Zucchini Flowers are All the Buzz at My House

Cooking, gardening

Of course I had heard of people eating zucchini flowers. I had just never tried them myself. Since we have an abundance of zucchini in the garden right now, I thought we could spare a few of the flowers. So I searched for a recipe and went out to the garden to collect the flowers.

I collected four large zucchini flowers, placed them in my bowl and headed back inside. I decided not to wash them right away in hopes they would stay fresher until I was ready to use them. It would not be long anyway. So I set about making the rest of the dinner. We were having chicken with sundried tomatoes and olives baked in foil packets (to lock in the moisture), orzo, blanched and sauted fresh green beans with garlic (from green beans picked earlier in the day), and of course the zucchini flowers which would be lightly breaded and fried.

It was finally time for me to prepare the zucchini flowers. I washed and removed the stamen from one and set it on a towel, then another. As I was washing the third flower, I heard a buzzing sound. What! Oh no! A bee was inside the flower. I hurried the bowl outside to get rid of the bee before it escaped inside our house. When outside I pried the flower open a bit with a knife hoping the bee would exit without attacking me. Success! As I started to head back inside I again heard buzzing. What! Oh yes, another bee was inside the flower! I again coaxed this bee out of the flower. Was this it? No more buzzing. It was safe to go back inside and finish making dinner.

So, I think I will add a little note to the recipe for fried zucchini flowers. It will say, “Check for bees before taking zucchini flowers inside house”. How could the author of this recipe leave off such an important piece of information? Maybe this has only happened to me?

Regardless of the excitement in the kitchen, the meal turned out fine. The zucchini flowers did receive quite the buzz around the table. My family enjoyed them and we had a story to share as well. The recipe can be found at: https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/fried-zucchini-blossoms. Just remember to check for bees! As always, Happy Gardening/ Happy Cooking!

Dinner is Served

Using a Pastry Cloth

Cooking

Until recently, I had never used a pastry cloth before. I had used plastic pastry mats before but never a pastry cloth. But I was curious.

Years ago, I had a very large Tupperware brand plastic pastry mat. It had circles printed on it for guidence in making the correct size of pie crusts. There were several problems with this mat. The mat had to be rolled to store, hence making it curl up when trying to use it. It needed to be weighed down or it would move around. It was a handful to turn when flipping the rolled dough into the tin as it was so big and awkward. To make things more frustrating, if I did not flour the mat enough, the dough would stick to it.

Vintage Tupperware Pastry Dough Tart Pie Sizing Mat Sheet 1965 Dart Ind. Red
Image of Tupperware Pastry Mat from collectiblesonlinedaily.com

I have a similar sort of mat now but it lies flat. It is too small to roll out a regular pie crust on. Same problem with moving around the counter and dough sticking to it as the larger version. This mat does work well for stamping out biscuits though.

Small mat

Tired of my too small mat, I decided to research my options. From reviews, it looked like the old fashioned pastry cloth was the tried and true choice. Let’s face it, sometimes things can not be improved on too much. After looking around for a pastry cloth, I decided I did not have anything to lose as the pastry cloths were cheaper than the mats. I would not be out much if I did not like it.

Upon reading the reviews, I took the advice of hand washing my cloth in cold water and line drying. This is to avoid an shrinkage that may occur. My pastry cloth came out just fine by following these guidelines.

I have used my pastry cloth several times now. All times were successful. I really like the pastry cloth. In my oppinion it is a much better tool than the plastic mats. I used much less flour on the surface of the cloth than I had on the mats which is supposed to result in a more tender crust and the dough DID NOT STICK! Being a cloth, it was very flexible and easy to turn onto my pie tin. The clean-up was easy. I just shook out the excess flour over the trash and hand washed it in cold water and hung it to dry. I store it folded in a bag to keep it clean and ready to use. It hardly takes up any space. The only negative being that it still does move on the counter, but not too much. Apparently, it can be wrapped around a bread board or a non-stick mat can be placed under it. I am still working on that. However, I LOVE the pastry cloth and would not go back to the other version.

As always, Happy Baking!

DIY Toothpick Container

Projects

The toothpicks I bought came in a thin cardboard box. The typical packaging for toothpicks. I thought this annoying and a bit messy. What to do? The DIY toothpick container of course!

