Thursday, May 29, 2014

Apricot Pepper Jelly

The first of this year's crop of apricots are starting to hit the fruit stands near us.  I grew up in apricot country  and love anything baked or made with apricots.

One of my favorite apricot recipes is Apricot Pepper Jelly.  It is a derivative of the standard green jalapeno jelly.  This one is much more colorful and the apricots provide a nice flavor.  The great thing about this recipe is that it uses dried apricots so it can be made any time of year. Make sure to buy California dried apricots.  They are sun-dried and have a more intense flavor than some of the imported apricots.  I usually get mine from local growers, however, Trader Joe's always has packaged California dried apricot on their shelves.
Of course, this jelly is great with cream cheese and crackers or bagels.  It's also nice in a glaze for ham or chicken.  Combine some with your favorite BBQ sauce and use on ribs. For an easy appetizer I like to put small squares of puff pastry in a mini-muffin pan and a cube of brie cheese.  Bake then top with a dollop of this jelly.  They never last long!

This is a very simple jelly to put together.  A little chopping, a little blender action, throw it in the pan and cook for 5 minutes.

Apricot Pepper Jelly

2 cups red pepper strips
2 cups cider vinegar
¼ cup (or more, depending on taste) chopped fresh jalapeno peppers (seeded)
1 cup dried apricot halves, slivered
6 cups sugar
3 oz. liquid pectin

Combine pepper strips, vinegar and jalapeno peppers in a blender or food processor.  Pulse until small chunks remain.  Combine with apricot slivers and sugar in saucepan; bring to a boil.  Boil and stir 5 minutes.  Remove from heat; skim off any foam.  Cool 2 minutes; stir in pectin.  Pour into sterilized jars; seal at once.  (If desired, process in boiling water bath 15 minutes).  Makes 6 ½ cups.

So pretty and so tasty!


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Procrastination 101

I'm normally a very organized person. I plan ahead, make to-do lists, have household routines and pretty much stay focused on what needs to be done (I even have a list of crafting projects I want to get done in 2014). 

However, when it comes to some of my crafting projects I tend to procrastinate on getting them done. I think this procrastination can be explained by two things; intimidation or dislike for a certain procedure.  If a certain procedure or technique in a project is something I've never done before or that looks too difficult I tend to put it off.  And if the procedure is something I'm not real fond of doing, that gets put off, too!  The end result is I end up with a few works-in-progress that take up space in my craft room and in my mind.

This past weekend I vowed to get through some of these projects.  My Hubbers was away on a bike adventure so I had five whole days to myself. No more excuses that I had chores to do or places to go. It was time to get things accomplished! As is usually the case,  once I got involved with things I found that it was easy to finish and I shake my head in disgust wondering why it took me so long to get to this point! I'm quite pleased with my progress as I have no more WIP's laying around my room! (I do, however, have plenty of unstarted projects!)

This cross stitch project has been moved around my craft room for 14 months now.  All it needed were the beads on top of the firecrackers. Doing bead work is not my favorite thing to do though I love the effect bead work has on a stitched piece.  Little needle, little beads, old eyes. It's a precarious combination. In about 30 minutes I had it done and it is now at the framing shop.
My youngest granddaughter will be four in September.  These cross-stitched pieces will make up a birth sampler for her.  It is done on perforated paper which threw me for a loop at first.  All it needed to be finished was to stitch her name and birth date in the blanket and cut out all the paper-stitched pieces. I set up shop in my living room chair, turned the TV on to the day's drag racing coverage and got it done. It, too, is now with the framer. The pieces will hang from a string clothesline, with little clothespins.  It's going to be adorable!
I started these strawberry pincushions before tax season overwhelmed me.  They sat next to my sewing machine for three months, just needed the leaves to be glued on and the flowers cut, beaded and glued on.  Took me no time to finish!
A year ago I bought some Annie Sloan chalk paint (Emperor Red) with plans of painting this living room table. I'm intimidated by the whole process even though I've read many tutorials and viewed many You Tube videos. My Hubbers will be going on another biking adventure in July.  I'm bound and determined that when he returns home this table will be red! As the little engine said, "I think I can, I think I can!"
Please join me at a Stroll Thru Life's Inspire Me Tuesday!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Gardening Face Lift

This is the view from my kitchen window at the  sink area.  It overlooks the very edge of our lot.  It's a narrow area and adjacent to it is where the garbage cans are stored.  It's always been a challenge keeping this part of the yard attractive to look at while inside the house yet keep its utilitarian purpose.  It also doesn't help that our kitchen window is directly in line with our neighbor's bathroom windows!  Years ago Mark built the trellis and we planted a crimson honeysuckle vine.  It gives us and our neighbor some privacy and attracts a lot of birds, especially hummingbirds. The negative to the honeysuckle is the flower bed it is in is small and narrow.  The roots preclude me being able to plant bedding plants at its base.  So the top of the trellis was always colorful but the flower bed base left a lot to be desired.

