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Cranberry Pecan Muffins: The Baker’s Equivalent of Erectile Dysfunction

Remember how I was telling ya’ll how it was hard to find a good jar mix recipe? Well, here’s another one I tried. It’s called Cranberry Pecan Muffins. It sounded really promising. Dried cranberries, pecans, brown sugar. What’s not to love?

It was one of those recipes in my organizer I’d never tried, and I’m always up for finding jar mixes cause they are so damn easy to keep in the cabinet and grab and make at a moment’s notice, so I figured, why the hell not! Plus, muffins are so easy to freeze. Instant lunch snacks.

So I grabbed and lined my muffin tins.

I had greased them prior and then decided against that and went with muffin cups. God I hate how my tins always get so stained. Anyway! Then I added the sugars and flour.

Add in the yummy cranberries and pecans, with some baking powder.

Then I added the wet stuff

Mixed it up

Plopped them into the muffin cups

Put them in the oven. Baked them. And took them out.

I was slightly disturbed at this point because they didn’t really “rise.” They kind of kept the same shape as the batter when I plopped them in. Oh well, I figured, there’s a lot of food that doesn’t look good but tastes dreamy.

Since my blood sugar can’t handle a whole muffin, and I was about to eat dinner and couldn’t afford the carbs, I called the Texan down to try one.

“Try one of these muffins!” I exclaimed

“They look weird.” he muttered

“Yeah, yeah, just eat them!” I demanded

He picked one up, took a bite. And then he got that look on this face. Not a look of “ew” but a look of “what the hell.” And he cracked a little smile.

“Try one.” he said

“I can’t, too many carbs. How are they?”

“No, really, I insist, try one.”

This couldn’t be good.

I broke off a quarter of one of the muffins and popped it in my mouth.

It was warm cardboard with a sort of cranberry after taste. F*#king great.

I picked up the tin and dumped them in the trash. SONOFABITCH. WHO in their RIGHT MIND actually came up with this recipe but then decided it was good enough to actually put in a recipe book? Are you freakin’ serious?

Ok, was it gross? No. It wasn’t puke gross. But it was nothing. It was like dry brittle pecan cranberry crap. I HATE WHEN THAT HAPPENS! It’s gotta be the baker’s equivalent of erectile dysfunction: You get so excited at the prospect only to find out the damn recipe is completely flaccid no matter how much you are attempting to will it into deliciousness. And even if it’s NOT your fault because it’s not your recipe you still FEEL like it’s your fault and you start apologizing and turning red faced to the other party:

“I’m sorry, honey, I really tried, I don’t know what’s wrong with my muffins. Why does this keep happening to me?”

And if the party is worth anything as a human being they will respond “It’s ok, dear, it happens to every baker.”

UGH! Martha Stewart I am not.

White Cranberry Bar Mix: Oh How Easy It Is

I must have a million recipes for “jar mixes.” You know, the ones where all the dry ingredients are layered in a jar and you just gotta add the wet stuff. I love them because they are easy to do and I can grab and bake, but let me tell you coming across GOOD recipes for jar mixes is not easy.

That is until I figured out DUH. You can just convert your already awesome recipes into jar mixes. BIG FAT DUH!

Say you’ve got a killer chocolate chip cookie recipe. Just layer the dry ingredients in the jar, stuff that won’t go bad, sugar, flour, chocolate chips, and attach a tag (or not if it’s for your own use) for what to add to it to turn it into cookies. DERP! I never thought of that before. I’m an idiot. Mind you you don’t HAVE to make these into jar mixes, but it’s an option.

But, anyway, a few years ago I ran across this recipe for White Chocolate Cranberry Bar Mix. It’s actually REALLY good, not that I can eat it because it’ll send me into, you guessed it, a diabetic coma. But I have taken nibbles and DAMN, it’s good.

