Thursday, September 30, 2010

31 Days of Halloween Challenge


Who: Me, Amy, Muffin Pan enthusiast
What: Daily Halloween posts
Where: Here, of course!
When: From now until Halloween (31 days)
Why: Now that's a bit more complicated.

I'm taking on this 31 day challenge in honor of my mom and Halloween. I'll explain. In a previous post I wrote about the present I am making for my Halloween obsessed mother. An advent calendar of sorts with a Halloween twist. While making it I thought to myself:

"Self, maybe you can make the blog its own version of an advent calendar. Post daily treats everyday until Halloween so that all can experience the wonder of your Halloween advent calendar."

Go idea self!

So here it goes, well tomorrow. I hope you all enjoy and keep coming back for more!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Revelation

The Revelation. 

I think every blogger has one. Its the moment where blogging goes from "a silly, narcissistic, idea" to therapeutic and dare I say just plain ol' fun! My revelation came this evening through another bloggers revelation, a more famous blogger than I (much much much more famous) in a little movie called Julie and Julia. When I first read the book and saw the movie I still felt blogs were weird and fell back on my usual "Why would anyone want to read what other people have to say about their lives? I don't like reality t.v. so why would I like reality internet?" But that all change a few months ago.

A few months ago I was living in a rural, population 25, pueblo in the southern region of Costa Rica. I can tell you that without a doubt it was the loneliest six months of my life. Not to say it wasn't fun, because it was. But when communication is limited as it was for me, being only sorta good at Spanish, talking becomes a chore. And with any chore after a while you wish you could just hand it off to someone else. So I started a blog called Under the Tico Sun to catalogue my journey and reconnect with people at home. I posted stories and anecdotes about my life in hopes that someone would find me funny. As you can imagine life for a gringa from the city in small rural Costa Rican town would have its hilarious moments. And it did. I had a running battle with a giant grasshopper named "Senor" and several awkward stories where I learn something new about the Costa Rican culture.

And I wrote a fair number of posts. And at first my friends and family to commented on them. But as posts became less frequent, less people read them. They went back to their lives and were no longer enthralled by my adventurous life. And really, neither was I. I need something to take my mind off feeling out-numbered. This is how I was turned on to blogs. I had read one blog, KevinandAmanda.com pretty faithfully. I enjoy her way of writing and her pictures are just so beautiful. I let a friend, a seasoned blog enthusiast know what kind of things I was interested, hobbies of sorts, and asked her to suggest some fun blogs. Oh boy did she follow through. Thanks to her I'm also hooked on picky-palate.com and the Bakerella.

So my views began to change. I enjoyed readying about these strangers lives, seeing what cool things they did or what yummy recipes they tried.

And just like I became obsessed. I've mentioned it before (I think) and I will mention it several more times, stumbling has opened my world of blogs to a whole new level. If you don't know what it means to stumble, head on over to Stumble.com and see for yourself.

Now I'm a blog maniac. I don't think I'm narcissistic for writing a blog, nor do I think it's silly. I'm having fun. And while I only have 1 follower, someone I practically begged to check out my website, I know its going to bring me a lot of joy.

So thanks, future readers, for thinking my life and my recipes are cool enough to read.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Pretzel Party

I vowed to make this website all and almost only about recipes or crafts using the muffin pan, but I couldn't resist this. I made soft pretzels today! Hooray for FUNemployment!

Now I wish I could say that this was perfection on the first try but that would be a flat out lie hehe. This was one of those "third times a charm" moments. First time, dead yeast. (Don't you hate when that happens?)  Second time, wrong kind of flour. Wheat flour does not work the same as all purpose flour. Noted.

So third time...SUCCESS! Yummy, yummy success.

Soft Pretzels Recipe

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups warm water (105f-115f)
2 tablespoons light brown sugar

1 package active dry yeast

3 ounces unsalted butter, melted

2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

4 1/2 to 5 cups all-purpose flour

Vegetable oil

3 quarts water

3/4 cup baking soda

1 whole egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water

Coarse sea salt

Directions:
-Combine the water, sugar, yeast, and butter in a large bowl. Let sit for 5 minutes.






-Add the salt and flour and mix with a wooden spoon until combined. Keep mixing until the dough begins to pull away from the side of the bowl, about 3 to 4 minutes. If the dough appears too wet, add additional flour, 1 tablespoon at a time. Remove the dough from the bowl, place on a flat surface and knead into a ball with your hands.
-Oil a bowl with vegetable oil, add the dough and turn to coat with the oil. Cover with a clean towel or plastic wrap and place in a warm spot until the dough doubles in size, about 1 hour. Preheat oven to 425f.



