Saturday, June 26, 2010

BEFORE and AFTER: an alternative to fruit salad

For someone who goes through life feeling like her (fill-in-the-blank: hair/bedroom/career pathway) is in a perpetual state of BEFORE, it was gratifying to turn some random fruit...


into these beauties.


Saturday, June 19, 2010

so, how's that working for you?

A while back, I mentioned that our family was attempting a lasagna garden. In raised boxes that we coerced our friends and relations to construct for us. Telling them that it was a party game. With prizes.

"So, how's that working for you?" you may wonder.

Well, we still have friends and relations. *And* the garden is amazing. Let me show you.

Last fall, the garden resembled piles of kitchen scraps on cardboard.

This spring/summer, there is food bursting forth from just about every inch of it!

The onions look promising.

The purple beans are adorable.

The snap peas charm me every time.

Lettuce, anyone? I've got a bumper crop.

Dinner the other night: sauteed spinach with garlic, over pasta.

And strawberries for dessert. Forgive my daughter here, she's enthusiastic.

And after tucking in my two children, I peek out the window and say Good Night to my garden.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

a ball of cake by any other name would taste just as sweet

Cake Balls, Cake Pops, Balls of Bliss. Whatever you call them, they are amazing.

I first saw these on the Pioneer Woman blog. Simple, creative, oh-so-cute.

Here's how:

First make a normal chocolate cake. Boxed is fine, I guess, but I prefer the Betty Crocker recipe from scratch.

Then make a batch of vanilla buttercream frosting. If you must, you could also use a tub from the store.

Now comes my favorite part. Totally destroy the cake by chopping it up into smallish bits in your largest bowl. Don't worry about getting the pieces super small. You'll need to save your upper body strength for later.

Mix in almost all of the frosting. I usually leave out about 1/4 cup of frosting.

The cake should absorb all of the frosting, combining to be a heavenly, homogeneous mass. Try not to shovel it repeatedly into your mouth. Remember your family, remember your guests who hope to enjoy this later.

Roll a tester ball to see if the cake is wet enough. It should not have dry bits of cake flaking off, neither should it be so mushy that it looses its shape. Add the remaining frosting if you need more moisture.

When you've got a good consistency, roll several balls. You can get about 28 golfball sized balls, fewer if they are bigger. Lay them on a cookie sheet or cutting board covered in wax paper. Added bonus: the butter in the frosting is a killer hand moisturizer.

Chill. Not you, the balls.

After an hour or so in the fridge, pull them out and insert a lollipop stick into each. Melt a cup or so of chocolate chips, put into plastic baggie, snip off a tiny corner, and pipe some fun designs onto the cake balls. You have permission to get creative here.

Chill the balls again to set the chocolate designs.

Here are some that served as birthday treats (white chocolate with red food coloring).

Here are some extra-large ones for a Girls' Night In.

And most recently, some for a concert potluck.

Go ahead, get crazy.

The little musicians will gobble them up allegramente.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Welcome, berries!

Do you need a few reasons to love the month of June?

Need more convincing?

Get a load of these mushed berries, leaking their sweet, wonderful juices.

Which later became...

Strawberry Juice!

And I shouldn't forget to sing the praises of these snap peas growing conveniently in the next field.

If June is this tasty, and we're technically not even in summer, I'm almost afraid of the abundance of July.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

sushi tutorial, part 2

Recently I got up the courage to try making sushi rolls without the supervision, leadership, and pleasant companionship of my friend Mari.

I made the rice.

I cooked it according to package instructions then cut in a mixture of 2 tablespoons vinegar, 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 teaspoon salt. Oh, the aroma!

I chopped the inside stuff.

I made the fun squirt stuff (combine tuna, mayo, onion then squirt it from a plastic baggie in a line on the nori sheet, great flavor!)

Then I attempted to roll it up. That was fun. Actually the worst part of it was covering the bamboo mat with plastic wrap between rolls. That stuff is evil.

But when it was all said and done, the rolls didn't look half bad. I only had to eat 8 or 10 of them that were too ugly to serve to actual people.

Will I try this again? Only with the help of friends.

For a look at the first part of the sushi tutorial, see this post.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

remind me again why I fear grating ivory soap?

I'll admit it. There's something I've been avoiding.

Most of you know I can make my own bread,

baby food,

amber raspberry jam.

I've even dappled in making cloth toilet paper. But there is something that, until recently, I just could not bring myself to do.

I wanted, really wanted, to make my own laundry detergent for about a year now. I've long given up windex, lysol, pinesol, and the like, in favor of my trusty 50/50 water and vinegar in a spray bottle. I *love* that stuff. And, yes, sometimes I bring out the big guns, my 10% bleach and water solution. So why not make some naturally derived laundry solution? Seems like a logical progression.

It all comes down to this: Am I willing to grate a bar of ivory soap?

Something about the idea of grating soap, measuring it, mixing it with other stuff seems too... sudsy for me. Like I'm taking a bath in the kitchen. Like I'm eating bits of soap. Not pleasant.

So I've been avoiding it.

Then my daughters, who have the strings of my heart clenched in their teeth, came upon a recipe for making bathtub crayons. And, you guessed it, the recipe calls for grating a bar of ivory soap. Ugh.

It's kinda like when I take them to the community pool on opening day. The water is freezing and I have to decide if I value swimming with my children over my grave discomfort.

So I get out the grater. One child reads the recipe, the other child grates.

Then they switch.

I watch.

Hey, that doesn't look so bad. Let me have a turn. I said, "LET ME HAVE A TURN!"

And it wasn't so bad. Almost like I'm shredding really, really stale cheese.

So now that I'm over my fear, I grated up a batch of laundry detergent. It's embarrassingly easy. And it gets clothes clean. I should have done this years ago.

Thanks to my uber-creative, yet surprisingly sensible, friend Andrew S for the simple recipe and kick in the butt.

Here's the recipe: Grate one bar of ivory soap, measure this, add an equal amount of Arm & Hammer Washing Soda (not baking soda, silly, look in the laundry aisle at the store for this), add an equal amount of Borax. Mix together and use about 1/4 cup of the mixture for a load of laundry.

And while the clothes are washing themselves, I can pop the aforementioned kids in the bath ...

and have them wash the tub with their 'new' bath crayons.