Now, traditionally you layer the ingredients in the jar all nice like. Mostly because you are giving them as gifts. But this was for my cabinet. I made it probably about a year ago and totally forgot it was in there until I dug it out of the back. Not so pretty, but still works:

Then grease up your pyrex. I used cooking spray. The picture came out kinda weird, but it’s cool so I’ll show you.

Now you go ahead and dump your mix into a bowl and add the wet ingredients like eggs, vanilla, etc. Whatever the recipe calls for.

Then you mix the hell out of it and pour it into the pan. Well, for this recipe it’s not pouring, it’s more like “pressing” cause the batter is kind of thick.

And now you bake the hell out of it. After you stuck your fingers in the batter and tasted it of course.

As you can see, these don’t last long. At all. Not in my house anyway.

They are REALLY sweet and REALLY rich so be prepared. Even if they didn’t send me to blood sugar hell, I doubt I could eat a whole bar of these because they are so rich. They’re evil. And they are SO worth making!

—————

White Chocolate Cranberry Bar Mix

Layer in a quart mason jar:

1/4 cup white chocolate chips

1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries

1 cup buttermilk biscuit mix

1/2 cup chopped pecans

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1/2 cup regular brown sugar

To Make You’ll Need:

1/2 cup butter, melted

1 tsp vanilla

1 large egg

Dump jar mix into a bowl and add the butter, vanilla and egg. Mix well. Spread into a greased 8×8 pan. Bake at 350 for 25-35 minutes until toothpick inserted near center comes out clean.

Stupid. Freakin’. Bread.

Right. So. By now you know the seething hatred between me and bread. Or you only have to look back some posts to figure it out. And here I am again. Trying to make it work.

You can’t say I’m not putting my part into this relationship!

I ran out of bread, store bought, and I didn’t feel like running to the store. The Texan also loves Hawaiian bread, and I had the ingredients for it. Stupid bread. I figured it’d do just fine as a PB&J sandwich bread.

So I held my breath and tried not to cuss too much. I grabbed out the ingredients. And I started. Again.

You’d think I would learn.

So, add the water and the butter to the stupid bread machine.

Now add the stupid cake mix. This is supposed to be what makes hawaiian bread different. Whatever. Stupid bread.

Now add the stupid flour. And the stupid yeast. In a stupid well inside the middle of said stupid flour mix.

I set the stupid bread machine to light crust and walked away.

I didn’t peak. I swear. I swear I swear I swear.

I walked away and did other things so I didn’t go mad.

And THIS, dear readers, is what I get!

Are you F*@(ING SERIOUS RIGHT NOW? What is THAT? It caved in?

This is the part where I normally curse a lot, complain, tell you that God hates me and try to figure out what happened.

I’m not doing that today. I’m on FREAKIN STRIKE!

Ugh.

I don’t care. They’re gonna eat it anyway and LIKE IT!

In a Pickle

I can go a little nutty with canning. I tend to find something on sale and go totally apeshit with it. A few years back, it was pickle mixes.

Some store had on clearance OODLES of Ball pickle mixes. Dill and bread and butter pickles and oh my. I had about 30 packets of these things I swear.

After making some jars of pickles, which everyone just LOVED, there the rest of the packets sat in my pantry.

And after awhile I started feeling guilty. There was a sale on pickling cucumbers, they were SUPER cheap, so I decided what the hell. Let’s use up these packets. I enlisted the help of BFF and kids, and boy did we can up the pickles.

At first I started trading pickles with neighbors and freecylers for different things. Then I think everyone got sick of pickles. And remained sick of pickles for quite a few years.

Yes, I know, pickles stay good forever. But honestly, me and the Texan don’t really like canned pickles. I’m more of a hard, crisp, never cooked pickle person. As a matter of fact, I won’t even eat canned pickles unless it’s on a hotdog or something.

I needed the room in my pantry that was being taken up by the tons of canned pickles. I wasn’t canning any more because I didn’t have room, damn the pickles. So many pickles.

And what the HELL can you do with them? They aren’t really recipe friendly and quite frankly no one was going to eat them all out of the can so I had to get crafty.