The thought of making my own toothpick container came to me as I was cleaning out the spice drawer. I came across a plastic spice container with a shaker lid, the kind with holes punched in the top to shake the spice out with. I decided to use this container to shake out my toothpicks instead. It was the perfect size to hold the toothpicks. So I washed it up and inserted my toothpicks. When given a little shake, the toothpicks pop out of the holes and I am able to grab however many I want.

For me, this DIY container is a much better option than the box the toothpicks came in. I am no longer finding toothpicks scattered about the drawer as they fall out of the flimsy box. I also like the fact that I did not have to spend money on a special container. It is always good to feel a bit more organized in the kitchen. As always, Happy Baking!

Homemade Granola

Cooking

Granola can be a difficult item to shop for if needing to avoid nut allergies. It can also be on the expensive side and sometimes the flavors are not exactly what one prefers. Why not make it yourself!

Granola is not hard to make. Having said that, one does need to be careful not to over-bake the granola. It can over-cook and burn easily, so attention is needed.

The great advantage to making granola is that it tastes fresher and almost anything can be added to it. It lasts a long time on the counter in a sealed container, so it does not have to be made all that often. Granola can be eaten on it’s own, sprinkled on top of yogurt, ice cream, oatmeal, fruit, etc…

Let’s get started!

Step 1: Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. (A baking sheet with edges is prefered.)

Step 2: Get the ingredients together…

1/4 cup olive oil (or oil of preference)

1 Tbsp butter

2 Tbsp honey

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 c brown sugar

2 1/4 c old fashioned oats

3/4 – 1 c dark chocolate chopped into small pieces

Dark chocolate squares
Chopped

1/4 – 1/2 c unsweetened coconut flakes

If chocolate and coconut are not desired, dried fruits could be added instead.

Step 3: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Step 4: In a small saucepan, combine all ingredients EXCEPT oats, chocolate, and coconut.

Step 5: Turn the burner to medium-low and stir ingredients until butter melts and mixture is smooth. Take off heat.

Step 6: Add oats to pan and stir together.

Step 7: Dump the mixture unto the baking sheet and spread out evenly.

Step 8: Pop in oven and set the timer for 30 minutes.

Step 9: Take the granola out of oven and stir the granola every 10 minutes. At 30 minutes, remove granola from oven. The granola will harden and become crisp after it leaves the oven so do not bake it until it is hard. It should still be golden in color not darkened or it will taste burnt.

Step 10: Slide the parchment paper with granola onto a wire rack to cool.

Step 11: If coconut is desired…place a new sheet of parchment paper on baking sheet and spread the coconut out onto the sheet. Pop in the oven (same temperature) for about 5 minutes. Watch this like a hawk! Coconut can cook quite fast as well. I like to stir this half-way through cook time. It should turn pale golden but not dark in color or it will be burnt.

Step 12: Remove the coconut from oven and slide the parchment paper with coconut directly onto a wire rack to cool.

Step 13: Once all are cool, mix together in a bowl and store in an air-tight container. Note: The granola will need to be broken up when removing from parchment. Just break into pieces with hands.

Ready to eat

I hope I did not scare anyone with 13 steps! It really is not hard. I just stretched the instructions out. If anyone makes this recipe let me know how it was.

As always Happy Baking!

Paczki – Baked Polish Filled Donuts

Cooking

I am back to baking donuts again. This time it is Paczki, a baked Polish donut. But instead of filling this donut with jelly, I chose to fill it with custard.

These donuts rose and puffed up very nicely. I brushed them with melted butter and rolled them in sugar and they looked so yummy and I had not even filled them yet. I chose to fill them right before eating them. I made the custard ahead of time and kept it in a container in the fridge to chill.

Not even filled and see how yummy they look!
Custard filling

I poked a hole in the side of the donut with a wooden skewer and then inserted the tip of a decorating tube into the side of the donut and gave it a good squeeze. Custard donuts are a favorite of mine at the local donut shop. Now I can make them at home myself. They are very easy to make. They just take a bit of time for the rising.

Poking hole in side with skewer.
Filling with custard. This little pastry filler would not be my choice…hard to see when enough filling is inserted.
The standard pastry bag and tube worked well at filling the donuts.
Voila! The finished Paczki. Ready to eat.

For the recipe: https://www.jennycancook.com/recipes/custard-filled-paczki/ There is even a video to watch.

