Friday, February 3, 2012

Kitten Mittons

My best friend’s husband, B.J. loves the show It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. He showed us a clip from the show where a guy tries to sell Kitten Mittons. (And no, I’m not spelling it wrong.)

B.J. loves this segment so much, that you’ll find him laughing to himself when he thinks about it. So I decided to make his cat some Kitten Mittons for his birthday. And wouldn’t you know it? There are no knitting patterns for them. There are the few who made some, but never posted their pattern. So I found a Baby Booties pattern and adjusted it.

Daisy models Kitten Mittons

I don’t have a cat. Technically, I don’t have a dog, either. But I had to test these mittons out. So what you see before you is my parents’ dog, Daisy. Daisy wasn’t too happy being fitted for mittons, but after she submitted to a state of dejection I eventually got on all four while laughing hysterically.

Kitten Mittons Pattern
Needles: US 5
Yarn: Worsted / 10 ply (9wpi) Acrylic
Other Tools Needed: Tapestry needle, ribbon, scissors

k - knit
p - purl
inc - increase
rep - repeat
k2tog - knit 2 stitches together
tbl - through the back loops
sl - slip stitch (I slipped purlwise)
p2tog - purl 2 stitches together
yo - yarn over
sts - stitches

Cast on 17 stitches with a long tail.
Row 1: *(k1, inc1, k7, inc1) rep from * once, k1
Row 2: knit across
Row 3: *(k1, inc1, k9, inc1) rep from * once, k1
Row 4: knit across
Row 5: *(k1, inc1, k11, inc1) rep from * once, k1

Work 4 rows garter stitch (knit)

Next row: k16, k2tog tbl, turn
   A: sl1, p3, p2tog, turn
   B: sl1, k3, k2tog tbl, turn
Repeat rows A and B until 18 stitches remain

Row 1: sl1, knit across row
Row 2: purl across row
Row 3: k1 *(yo, k2tog) rep * to last stitch, yo, k1
Row 4: purl

Work 3 rows (k1, p1) - end on purl by purling last 2 sts tog
Cast off loosely, leaving a long tail to sew seam along back of the heel.

Use a tapestry needle to stitch piece together with the long tail. The seam will be on the bottom of the foot and the back of the heel. Weave a piece of ribbon through the eyelets and tie in a bow.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Ladies Night 2012

Ladies Night. There is something therapeutic about sharing good food, tasty drinks, and sweet desserts with your closest girl friends. It's 72% better than a massage, 89.4% better than passive aggressively updating your Facebook status, and 99.9% better than making up arbitrary percentages.

The requirements for ladies night: the ladies, good food, and a good drink.

On this particular occasion, Jordan took point and let us tear up her house. To kick the night off, Jenni brought the drink ingredients: basil and lime muddled in gin and soda. I'm not a big gin fan, but this stuff was good enough to be declared the “official” drink of ladies night. For dinner, Jordan made an original recipe crock pot soup with chicken, veggies, mini tortellini, and cheese. It paired nicely with the crusty bread Hannah brought. For dessert, yours truly made mini cheesecakes with raspberry sauce. They're super easy and nom nommy!

Mini Cheesecakes with Raspberry Sauce
(Makes about 36 mini cheesecakes and ½ c. sauce)

36ish mini Nilla Wafers
2 (8oz) blocks cream cheese (softened)
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract

For Raspberry Sauce:
1 bag frozen unsweetened raspberries
1/3 c. sugar
1½ Tbsp. lemon juice

Special Tools:
Mini cupcake liners
Mini cupcake pans
Fine mesh sieve

Pre-heat oven to 325°

Line mini cupcake pans with mini cupcake liners.

Place 1 mini Nilla Wafer in each cup. In a medium bowl, mix cream cheese, vanilla, and sugar on medium speed until well blended. Add eggs and mix well. Spoon cream cheese mixture over wafers until each is about ¾ full. Bake 20-25 minutes or until center wiggles slightly when pan is shaken.

Remove cheesecakes from pan when cool and chill in the refrigerator.

Meanwhile, mash up frozen raspberries in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add sugar and lemon juice. Simmer for 10-15 minutes.