I thought, well, why not dry them? But I knew better.

Cukes are almost all liquid with subtle flavor, so they’d dry basically into salty nasty flavorless chips. I already knew that. There’s a reason you never hear of dried pickles.

But then it dawned on me. You DO hear about pickle CHIPS. As in potato chips! AHA! There was something.

So I grabbed some of my pickles. Mind you, an entire dehydrator load (and my dehydrator is HUGE) didn’t even make a dent in my pickle stash.

And I laid them out on trays.

And I dried the shit out of them.

THEN! And here’s the crafty part. I ground them into a powder in my coffee grinder.

And I fried up some potatoes and coated them in pickle powder.

Was it good? Why yes, yes it was.

You REALLY have to coat the chips with it though. Like a LOT to get the flavor. It’s not as bold or salty as you’d think. It has more of a pickle after taste. But it’s pretty good, and I bet it’ll be pretty damn good on popcorn too.

Would I suggest this to someone just to do it? NO. It wouldn’t be worth it. But I have so many pickles that are going to go to waste otherwise and I just can’t have that. All that work! I had to come up with something. So, pickle powder it is.

I’m sure there aren’t many people out there that feel my pain with this one, but I was proud of my little creativity. Yes, I’m feeling a bit smug.

Course I  have no time to stand here and feel smug and let you adore my awesomeness because I have about 4, 928, 018 pickles that I now have to go dry.

Spray It On Thick, Baby

Scent isn’t only my job, it’s my life. I am VERY olfactory. I can relate scents to memories, people, etc. I actually remember someone’s scent before their face. My friends tell me I have “werewolf smell.” I swear I can smell something going bad in my fridge from the second floor of my house.

I LOVE to have a nice clean scent in my house. I love any good scent in my house. And my job is actually creating scent, so it works perfect. But I realize that for most people, this isn’t the case. And even I sometimes run across something in the store and go “OH! I LOVE THAT!” and of course I buy it and go home and try to recreate it LOL. But nonetheless.

I noticed a clean scent in the house can actually trick people into thinking your house is cleaner physically than it actually is. I can’t, of course, smell my own house. My niece, nephews and my BFF all tell me that my house is their favorite scent. Yet they can’t describe it to me. Well, call me Elizabeth Arden.

I’m super sensitive about the smell of my fabrics. I don’t know why, but I LOVE the smell of fresh fabrics and linens. I make my own freshener sprays most of the time, but I have to say that I do love the smell of Febreeze. But it’s damn expensive. Lucky for me, I also love the smell of fabric softener. As a matter of fact, I can’t tell you how many times my other “were nosed” friend of mine and I have gone to Target only to spend a half hour in the fabric softener section opening caps and smelling them.

I was surprised when I was shuffling around Pinterest (if you haven’t joined that site yet, do it. Now. And realize that I’ve just caused an addiction) I saw that someone had made homemade febreze from fabric softener. This didn’t surprise me, what surprised me was all the people that thought this was a NEW idea. Man, I’ve been doing that for YEARS. It’s gotta be going on a decade now. And it’s GREAT stuff, better than the real thing, cheaper, longer lasting and you have more control over the scent. So go on and go sniff the laundry section and pick out your favorite.

This isn’t my favorite, but they didn’t have my favorite in stock. But this is pretty damn good, and it was on sale.

Now grab yourself a spray bottle. A good one too, one that does fine mist.

As far as the “amount” goes, I tend to use LESS than most “recipes” call for. Most recipes call for a 2:1 ratio water to softener. I find that this is nice and strong BUT it kind of leaves a real slick type coating on my fabrics. I find filling the bottle 1/4 of the way with the softener and the rest of the way with distilled water works great. But it’s really up to you. Test and try.

Some recipes also call for vinegar. I skip that. I like my stuff with just water and softener. But again, it’s up to you. Make sure you test an area first too, just to make sure your fabrics can handle your little experiment. I know some of the real cheap softeners can leave oily lookin stains on stuff.