Quick version of the recipe with a few minor changes…

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons (1 packet = 7 grams) yeast (instant or regular)

Mix dry ingredients in stand mixer then add:

  • 2/3 cup 2% milk – warmed to 120°F for instant/110°F for regular yeast
  • 3 Tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Mix and beat for about 2 minutes then add

  • about 1/2 cup extra flour

Beat until thick and kneadable. Transfer to a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 10 minutes.

Roll dough to 1/2″ thick and cut into circles using a 2 1/2″ round biscuit cutter. Lift the cut doughnuts onto a parchment lined cookie sheet. Cover with a tea towel and place in a warm spot to rise for 45 minutes.

(While this is rising make the custard filling.)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Pop the doughnuts into the oven for 10 minutes. Remove and cool on rack.

Brush cool donuts with:

  • 1 Tablespoon melted butter

Then roll in:

  • 1/3 cup sugar for coating

Fill with custard. Make a small hole in side of donut. Using a pastry bag, squeeze custard into the side of donut.

Recipe for custard:

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 4 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 cup milk, low fat or whole
  • one egg yolk

Instructions:

  1. In a small saucepan, combine sugar and cornstarch.
  2. Slowly stir in milk and egg yolk. Bring to a boil at medium high heat. Cook & stir about a minute on low heat. (it thickens more as it cools)
  3. Spread onto a dinner plate and let it stand, undisturbed, to cool thoroughly before using or refrigerate to cool.

As always, Happy Baking!

DIY Grab-It Potholder

Projects

Another day of making potholders. Today it is the grab-it potholder. It slips on and looks like a puppet. Handy for grabbing a cookie sheet or muffin tin from the oven. Let’s get started…

Supplies:

material

quilter’s batting

thread

sewing machine

scissors

needle

thimble

copy paper (for making the pattern piece)

pencil

ruler

self-healing craft matt

rotary blade tool

Step 1: Make the pattern. This piece is basically an oval that fits your fingers. Fold a piece of paper in half then in half again. Make one side of the fold the width and the other the length. When unfolded all sides will be the same. My dimensions are roughly: 2.5″ width x 4.5″ length with a curved side. See photos.

Width 2 1/2″
length 4 1/2″

Step 2: Unfold pattern piece. Pin to fabric and cut 2 pieces. Pin to batting and cut 1 piece.

Step 3: Make the pocket pieces by folding the pattern piece in half (widthwise) and then folding down 1/2″. Pin to fabric and cut 4 pieces. Pin to batting and cut 2 pieces.

Step 4: With right sides together, sew two pocket material pieces together. Iron seams open. Place one batting piece inside and fold over. Repeat making one more pocket piece.

Pin pocket pieces together
Press pocket pieces, add batting, fold over

Step 5: Sew 1/2″ seam around pocket piece and keep going to quilt a maze design on pocket pieces. This keeps batting in tact through use and washing.

quilted pocket piece

Step 6: Sandwhich the main piece of batting between the two pieces of oval fabric with the right sides out. Stitch 1/2″ seam allowance around the edge. Quilt a bit on this piece as well. Simple straight lines will do just fine.

Step 6

Step 7: Now take the pocket pieces and pin to the oval. Sew around curves leave the straight sides open.

Step 7

Step 8: Cut a long strip of fabric 2 1/2 ” wide. The length should be longer than the oval…don’t worry about making it exact. It is better to have this too long so that it can be fitted and cut when almost finished sewing. After cutting the strip, fold one end 1/4″ under on width side. Now fold it in half lengthwise and press. Then pin just the start of the binding to the edge of the potholder with raw edges together. Do not pin the whole thing as the binding will have to be stretched and shaped to fit as it is being sewn. Sew in place with a 1/2″ seam. When almost to the end, cut the binding with an overlap and fold under 1/4″ and finish sewing.

Cut binding 2 1/2″ wide with self healing matt and rotary cutter or by hand is fine too
Fold and press
Pin just the beginning of binding to potholder
Cut binding when almost finished leaving an overlap. Oh and don’t forget to turn the end under (not shown in photo) for a finished look.

Step 9: Almost done! The machine part of the sewing is finished. Get out a needle, thread, thimble, and scissors to complete the potholder. Turn the binding to the back. It should just cover the seam stitch. Hold in place and with a threaded needle grab a tiny amount of fabric from the potholder and from the binding and whip stitch all aroung the potholder. Press the potholder to flatten it out and bit. Voila! Now you are ready to take those cookies out of the oven. Happy crafting!