-Bring the water to a boil in a small roasting pan over high heat and add the baking soda.





-Remove the dough from the bowl and place on a flat surface. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces, about 4 1/4 to 4 1/2 ounces each.






-Roll each piece into a long rope measuring 22 inches and shape. Cut the dough into one inch pieces to make the pretzel bites or shape each rope into the pretzel shape.


-Boil the pretzel bites or large pretzels in the water solution in batches. I did about 20 pieces or 2 whole pretzels at a time. Boil for about 30 seconds. 






























-Remove with a large slotted spoon. Place pretzels on a baking sheet that has been covered in parchment or sprayed with cooking oil. Make sure they are not touching.

-Brush the tops with the egg wash and season liberally with the salt. Place into the oven and bake for 15 to 18 minutes for the pieces or 35 minutes for larger pretzels until golden brown.





-Remove to a baking rack and let rest 5 minutes before eating/shoveling in your mouth!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Halloween is almost here!

(Okay not really "almost" but stilll...)

AGH! I'm so excited!! I love Halloween!!!!

Is that apparent by all the exclamation marks I'm using!? :0)

So in honor of Halloween I plan on starting a project: A Halloween Advent Calendar

You heard me right. A Halloween Advent Calendar. My mom is OBSESSED with Halloween. Our house turns into a huge play place for trick or treaters young and old alike. People come from all over the city (and in my case all over California) to partake in the festivities. Even the city has shown us some love by closing down our street to traffic!

Still baffled as to where my love for this holiday comes from?? Probably not.

Any who, I will be making this advent as a surprise for my mom's birthday, which aptly falls a week before Halloween. Not much of a surprise if she reads this but by the time she does it will probably be finished since I plan on sending it to her before the 1st of the month! So my mom is a more avid reader of my blog than I thought. I suck at surprises...

Okay, so heres an example of a calendar I found at Stories from A to Z
Great way for me to use last years Halloween scrap materials

Adorable or What?! I'll answer that for you: Adorable! And sticks with whole website theme. Clever clever. Now you may be saying to yourself (and boy do I assume you all talk to yourselves a lot) most cupcake pans come with 6 cups, 12 cups or 24 for minis. How do you plan on making it work for 30 days? Maybe two pans maybe like they did? *snicker* Nope! 

Guess what I found!!
*A 30-CUPS MUFFIN PAN!! HOORAY!!*

And so my project begins. I will post pictures of it as it starts to take shape. I think this will be the best birthday gift EVER! Okay not really but one the most fun to make! 

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Lazy Saturday Search

Yeah, kinda lame but I spent an entire lazy saturday doing research for the blog. You all will thank me later. So heres one of the gems I found today.

Ice-Cream Cookie Cups
Recipe from Disney Family Fun Magazine

Ingredients:
1/2 Cookie Dough (homemade or store bought) recipe
butter for greasing

Directions:
- Heat oven to 375f
- Turn one 12 cup muffin pan bottom side up and cover every other cup (6) with squares of aluminum foil. Grease the squares with butter
- Cut the dough into 6 equal disks
- Shape the disks around foil, making sure there are no cracks
- Bake the cups for 10-12 minutes until golden brown (my oven gets super hot so I'd check them after 8 mins)
- Remove from oven and let the cups cool for about 10 minutes before you remove them. Then remove the foil and let them cool once more but this time on a rack. 
- Before you enjoy, add a scoop of ice cream OR maybe some chopped fruit for the health conscious folks out there!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Crayons!

I knew there was a reason I started this blog. It was to make crayons! hehe Just kidding, but it is amazing just how versatile the muffin pan can be. I "stumbled" across this web blog yesterday. I think this would be a great idea for moms or for a school project with students. 


Confetti Crayons
This "recipe" is courtesy of Gracious Rain

Ingredients:
crayons!
liners

Directions:
- Peel crayon

- Break crayons into pieces and arrange in liners 

- Heat oven to 350. When it reaches that temperature, turn oven off

- Leave in the oven until they are fully melted and mixed

- Put in freezer for one hour

And enjoy!

Monkey, what?