I decided it was time for a face lift! I purchased some bird houses and put my Hubby to work setting them up (yes, he is a keeper). I added more soil to the flower bed then planted a few plants in pots.  They fill up the space nicely but don't have to compete with the honeysuckle roots. The changes have brought some architectural interest into the space, as well as some more color. I spend a lot of time at my kitchen sink.  Now I have a little more to look at when I'm washing the never-ending pile of dishes!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

A Patriotic Dessert

Around here berry season and Memorial Day go hand-in-hand. This dessert is easy and yummy.  The biscuits have a subtle ginger flavor which is a little different from most cobblers. Cutting the biscuits into star shapes turns an ordinary cobbler into a patriotic one!


1 ½ cups sugar
6 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 cups fresh or frozen blackberries
6 cups fresh or frozen red raspberries
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon powdered ginger
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
¾ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) chilled, unsalted butter, cut into pieces
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons chilled whipping cream
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 375°.  Butter a 13-by-9-2-inch glass baking dish.
 In a large bowl, mix sugar, cornstarch, lemon peel and cinnamon.  Add berries and lemon juice; toss to blend.  Transfer to prepared dish.  Dot with butter.  Bake until mixture begins to bubble, about 30 minutes for fresh berries, 45 minutes for frozen berries.
 Mix flour, powdered ginger and grated fresh ginger, ½ cup sugar, baking powder, lemon peel and salt in a medium bowl.
Using a pastry blender or fingertips, work in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal.  Or process in the bowl of a food processor for 30 seconds.
Add cream; by hand or with processor, stir until dough forms.  Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead gently until smooth, about 6 turns.  Roll out to ¾-inch thickness.  Using a 2-inch star-shaped cookie cutter, cut out biscuits.  (You may use any shape cutter desired.) Re-roll dough scraps; cut out additional biscuits.
 Place biscuits atop hot fruit, spacing closely.  Mix 1 tablespoon sugar and ¼ teaspoon cinnamon in a small bowl; sprinkle over biscuits.  Bake cobbler until biscuits are golden, about 25 minutes.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Vintage Cake

While perusing Pinterest the other evening (surely I'm not the only one who loses hours at a time browsing that site?) I spied a three-layer cake called Vintage Cake. What really caught my attention was that one of the layers was a brownie layer.  The brownie is topped with a chocolate sauce, then two layers of white cake that is filled and frosted with a cream cheese frosting. So I had to try it! Everyone loved it so it was a good choice.

The recipe is from a cookbook called Surprise-Inside Cakes by Amanda Rettke from the website The cookbook has all sorts of cakes with surprises inside them such as hearts, rainbows, etc. Cute stuff.

This recipe can be made with boxed cake and brownie mixes, if desired, which would make the process easier.  I made the layers from scratch.  None of the recipes were difficult but I did have a lot of dishes to wash! I thought both the white cake and brownie were very tasty.  I must frost heavy as the recipe didn't make enough frosting, I ended up making another half-batch of frosting.
Vintage Cake

White cake recipe OR 1 box white cake mix
Decadent brownies OR 1 box brownie mix
2 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
7 ounces sweetened condensed milk (half of a 14-ounce can)

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups confectioners sugar
1/4 cup milk

Prepare white cake, as directed, and bake in two 9-inch round cake pans.  Allow cakes to cool to room temperature.

Prepare brownies, as directed, also baking in a 9-inch round cake pan.

To make the chocolate sauce, place the chocolate, sweetened condensed milk and 1 tablespoon water in a small saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring until the chocolate is melted (about 5 minutes).

While the brownies are still warm, place the brownie layer on a cake stand.  Slowly pour the chocolate sauce on top, letting it soak into the brownie.  Allow the sauce to soak in for at least 30 minutes. Meanwhile, make the cream cheese frosting (see below).

Place a white cake layer on top of the brownie and top with approximately 1/4 cup of the frosting using an offset spatula.

Add the second white cake layer and cover the cake and side with cream cheese frosting.

To make the frosting:  Combine the cream cheese, butter and vanilla in a stand mixer and mix on medium speed until incorporated, about 1 or 2 minutes.  Add the confectioner's sugar 1 cup at a time, until the frosting is light and creamy.  For thicker/stiffer frosting, add more confectioner's sugar, 1/4 cup at a time.  If the frosting is too stiff, add milk 1 tablespoon at a time.