DIY Pot Handle Potholders

Projects

I am back to making potholders. Now that my pot lids are cozy, I decided my pot handles should be dressed as well. I drafted a pattern and made it in two ways. The first way I tried has a band to finish off the edges. The second and easier version has the edge finished first. I will give directions for both. My favorite is the second version. It is faster to make and takes less fabric. These can literally be sewn up in less than five minutes.

Let’s start with my favorite version first…

Supply List:

a sheet of copy paper (to draft the pattern)

pencil

ruler

scissors

pan (to make the potholder fit)

material

quilter’s batting

sewing machine

thread

Length of my pattern: roughly 6″
Width of my pattern: roughly 2.5″

Step 1: Cut the pattern piece for the pot handle. My pattern is roughly 6″ long x 2.5″ wide. I folded the rectangle in half lengthwise and then cut rounded corners. This can be adjusted to fit any pot or pan handle. Just measure the handle and make adjustments as needed.

Step 2: Cut out pieces. Material = 2 pieces / Lining = 2 pieces / Batting = 2 pieces

Step 3: For the batting pieces only…trim off 1/4″ from width on top edge (edge with squared corners).

Step 4
Step 4: press

Step 4: With right sides together, pin one material piece to one lining piece with right sides together at top edge. Repeat with the other piece of material and lining. Set batting aside for now. Sew a 1/4″ seam. Press open seams.

Step 5: Place the two material/lining pieces right sides together.

Step 5: Now to sandwhich the layers. Place the two material/lining pieces right sides together.

Step 5b
Step 5b

Step 5b: Place one batting piece on top of material. Fold over lining. Hold and Flip over. Repeat this for other side. Pin in place.

Step 6

Step 6: Sew a 1/2″ seam from top around to other side of top leaving opening at top width.

Step 7: Turn and place on handle of pot.

—————————————————————————————-

Now for the more complicated version with the band trim….

If using this method, a contrasting fabric will be needed for the trim. Not much… a tiny piece… Also needed is a needle and thimble as hand sewing is required.

Step 1: Same as above

Step 2: Same as above

Step 3: Sandwhich pieces together. (Do not trim the batting in this method.) Place right sides of fabric together. On top of this place a batting then a lining. Flip and place a batting and a lining on the other material piece. Pin together.

Step 4: Sew a 1/2″ seam around from top around to other side of top leaving an opening at width end. (same as step 6 above)

Step 5: Turn.

Step 6: Pick out a contrasting fabric for trim
Step 6: Cut trim fabric double width as pattern fold in half lengthwise then fold in half widthwise and sew seam1/2″
Step 6: Place trim over pot holder with raw edges together.

Step 6: Pick out a contrasting fabric for the trim. Cut a rectangle that is the twice the width as the pattern (5″) x however wide the trim is desired to be then doubled and allow for seam allowance of 1/4″ (1 – 1 1/2″). Fold trim in half lengthwise and press with iron. Next, fold the trim in half widthwise and press with iron. Stitch a 1/2″ seam allowance on width of trim. Slip this over the pot holder with raw edges together. Pin in place.

Step 7: Hand sew trim to pot holder with raw sides together
Step 7: Turn trim to inside and pin in place
Step 7: Whip stitch trim to lining
Pot handle potholder with trim

Step 7: Hand stitch the trim in place using a 1/4″ seam allowance. Turn trim to inside and pin in place. Whip stitch the trim to the lining only covering stitching. Place on pot handle.

My pots and pans are all dressed up and ready to use. No more burnt hands for me! The best part of this DIY projcet is that the potholders take very little fabric and can be made very quickly. The fabric I used were scraps leftover from other projects, so it did not cost me anything to make them.

Be sure to check-out my previous DIY post on making potholders for pot lids as well. As always, Happy Crafting!

Using a Frother for Fancy Drinks

Cooking
Tea with frothed coconut milk

I recently purchased a hand-held frother after reading about a drink called London Fog. I had never heard of froth on tea before. On coffee yes, but never on tea. This sounded like something I had to try. The order was placed. When the frother arrived, I cleaned it and prepared to froth my first beverage.

One point I will make, always use the frother in a slightly larger glass than assumed will be needed. The milk does expand when frothed and can make a mess if the glass is not large enough. That was my first experience with the frother.