So, pour it into your bottle, add the water, and shake like hell.

Label it cause, if you are anything like me, someone might think it’s meant to clean the counter tops and well, nothing says GROSS like when you realize the counter where you prep your food is covered with a film of fabric softener. Downy seasoned chicken is freakin’ GROSS.

I use dissolvable labels, which aren’t real conducive to nice writing because they come on a FREAKIN’ ROLL but they are easy to get off unlike regular labels.

And there you have it, homemade fabric freshener for super cheap! It works great, too, my house smells lovely.

I don’t know about you, and maybe I’m just a dork, but new cleaning stuff makes me so happy, especially when it’s something that smells great. Nothing motivates my cleaning fits like a freshly scented brand spankin new load of counter cleaner or scented scouring powder. It’s the simple things in life, after all.

Surrender Bread

If you’ve read my previous posts, you realize me and bread are mortal enemies. Bread hates me, and I hate bread. Well, I LOVE bread. My body hates bread but more importantly I hate MAKING bread. And bread does NOT like me. It doesn’t like coming out right for me. It wishes me dead.

But I battle the beta cell killing diabetic poison thing almost every week and hope and pray for mercy. I have a bread machine because, damnit, I paid a lot for it and it WILL come through!

I found a recipe in my file box for French Baguettes. It required ONLY the dough cycle on the machine. AHA! I can try to do the hybrid thing, that way if it fails I will have TWO things to blame: The oven AND the bread machine!

My bread machine actually has a preheat function so I don’t have to worry about precise temperatures. Score.

The weird thing about this recipe was it didn’t call for a second rise. That’s really weird. Maybe I wrote it down wrong. I dunno. So, being that this is the first time I tried this recipe, I’m going to do it like the recipe says. Next time, I’ll try a second rise.

So, first, grab the water. Cause the bread machine book thingee tells me I have to add the liquid ingredients first.

Now I add the dry stuff.

This is how it looks before I turn it on.

Now I flip it to the dough cycle. Which kneads it and gives it a first rise.

Don’t let the simplicity fool you. Bread is a moody, evil bitch. And I’m done being fooled by simple recipes when all I ever get is freakin’ door stops.

So anyway, it’s set for 2 hours. So I go and proceed to do some knitting or some other such thing to keep my nervous mind off the probably going to fail dough that I’ll have to bake.

Once it’s done, you gotta roll it into wands. Normally, this is where you’d have a second rise but, as I said before, recipe doesn’t call for it.

It said to cut slits in the top, which I did.  It also said to spray it with some water or put a pan of water in the oven to make it crunch. No. That’s too much work for something that I was pretty certain was going to be disappointing. I’ve learned my lesson when it comes to the yeast beast. I refuse to put too much heart and soul into the bread unless I know it’s gonna come out.

And of course, I forgot to take a picture of the finished product. Sorry.

But I can tell you it actually came out good. Was it super light and fluffy? No. But it wasn’t super dense either. It was good enough that all try baguettes were eaten at dinner. So this is something I’m going to try again, perhaps this time with a second rise and with the water misty thing.

*squints eyes* Make no mistake. I still don’t trust bread. I still think it’s out to get me. I still think that at any time, at any place, it’s going to fail on me. Fool me once, shame on you….Fool me twice….

———-

French Baguettes

1 cup water

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp yeast

1 1/2 tsp sugar

3 cups of bread flour

Use dough cycle on your machine and add ingredients as called for in your bread machine instruction book.

Remove dough, divide into 2 or 3 pieces. Roll into skinny wands. Place on baking sheet coated with cornmeal. Slash top with 3 diagonal cuts.

Place in 450 preheated oven. Bake 12-15 minutes depending on thickness.

When done, they should be deep brown and sound hollow.

Place water in the bottom of a pan in the oven or spray with mist of water for a crunchy crust.

