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Easter is coming up in a few weeks (gasp!) and I’ve been on the prowl for fun Easter egg stuffers. We have this fun tradition of putting little things in Easter eggs that are NOT candy. Well, maybe one or two eggs have a Cadbury egg in them, but I like to think outside the…er…egg, and put fun stuff in, especially now that my daughter is a tween.
It can be a challenge to find fun things to put in the eggs, so I thought I’d share some of my successes over the last few years:
– Barbie doll clothes
– small LEGO sets spread across several eggs (and a tip for this – if you do multiple sets, you might want to color code the eggs. I do striped eggs for one set, and speckled for another, so she will know what goes with what)
– earrings – I stock up during Claire’s 10 for $10 sale and get the multi-packs of earrings so I can split it up and get even more eggs stuffed
– mini nail polish bottles
– scratch-off lottery tickets
– cold, hard cash. Or even change. She especially thinks it’s cool to get foreign money that we have leftover from our international travels. Finally, a solution for using all that darned change you couldn’t convert.
– Toobs – with items taken out of the Toob, of course.
There’s nothing like fresh bread on a cold day. And with the snow that we got last weekend, I have been on a bread-making kick all week.
I used to have a bread machine, but it broke and I went on a bread-making hiatus. There was just a lot of workinvolved in making bread, and putting in some ingredients and pressing the magic button was just so mucheasier. Then one day, I came across the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking, and my life was revolutionized. 5 minutes a day for homemade bread?! Preposterous. But I purchased the book and tried the recipes. And you know what? It really is possible to have homemade bread in just a few minutes without the bread machine. The secret? You don’t knead the bread (but you really, really need this book – ha. So clever. Sorry, couldn’t resist).
This week, I tweaked the olive oil bread recipe just a bit. I made slow cooker provolone-stuffed Italian meatloaf for dinner, and thought a good, hearty Italian-style bread would go perfectly with it. During my Costco trip, somehow oregano and sweet basil ended up in my cart (please tell me I’m not the only one who gets to the checkout and thinks, “Oh! I don’t remember putting this in.” It’s the Costco ghost. I swear it.), so I thought I’d improvise a bit and use them in this loaf. I also had Kalamata olives staring at me in the pantry, and that seemed like a good addition to the bread, as well. This made 2 huge loaves of bread; these recipes are designed so you can refrigerate the dough for up to 12 days before making the next loaf, but I usually only refrigerate for a few days because that’s how long it takes my family to get through one loaf
Sweet Basil & Oregano Olive Bread
adapted from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day
6 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (I use King Arthur. Our Costco has a huge 25# bag for around $12. Heart Costco)
1.5 T yeast
1.5 T salt
1 T sugar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 3/4 cups lukewarm water
1.5 cups chopped pitted Kalamata olives (make sure you buy the pitted kind. I forgot to check and ended up having to pit myself. Clumsy Amy + sharp knife = disaster waiting to happen)
2 T dried sweet basil
2 T dried oregano
Put the flour, salt, yeast, and sugar together in a 5 qt bowl or a stand mixer bowl. Add water and olive oil and mix with paddle attachment or with dough whisk. This is the point where you may need to add a few tablespoons of water, depending on consistency of dough.
When you’re half-way done mixing, add olives & spices. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a warm, wet towel and allow to rise at room temperature until it begins to collapse or at least flatten, about 2 hours. Now, if you’re ready to make the bread at this point, you can continue on. If you’re making the bread for another day, this is where you refrigerate for another 3 or more hours (up to 12 days).
Next up: baking! The book recommends using a flat stone sprinkled with cornmeal, but I used a stoneware bread pan sprinkled lightly with flour. Put a small amount of flour on dough, break off the amount you want to use (I used half for my pan), and roll the dough into a ball. You’ll then use the Artisan Bread method of stretching the dough on a side, tucking under and rotating to the next side, until you’ve done that with all 4 sides. Place dough on your stone or in your pan and let it sit for 40 minutes. 20 minutes into it, turn the oven to 450 degrees, and place an empty pan on a separate shelf (this will be to hold your water, and in my experience is an optional step).
After 40 minutes, make a few slashes in the top of your bread, then put it on the stone or in the pan. Pour a cup of hot water into the empty pan, and close the oven door. Bake for 30 – 40 minutes, depending on size of loaf you made, or until the crust is brown and you can “knock” on it.
You can view more information and the other amazing books in the series at Artisan Bread in 5.
One of the things that stuck out immediately about the product is that it has no additives or preservatives, and I could understand all the ingredients on the labels. The Brown Rice & Beef Crisps ingredients were: brown rice, rice flour, beef and rice bran oil, and the Sweet Potato & Chicken Krisps ingredients were sweet potato, rice flour, chicken and rice brain oil.
In addition to the all-natural ingredients, the treats are only 12 calories per treat, and low in fat. Our dogs loved them, and I liked that they were a healthy alternative to the usual treats that we give.