Having said that, the frother is very easy to use and takes hardly any time at all. Fifteen to twenty seconds is really all that is needed to make the froth for one drink. Who does not have time for that!

For my version of the London Fog, I made half a cup of tea and frothed one fourth cup of rice milk and poured it into the tea. I found this to be quite soothing. A bit of a change from a plain cup of tea. The traditional London Fog has added sweetners/syrups which I did not use.

I also tried the same thing with coffee. I found that I like the tea version better. I also tried both versions with regular milk and with rice milk. I preferred the taste of the rice milk. The rice milk takes just a bit longer to froth than the milk but had more flavor. I also tried it with coconut milk. The coconut milk should not be too thick or the frother will not work as well. Add a bit of water to the coconut milk, if it is on the thick side, to be the consistency of milk. I also preferred the coconut milk to the regular cow’s milk.

So, in my experimentations, the frother works quite well and is very quick and easy to use. It adds a soothing eliment to the regular beverage and can give the spirit a bit of a lift. Why not give it a try!

Cheers!

Another Day With Julie… The Donut Maker

Cooking

I have been trying my hand at doughnuts lately. I’m not really into the fried kind right now. Although I do like the fried kind, I find them time consuming and sometimes difficult to fry perfectly. So the baked doughnut is what I have been exploring.

Un-baked jam donuts
Glazed jam filled donuts ready to eat

These jam filled baked donuts were easy enough to put together although they did take a bit of time for rising. They were yummy. The recipe can be found in the cookbook: English Tea & Cakes (ISBN: 978-1-4351-4632-7). This cookbook has a lot of other yummy recipes as well.

Carrot Cake Donuts

These Carrot Cake Donuts were super easy to make and tasty as well. The recipe can be found at: https://www.piesandtacos.com/carrot-cake-donuts/ . I only have a mini doughnut pan. This recipe called for a regular size donut pan. I googled for some advise and found that one can crumple parchment paper into a ball and put in the center of a muffin tin to make a faux doughnut pan. Well….it kinda worked. However, getting the parchment balls out were another matter. I ended up cutting a slit in the doughnuts to get the parchment balls out. So, in the end, I do not recommend this method. I also found another bit of advice when googling. This is to put the doughnut batter in a cake decorating bag and squeeze it into the molds. Perfect! Much less mess than any other way I have tried.

Both recipes were keepers! But I’m not done yet. A custard filled donut has my mouth watering. I hope to have a post for that soon. Until then, Happy Baking!

Cornmeal Waffles with Chili

Cooking

As I had a few ‘meal coupons’ from my son, I decided to have him make a new dish, Cornbread Waffles with Chili. The chili is super simple to make and he already knew how to make waffles so it was an easy meal for him to make. The combo, while questionable to some, was delicious.

To make this recipe for Cornmeal Waffles with Chili, head back over to barefeetinthekitchen.com. This is the same sight I got the recipe for Hawaiian Oatmeal from. A new fav recipe sight for me.

https://barefeetinthekitchen.com/cornbread-waffles-recipe/

https://barefeetinthekitchen.com/easy-chili-recipe/

My son made the waffle recipe as it reads. The chili recipe was tweaked a bit. Here are the changes:

The Easiest Chili Recipe Ever…

First off, cut the recipe in half. Next, cut the white beans and fire-roasted tomatoes from the recipe.

Here is the ingredient list that was used:

  • 1 pd Italian Sausage
  • 1 14-oz can pinto beans (drained and washed)
  • 1 14-oz can black beans (drained and washed)
  • 1 8-oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 14-oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 4-oz can mild chopped green chiles
  • 1 7-oz can yellow corn (drained)
  • 1 TBSP Chili Powder
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • Toppings: Shredded mexican or cheddar cheese

The chili was made using the stove-top directions. Basically cook the meat, dump everything in a pot, bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer covered for 15 minutes. While the chili is simmering make the waffles. When the waffles are finished top with a cup of chili and sprinkle with cheese.

This recipe was the perfect amount to cover the 7 waffles with 1 cup of chili each.

A big THANKS to my son for a wonderful meal! It was yummy and something I will have him make again! (hee hee)

So, kick off your shoes and head on over to barefeetinthekitchen.com for the recipe (And a big Thanks to barefeetinthekitchen.com as well!). As always, Happy cooking!