MONKEY BREAD! Ooh goodness have I fallen in love with monkey bread. But you might be saying to yourself..."Huh? Monkey, what?" Well for all those who haven't tried this delicious treat let me tell you all about it. It's like a combination between a cinnamon bun and a doughnut. *swoon* AND only 5 main ingredients! I first heard about monkey bread looking up yummy recipes to try for breakfast for my weekend guests. I wanted something simple, yummy, and of course individually sized! When I came across monkey bread at picky-palate.com I knew I had stumbled on a gem! Here's the simple recipe with my own subtle twist. 

Monkey Bread
 Inspired by Picky-Palate.com

Ingredients: 
1 can Pillsbury biscuits OR 1 can of crescent rolls OR 1 roll of french bread loaf* (see note)
6 tbs sugar
3 tbs cinnamon
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1/2 cup brown sugar

Directions:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees f. With scissors, cut each biscuit into small pieces. You choose how many, for me 1 biscuit renders about 5 or 6 pieces. Combine sugar and cinnamon into a large bowl. Gently toss all pieces of dough into sugar mixture.
*note: For the french bread loaf, remove bread roll from packaging and carefully unroll so it is in a rectangle. Fold dough in half with long ends folded over each other; press edges slightly. With scissors, cut dough into ½ inch strips then cut each strip into ½ inch little cubes

- Spray a 12 count traditional muffin pan with non stick cooking spray. Divide bread pieces into the 12 muffin cups with or without paper liners. Set aside. If you have left over cinnamon and sugar, which you probably will, go ahead and divide it up over the dough.

- Place butter and brown sugar into a medium saucepan over medium heat or place them in a microwaveable bowl. Stir or hear until melted and bubbly. Pour evenly over each muffin cup.

- Bake based on biscuit dough directions. Remove from oven and let sit in pan for 5 minutes before transferring to cooling rack.

Glaze (if you dare!)

Ingredients and Directions: I took my favorite flavor of jelly, for me thats guava jelly or boysenberry, mix it with a little milk and butter or whipping cream. Pop in the microwave until melted, remove and stir. It's a fruity addition people can choose to have or not. I also add plenty to mine! SuGaR RuSH!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

House Warming Party

My friend Annie and her boyfriend had a house warming party today. The party started at 3. At 12:30 she texts me asking "Can you maybe bring an appetizer for the party?" Okay, what to do what to do? I checked the fridge and saw a brand new case of italian sausage and a block of cheddar. SCORE! Of course, I had my trusty can of biscuits on hand. Project Appetizer was underway. I took a quick look on the internet and came up with a cheddar apple sausage biscuit. Ran to the store for the apple and I got a-cookin'.

Here is the recipe I concocted:
Cheddar Apple Sausage Biscuits
Inspired by my fridge...teehehe

Ingredients:
1 can of biscuits (I used Pilsbury biscuits)
1 1/2 cups of grated cheddar cheese
A package of Italian sausage (about 5 sausages)
1/2 an onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 large red apple, chopped
rosemary

Directions:
- Remove the sausages from their casing and place in a large skillet. For me, I have to use a pair of forks to pull apart the meat, otherwise it won't crumble. After a minute or two I throw in the onions and apples. Cook the mixture until the meat is no longer pink. 

(Okay, now here is where the numbers get tricky. The can of biscuits come 8 to a can. Each cup calls for half a biscuit BUT most pans have 12 cups. There are few options. Make 12 and save the left over biscuits for later. You may have a bit too much mixture left over as well. The other option: MAKE MORE! I just so happen to have like 3 old muffin pans at my house so make all 16 cups was no problem for me. Anyways, back to business.)

- Grease the pan(s). Cut each biscuit length wise. Place one in each cup and press up along the sides. Place an equal amount of cheese into each cup then fill the cups to the top with the sausage mixture. Top with a pinch of rosemary. It's that extra something that ties everything together.

- Bake at 350f for 15 minutes. As a rule if everything is cooked, with the exception of the biscuits, I use the packages directions for baking. 

Saturday, September 4, 2010

First Post!

My first muffin pan recipe:

Melissa d'Arabian's 5-minute Potato Gratin Recipe
Courtesy of The Food Network

Ingredients:
- Vegetable spray
- 2 large russet potatoes, roughly peeled and thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup grated Swiss cheese
- 2 green onions, finely chopped
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3/4 cup heavy cream

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Spray 8 muffin tins with vegetable spray. Layer potato slices, cheese, and onions into each muffin cup. Season with salt and pepper and top each gratin with 1 or 2 tablespoons of heavy cream. Cover with foil and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, removing the foil halfway through cooking time. Invert gratins onto plate and serve.

The Food Network Kitchens chefs have not tested this recipe and therefore, we cannot make representation as to the results.
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