Disclosure: I was given 2 boxes of Loving Pets Barksters treats in exchange for my honest opinion. All opinions are my own
1/2 cup butter substitute, softened (I used Earth Balance)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups powdered sugar (I made my own using my Blendtec since I have a corn allergy)
2 cups Enjoy Life chocolate chips
In my family, the holidays mean one thing: baking. Yes, there are gifts, time with family, and all that, but the main event? Cookies. And not just one or two different kinds. Oh, no. When I was a child, my mom would make a minimum of 15 different kinds. We ran out of room in the house for them, so she’d put them in the garage. Seriously. When I grew up, I enjoyed all that holiday baking, too, and one year maxed out at 50 kinds of cookies. Insane, I know. But oh, so good. To say my clothing didn’t fit after Christmas is an understatement.
A few years ago, when I became gluten intolerant, I had a hard time with the holidays. It’s not the same to make cookies without gluten, goshdarnit. I tried rice flour mixes, and they were ok. And then I developed an intolerance to rice flour. Hm. Where do you go from there? Many of the gluten-free mixes have rice flour in them. But there are a few recipes that don’t call for any flour, and here’s one of my favorites that is so easy to make. Only 3 ingredients and about 10 minutes!
Gluten-free Sunbutter cookies (or Gluten-free Peanut Butter cookies if you can tolerate peanuts):
1 cup Sunbutter (or peanut butter)
1 egg (I use Ener-G egg replacer since I’m allergic to eggs)
1 cup sugar
You still with me? I told you this was easy! Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes, until bottoms are golden. Cool on wire rack.
The other day I was perusing the Pottery Barn holiday catalog and noticed these glass acorns:
Pottery Barn Glass Acorns via PotteryBarn.com
12 of them for $14.50. “Hmmm…,” I thought. “I could’ve sworn we had some acorns outside.” So Emma and I bundled up and headed into the side yard, where, sure enough, we found acorns. Apparently it’s hoarding time for the squirrels, because our furry friends seem to have taken most of the whole ones. We still were able to salvage 14 of them, enough for me to try a project. (I’m keeping an eye out for more acorns next year so I can add to this. Those squirrels better watch out!) And so it began:
Rustoleum Gold Spray Paint
Fine silver glitter
Elmer’s Craft Bond Tacky Glue
Since the acorns had been outside, I wanted to make sure there weren’t any buggies in them, so I put them on a piece of aluminum foil and dried them in the oven at 175 degrees for a few hours. I let them cool completely, then headed to the garage, where I found my new love, Rustoleum Gold Spray Paint.
I sprayed one side, waited until it dried, then sprayed the other. It doesn’t matter if you get the tops, as you’ll be putting glitter over them.
Once they were all dry, I put some Elmer’s Craft Bond Tacky Glue on a plate, and with a paintbrush, painted on the tops of the acorns. If there was a stem, I tried to leave it so that the gold would show there.
After the glue was applied to one, I rolled it in the fine silver glitter
And voila! My own Pottery Barn knockoff!
I haven’t decided yet how to display them, since we only ended up with 14. I’ve been playing around with it and have these 2 ideas so far:
The price? Well, I had the acorns courtesy of Mother Nature, the spray paint was something I had from another project, I always have Elmer’s Craft Bond Tacky Glue on-hand for craft projects, and the glitter was in my scrapbooking bin. So, uh, FREE! Sure beats $14.50 for 12, huh?
This post has been linked up at:http://www.lisascraftblog.blogspot.com
We can’t wait for it to hit theatres in February!
I am a natural-born organizer. I have no doubt that, as an infant in my crib, I would arrange my toys by order of size. As a toddler, I alphabetized my dolls. And when I played with Barbies, their clothing was arranged by color, natch.
When I came upon this wreath over at The Painted Hive, I thought I might give it a go. It’s made of twigs, and our new-to-us house has lots of woods and trees, and hence lots of twigs on the ground. The twigs in my inspiration project were so pretty and uniform, though. And I have a hodge-podge of twigs that don’t look so uniform. In order to satisfy my inner perfectionist, I used my BFF, spray paint.
Elmer’s Foam Board
X-ACTO cutting board
Rustoleum silver spray paint
hot glue gun & sticks
a non-obsessive personality
First, I used a bowl and my Elmer’s Foam Board to cut a circle to serve as the base.
I gathered the twigs with the base, laid it all out on an old shower curtain, and had at it with the spray paint. Since the twigs were from different trees, I thought this would give it a more uniform look.
Next, I took the glue gun and started applying the twigs to the circle form. This sounds easier than it was for me. I had twigs of varying sizes and, quite frankly, it was driving me crazy that they didn’t all fit perfectly together. It was at this point where I briefly contemplated heading out to the craft store to buy nice, straight sticks, but then, remembering my $0 budget, curled into a fetal position, had a moment, then got hold of myself and tried to keep it together.
After a few more panic attacks, I got into the groove and put down the thicker sticks first, then filled in with the thin ones. The result?
Not perfect, and several times I had to resist the urge to cut the branches to the same length. I still may attack them late at night, when no one is watching, just to satisfy myself, but for now I’m going with the term “Rustic Wreath,” meaning that the imperfection is all nature’s and that it’s supposed to be that way. Try to ignore the ugly front door. That’s a project for when it’s warm out, and I’m sure I’ll be asking for advice & help with that!
Starbucks is offering the VIA Taste Challenge! Oct 2-5 you can stop in at Starbucks and taste test Columbia Starbucks VIA and Pike Place Roast, then decide which is Starbucks VIA. All taste-testers will receive a coupon for a complimentary Tall brewed coffee on your next visit, PLUS $1 off a Starbucks VIA Ready Brew purchase.