Stupid F*@king Lunches

I HATE making lunches. With everything I have I HATE it. I make lunches for two guys who have working beta cells, so it should be easy. Fruit, sandwich, snack, whatever. It’s never that easy for me. Mostly because I HATE buying pre made franken food snacks and I can NEVER seem to keep up enough of an arsenal of my home made stuff to shove into lunches.

If you ever have this problem, I have a million ideas. I’ve managed to execute some of them, actually. For that I’m proud. Lately I’ve been in a busy whirlwind so my stock is running a little dry and thus irritating the hell out of me. So I thought I would put a list of ideas here for you all because, well, if you’ve ever gone through lunch hell, you know what it’s like.

Keep in mind I never said “healthy.” I like cooking, and being such that MY beta cells don’t work and I can’t actually HAVE sugar, I love making things with sugar for people who can have it (even though I do realize they SHOULDN’T have it). It’s torture I know and ass backwards, but it’s true.

Tip#1: Your freezer is your friend. Most things can be frozen and tossed in lunches STILL frozen because they will thaw out by the time the lunch is eaten. This also quickly teaches them to eat breakfast so they aren’t attacking their lunch mid morning and biting into a frozen something or another.

#2: When you make desserts, whether it be brownies, cakes, muffins, cupcakes, whatever, learn to do what I’ve done: steal half of it and freeze it before anyone has the chance to get at it. Most families aren’t going to go through 18 muffins or a whole cake in a few hours, so there is ample time to let it cook and snag em up to the freezer. It’s the same concept: Wrap in foil, then in a baggy, and freeze. If you are freezing something frosted like cake or cupcakes, then put them in the freezer on a cookie sheet long enough to harden the frosting, then wrap and store.

#3: Grab some 8 oz jelly jars, half pint masons, or take away containers and make some jello or pudding. Pour into the individual cups and you’ll have frugal, easy snacks.

#4: Dried food makes great lunch snacks so if you have a dehydrator, go for it. Jerkies, dried fruits and fruit leathers can be stuffed into lunches and they have a crazy long shelf life.

#5: Don’t deny the power of the leftovers. Today’s left over pot roast, pork roast and meatloaf can be turned into a roast beef sandwich, pulled pork sandwich or meatloaf sandwich. It’s a nice switch up from PB&J and lunchmeat.

#6: On the power of leftovers: Get yourself a good microwave safe dinner container. You know, the ones with the sections. This way you can stuff leftovers in that and as long as they have access to a microwave they’ve got a hearty hot lunch.

#7: Pop a couple quarts of popcorn, not too much since it goes stale in a couple days, and season it with some interesting spices. Whether it be cinnamon and sugar or curry and garlic, you can make a whole batch and stuff them into baggies for instant snacks.

#8: The old stand by! I purposely make/order extra pizza whenever we have it so I can snag a few pieces to make up for lunches. Even if there is no microwave we all know pizza still kicks ass cold.

#9: This is cheating, but I have to say I’ve done it. Good frozen dinners. When I’m going to whole foods, I’ll snag up some good organic Annie’s frozen dinners or something of the like just in case I’ve forgotten or something came up and I’ve not had time to make a lunch. It’s a good ass saver. Also cheating, but canned soup. Texan particularly likes this one, especially in the winter. A can of soup will prove to be a good meal and a good switch from a typical sandwich lunch and also serves as an ass saver in those times where the lunch was the last thing on your mind.

#10: Make them ahead. This is probably the best tip. You CAN make several sandwiches ahead and pack several lunches, especially PB&J which keep great in the fridge for a couple days. Then it’s a grab and go thing and you don’t gotta sweat.

It’s amazing how something as simple as a lunch can turn into such a big deal when you aren’t prepared. For me anyway. I like to have as much of an arsenal as possible, but sometimes (like lately) it just doesn’t work out that way. So until they make a robot that can do all this for me, I figured I’d share in some of my tips in case you can sympathize with my lunch-hell-panic.