While still hot, carefully pour raspberry syrup through a mesh sieve into a stainless bowl. The liquid will drain immediately. Use a spatula to push as much pulp through the sieve as possible. I worked on mine for a good 20 minutes. That's just because I'm freakish and didn't want to lose ANY of that raspberry goodness! Stir juice and pulp until combined.

Pour into a squeeze bottle or cover bowl and refrigerate.

To serve: Squeeze or spoon raspberry sauce over cheesecake and prepare to be delighted!

* * * * *

In my opinion, these mini desserts are best served the next day. It allows the raspberry sauce to mellow out a little and the cheesecakes to cool completely. The sauce recipe is truly limited to what kind of fruits you have. Just imagine: a mini cheesecake bar with various fruit sauces. Blueberry, strawberry, and cherry. It makes my taste buds sing just thinking about it!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Finally! Now I Can Order Something Else at Olive Garden

I'm not a huge fan of your typical chain restaurants. I'd rather go to the local Mom and Pop Shop and take my chances than go to Applebee's or Bob Evan's. Both have been boycotted. I make a few exceptions: The Cheesecake Factory and Olive Garden. How can you resist the rich, thick deliciousness of cheesecake? It's worth making The Boyfriend overpay for an ogre sized portion of a meal that I can't finish just to get to the dessert! 

Aaaaand Olive Garden. *ahhhhh* Breadsticks. Cheese. Semi-healthy salad. Cheese on the semi-healthy salad making it a less than healthy salad. What's that you say? Cheese on your cheese ravioli? Of course! Say when...

At least, that's how it would go if I were to ever order anything other than my usual. I think Olive Garden must put something in their food because I have a love affair with their Zuppa Toscana soup. And what a dream! They offer all you can eat soup, salad, and breadsticks. But it's not fair that I can only manage 2 bowls of the dreamy goodness. And that's if I go muffin-topping for the rest of the day. Even though my stomach says, "No more!" my taste buds are saying, "Why'd you stop?"

My friend and long-time twin, Jordan, made a homemade version of Zuppa Toscana, and it was fabulous. Months later, I decided to try my hand at it. And let me tell you, it tastes EXACTLY like the restaurant's. I am so thrilled that I can finally try something different on the OG menu because I know I have delicious Zuppa waiting for me in the freezer. 

Love Affair - Zuppa Toscana
Serves 8
1 lb. ground Italian sausage
1½ tsp. crushed red peppers
1 large white onion, diced (I used red onion.)
4 TBSP bacon pieces (I'll omit this in the future. Too fatty!)
2 tsp. garlic puree (Garlic presses are amazing!)
10 c. water
5 cubes of chicken bouillon
1 c. heavy cream
1 lb. sliced Russet potatoes, or about 3 large potatoes (I also quartered them.)
¼ of a bunch of kale

Saute Italian sausage and crushed red pepper in a large pot. Drain excess fat and transfer to another bowl. Refrigerate while you prepare other ingredients.

In the same large pot, saute bacon (optional), onions and garlic over low-medium heat for approximately 15 minutes or until the onions are soft.

Add chicken bouillon and water to the pot and bring to boil.

Add the sliced potatoes and cook until soft, about half an hour.

Add the heavy cream, sausage, and kale. Stir until heated through. Serve.

*  *  *  *  *

A piece of advice: Only add enough kale as you plan on serving. The kale loses its crunchy goodness after awhile.


Original recipe here.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Bubbly Bubbles

It's New Year's Eve! Time for breakable resolutions and champagne. My over-achieving friends have decided to have a party. By the time I confirmed my other half and I could go, they had already firmed up a knock out menu. Hot taco dip, pigs in a blanket, turkey pinwheels, spinach artichoke dip, cupcakes with champagne frosting (courtesy of jay.mariah creations), wine, tequila, Mt. Dew, Pepsi, and Apples to Apples.  With a spread like that, what's a girl to do? Paper plates - boring. Fruit and veggie tray - easy. Champagne Jell-O shots? Now we're talking!

