Plan a bath afterwards to get the paint out of all the toe crevices
  • Include yourself!
  • Take pictures of the final product. We have already started an digital album of art at eight tender weeks of age

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Mom joining in the fun!

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Sweet feet…..

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Easy gift idea to use large scrap book paper; light trace with pencil the border of the frame, make foot prints inside the board (so that they don’t get cut off; trim to size and place in a frame…. can also use Modpodge to fix to a stretched canvas

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Angle the card not the foot… Making Seahawks inspired hearts

 

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We made Valentines and Thank you cards…

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The card in the back is for a 49ers fan…. meh. :)

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Cleaning up the crafter math…

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Butt-erflies….. could also add dots to make ladybugs, use yellow paint and black for bees, on and on…..

A quick Pinterest search will reveal a plethora of hand and foot print ideas – sky is really the limit and no holiday can go uncelebrated with out and baby print. You know we will be making many more where this came from. Just a few for you…..

Happy Valentine’s Day! Bee’s first art exhibit ….. All About the Base (inspired by our trip to the SAM to see Andy Warhol); Bubbles, Tiny Bubbles and Butterfly I love you (a Marley shout out)

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Share your favorite baby print ideas or photos!

Recipe Trial: Potsticker Miso Soup

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This week I gave the February 2015 Real Simple Miso Potsticker and Snap Pea Soup recipe a whirl. I do not have much experience with miso cooking and the recipe seemed ‘simple’ enough (and it was).  I did find that it needed more salt, more ginger, less water (this time was I used about 1/2 cup less next time around even less) and I cooked the potstickers on both sides adding adding broth right before serving. I also used more sliced radish and snap pea for each serving, putting all ingredients in a bowl, then ladeling soup on top.  This did come together quickly, made for a satisfying supper (and left over lunch) and used up a random assortment of frozen potstickers from our freezer.

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Next time….

Ingredients for approx. 3 servings

2  tablespoons olive oil
2  green onions, sliced into thin disks, keep the whites and dark green parts separated
3  teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger or tminced ginger from the jar
Kosher salt and black pepper (add this in as you go, as miso saltiness may vary)
1/4 heaping cup white miso paste (thank you Amazon Fresh!)
4 cups water
Frozen potstickers (any flavor, maybe about 4-5 per person)
6  ounces sugar snap peas, thinly sliced into matchsticks if you are patient; you can remove the ends and stringy part
4-6 radishes, thinly sliced
Chili oil, for serving (add as much or little or none)

  1. In a glass measuring cup add 1/4 cup water then add in 1/4 miso paste. Mix with a fork or whisk until the miso is dissolved.
  2. Slice the radishes into thin disks and if you have time and patience make match sticks out of the snap peas.
  3. In a large soup pot over medium, heat up a tablespoon of olive oil. Add the white part of the green onions, ginger, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper.
  4. Cook until tender and fragrant. This will be pretty quick, maybe 3 minutes.
  5. Add the remaining 3 ½ cups water and bring to a rapid boil.Keep it going, it will help reduce it a bit (concentrate flavor) and then in a later step when added to the vegetables, quick cook them. Taste it and adjust salt, without burning yourself.
  6. Cook the potstickers. There are lots of ways but for this recipe, keep it easy and just heat a tablespoon or more of oil in a fry pan and add the frozen potstickers. You could of course do this yourfavorite was as well. They will brown in about 4 minutes, then turn them over and brown the other side.
  7. Prepare bowls for soup by placing an healthy pile of snap peas and sliced radishes in the bottom. You can add the potstickers now too.IMG_4075
  8. Ladle in the miso broth into each person’s large soup bowl and drizzle with chili oil if you want a little heat. Add a few twists of fresh ground pepper and some of the green parts of the green onions.
  9. Serve with chopsticks and spoon. Enjoy!

Do you have a miso recipe to share?

 

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