In the "keeping it real" theme of my blog here is the cut cake with all the crumbs and frosting on the plate intact. No, I won't win any photo awards, that's not my intent.  My intent is to share great recipes while living an ordinary life. Hope you try this cake, it was wonderful!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Gardening With Avery

Now that tax season is over I usually have our 3-year old granddaughter one to two days a week, often an overnight included. The chores and to-do's don't stop when she's around, although they do tend to get put off a bit. Granddaughter time is pretty precious! I've found that if you incorporate age-appropriate tasks into the chores they have fun and things get done. It may take longer, may have to be re-done later but that's ok! It's a good bonding experience and the child learns new tasks and gets a feeling of accomplishment when done.

I'm still trying to catch up on my spring yard cleaning.  I have a wine barrel that had snapdragons in them over the winter.  They were past their prime so we pulled them out and planted vincas in their place. Last night we went to a garden center and bought plants, I pretty much gave Avery the lead on what flowers to get.  She wanted pink & purple so vincas is where I subtly directed her to!

We took out the old plants, added soil, mixed everything up (in our pj's no less!)
Then it was time to plant! She actually did pretty good at this. I had to make the planting hole but she did a great job of getting the plants in there and filling back up with dirt. Kids and dirt is such a natural combination!

Then we did a little crafting; we painted a rock to mark that this was Avery's garden. She was bound and determined that she was going to do the painting, and she doesn't spell yet, so both of us had our hand on one paintbrush when we were doing the detail work.  Our rock won't win the fanciest rock award but she was quite proud of it!

After a shower to wash off our dirt and paint, we were sitting in the rocking chair reading a book.  She reached up, touched my cheek and said "I had fun today, Nana". Yes, we did sweetheart, and Nana's backyard looks pretty good, too!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Strawberry Lemonade Layer Cake

At my recent Mother's Day luncheon I made a strawberry lemonade layer cake.  A friend alerted me to the recipe found in the April 2014 issue of Southern Living magazine. Besides being so pretty it was amazingly good.  I will make this cake time and time again. The cake has a subtle lemon flavor and is layered with a strawberry lemon jam.  The frosting is to-die-for, consisting of cream cheese, chopped strawberries, lemon juice and whipped cream. Yes, there are a few calories in this cake!
Though there are three components to this cake recipe (cake, jam, frosting), each is very easy.  The jam can be made a day or two ahead of time and kept refrigerated. I assume you could substitute regular strawberry jam for the one shown in the recipe.  This jam is a little thicker, easier to spread and the lemon flavor in it really complements the cake. This cake is a must for strawberry lovers!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Mother's Day Luncheon

I think this is the 6th year that I've hosted a luncheon for Mother's Day.  I always do it the Saturday before Mother's Day to eliminate conflicts with other family celebrations.  It seems to work out well this way. This year we had a full house, everyone was able to attend, from my Mom to my six-day-old great-nephew.

I tend to find a theme for my gatherings.  It helps me stay on track with decorating.  This year my theme revolved around doilies. I made banners sewing scraps of material onto paper doilies. I incorporated doilies in a Mom banner I made.  My dessert dishes and cake plate have a doily-style edge to them.  And, of course, I incorporated doilies that my Grandmas made.
My sister provided the lunch food.  We dined on chicken salad and egg salad sandwiches, pasta salad and fresh fruit.  Just enough to satisfy our hunger but left room for dessert, a yummy strawberry lemonade cake (decorated with a doily banner!)
I used lots of flowers on the tables. One can never have too many flowers!  Each adult was able to take a mason jar arrangement home. 
In addition, I made each adult a tote bag, stenciled with a doily and their initial.
For the kids' table I covered it in white paper and put crayons on the table.  This entertained them for a while but soon they were off to the bedroom to play, letting the women catch up with each other and enjoy some laughs. 
It was a wonderful time with the most important ladies in my life and our children. Happy Mother's Day!

I'm linking up to Inspire Me Tuesday!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Cookies For A May Day Birthday!

May Day is a traditional spring holiday in many cultures. In my family May Day has extra relevance as it is my step-daughter's birthday. To celebrate her special day, and the arrival of spring, I made some spring sugar cookies for her.  We delivered them to the school where she works as a speech therapist. Time sure flies, she wasn't even five years old when I started dating her dad.  Now she has little girls of her own. Happy birthday, Carly! I love you and am so thrilled to be a part of your life!

I find decorating sugar cookies to be a rather therapeutic endeavor.  It's like doing a paint-by-number project except that the "paint" tastes good!  It is a time-consuming and messy process, however. For someone who is a well-known clean freak having this kind of disarray in my kitchen causes me a little angst.  It took me an hour to clean up from this project but all is back in place once more!