*  *  *  *  *

Bubbly Bubbles

1 (3 oz.) box Island Pineapple Jell-O
2 packets unflavored gelatin
1 c. pineapple juice
1 2/3 c. Cook's spumanti champagne
Pam cooking spray

Plastic or silicone molds
Small saucepan
Medium bowl
Stirring spoon
Sharp paring knife

1. Spray molds with Pam and wipe excess with a napkin.

2. Put pineapple Jell-O in a medium size bowl. Set aside.

3. Sprinkle unflavored gelatin over fruit juice in a small saucepan. Let stand 1 minute.

4. Stir over low heat 2-3 minutes until gelatin granules completely dissolve.

5. Add liquid mixture to dry pineapple Jell-O and stir until dissolved.

6. Gently stir in champagne. It will create a frothy foam. Go ahead and use it in the molds. It won't hurt!

7. Pour into prepared molds and refrigerate until firm (about 3 hours).

8. Use a paring knife to cut around the mold to help release the Jell-O.

For the best bubbly experience, serve the same day.

Original recipe here.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

From Rags to Curls

My Bucket List is an odd one. Included are things not so unusual like skydiving and traveling. Then there are the other things that aren't on everyone's typical BL: learn sign language, read the last Harry Potter novel (you will not BELIEVE how crucial that one was), be a Big for Big Brothers Big Sisters (one of the most rewarding things I've ever done. I miss my Little so much!), and donate hair to benefit children who battle cancer. Until recently, I had fulfilled all of my "unusual" items save the last one. 

This past Thanksgiving, I was finally able to check it and 12 inches of hair off!

So in celebration of the past two years, I'm going to show you one of the ways I've avoided hours of trying to do my hair for work. Behold! The miracle of rag rollers! Rag rollers are pieces of cloth that you can use to tie your hair into knots to make curls. I love this old timey technique. It's easy, doesn't use heat, and I can sleep on it to have my hair curly by morning.

Old Timey Rag Rollers

Items Needed:
Scrap t-shrit

First, grab an old t-shirt. This is one of the millions of tie dye shirts I made at work over the summer.

Cut the sleeves off both sides of the shirt. Make sure the seam is on the sleeve side.

Cut the shoulders at the top of the shirt.

Cut both sides of the shirt to separate the front and the back.

Fold the shirt in half, top down.

Cut through both the front and back of the shirt at the fold.

You should now have four pieces of cloth.

Begin at the bottom seam and start rolling.

Keep going!

For the top pieces, begin at the shoulder. 

Roll each side and keep rolling as with the other pieces.

You may need to tuck in flaps.

Viola! Four rag rollers ready for use.

You can even re-purpose the sleeves as sock bun rollers by rolling them up-on themselves.

Find out how to make rag rolled curls and sock bun curls through these YouTube links. I don't have enough hands to roll and take pictures!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Candy Apple Kind of Love

*sigh* Fair/Festival season is long over. And so I must bid farewell to my favorite time of year. Merchants selling their cheap crap, the smell of over-priced food permeating through the air, and fresh cotton candy on a stick. It doesn't matter how many times I walk the same midway, I love it more and more. My boyfriend, Colin, is a sweetheart and will bear the shoulder to shoulder crowds to avoid the impending hissy fit I throw should I miss the fair. He also stands it for the love of his Grandma Ann.

Grandma Ann's material loves are pretty straightforward: cooking, Jeopardy!, and candy apples. And one out of four seasons of the year, Colin and I can hit the trifecta. We go to the fair, spend only enough money to satisfy the grease craving, buy a few granny smith candy apples, go to Grandma Ann's and eat a home-cooked meal as we watch Jeopardy! and she eats her candy apple.

Now that fair season is over, I think Grandma Ann is feeling the depression creeping in, too. I was recently told that Grandma Ann had a discussion with Colin in which my love for him came into question. Her words, as quoted to me by Colin, were, "If Andrea really loved you, she would learn how to make candy apples." I looked at Grandma Ann over the steak dinner we were enjoying as Colin recanted the tale. A knowing smirk on her lips. Game on, Grandma Ann. Game on.

Tips for making candy:
- Do not make candy when the weather is humid.
- Use extreme caution. Boiling sugar is dangerous!
- Do not allow crystals to form on your pan. It will cause the entire pan of sugar to crystallize, and you'll be left with a gritty mess.

  ^I was having too much fun with the excess candy (>.<) 

Candy Apple Love
Makes 4-5 candy apples

4-5 Granny Smith apples
1 c. sugar
½ c. light corn syrup
¼ c. hot water
¼ c. crushed Red Hots candies

4-5 popsicle sticks
Silicone mat
Zip top baggie
Hammer/ Meat tenderizer/ Food processor
Small saucepan
Candy thermometer
Heat safe spatula
Heat safe pastry brush


Wash and dry the apples. Twist off the stems and insert popsicle sticks.

Put Red Hot candies in a zip top bag. Close the bag and crush the crap out of those little red gems!

You could use a food processor instead, but who couldn't use a little stress relief?

In a small saucepan, combine water, corn syrup, and sugar over medium-high heat.

Stir until sugar dissolves.

Sugar grit is evil.
Occasionally wash down the sides of the saucepan with a wet pastry brush to avoid crystallization. 
Continue to cook without stirring until a candy thermometer inserted in the syrup reads 250°. Be patient. This will happen slowly.

Add Red Hots candies and stir just to incorporate.

Continue to cook without stirring, washing down the sides as needed, until temperature reaches 285°. Watch the thermometer carefully. Unlike the last 250°, this will happen quickly.

Remove from heat and stir candy until it is smooth and even.

Hold an apple by the stick and dip it in the candy. You may tilt the pan at an angle and rotate the apple to cover it completely. Twist apple by the stick to shake off excess candy. Set on silicone mat. Quickly finish dipping the rest of the apples. If you have extra candy, pour into a silicone mold or on to your silicone mat to make little hard candies.

Allow to cool to room temperature before eating*. 

*My test monkey (AKA Jordan) and I didn't wait until it was room temperature. We just waited long enough for the candy to harden and cool enough that molten sugar wasn't going to burn the flesh off our mouths. I have to admit, it was pretty tasty with the warm apple and cinnamon-ny spiciness. Grandma Ann loved them almost as much as I love her grandson.  <3

Recipe adjusted from this original.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Holy Trinity

Bacon, jalapeños, cream cheese. Those are the three ingredients of which love is made. There is not an easier, more tasty recipe out there for these little bundles of joy. Best of all, they're not breaded and they're baked. My boyfriend's best friend's fiancée (let's call her Marcie) gets the credit for this wonderful recipe.

Bacon Wrapped Jalapeño Poppers

Maple cured bacon
Philadelphia Cream Cheese (tub, not the block)
Cookie tray with raised edges
Kitchen scissors or knife
Kitchen gloves
Cutting board
Paring knife
Butter knife
Wooden toothpicks

Preheat the oven to 350°

With kitchen scissors or a knife, cut bacon in half and place on a cookie sheet in a single layer. Bake bacon until cooked and golden brown.

Meanwhile, arm yourself with kitchen gloves and remind yourself not to touch your face, eyes, mouth, nose, or any other open orifice while handling
jalapeños. (Your hands and face will thank you.) Cut the caps off and cut in half lengthwise. With a spoon, scrape out the seeds and white ribbing inside. Discard the caps, seeds, and ribbing. The seeds and ribbing are the source of the jalapeño's power -I mean- heat. If you want your poppers to be extra hot, leave a little bit if the ribbing in the pepper.

Use a butter knife to fill the
jalapeños with cream cheese. Wrap with cooked bacon and pin it with a toothpick.

Place the stuffed
jalapeños onto the same baking tray you cooked the bacon on and heat for 10-15 minutes or until the jalapeños are heated through but not mushy. Drain excess bacon grease on a few layers of paper towel.

Variations: The cream cheese can be a vessel for all kinds of flavors. Spices, shredded cheddar cheese, bacon bits, whatever your heart desires. My theory, however, is the invention of cream cheese is God's way of showing that He loves us and needs not to be tampered... at least not in this recipe anyway. These poppers are a great way of showing people you love them. Unless you have a boyfriend like mine who doesn't like peppers. Then it's a great way to show his friends that you love them.