Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Homemade Caramel Macchiato Coffee Creamer Tutorial

Here's my latest attempt at a homemade coffee creamer flavor. My store-bought favorite is the Caramel Macchiato flavor. So here's how I make my own! Also check out my recipe for Smores creamer and Pumpkin Spice creamer!

Caramel Macchiato Coffee Creamer

Ingredients


2 cups of half&half (or 1 cup milk and 1 cup heavy cream or just milk if you want to cut on the calories)
1/2 cup sugar 
1 cup of caramel bits (or 3/4 cup caramel sauce) (You can also use the homemade Dulce de Leche from the tutorial found HERE)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract (I have almond in the picture...I was experimenting...use vanilla)
Empty coffee creamer container or glass jar.


Step 1


Pour the half&half in a small sauce pan. Turn the heat to medium.

Step 2


Add the cup of caramel bits, the sugar, and the extract. Heat, stirring constantly, until the bits melt completely. About 8-10 minutes.

Step 3


Once melted, turn off the heat, and let the creamer cool for a little bit, about 10 minutes.

Step 4


Pour into your container and store in the fridge. It stays good for several weeks!

I have noticed that you usually need more of this creamer than you would probably use with the store-bought kind but it's because it isn't sweetened with concentrated sugars and chemicals like the ones at the store.

And a picture to leave you with: Chicken Parmesan night...and I had to clean sauce out of her ears! Little stinker.


Monday, September 26, 2011

The Finished Quilt!

It recently occurred to me that I didn't post a finished picture of the Baby Memory Quilt I've been chronicling these past few weeks. So here it is! The finished product. Each square is a piece of a special baby outfit for my friend's little girl, Arianna. It includes dresses, onesies, shirts, pants, even a bunny hat! All clothes that mean something special to her parents. An outfit she wore in a favorite portrait, her first Christmas dress, her "coming home" outfit. I'm happy I was able to do this for her, it's something she'll pass down to Arianna and hopefully become a family treasure.







Tip Junkie handmade projects

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Fudge-Frosted Chocolate Chunk Brownie Tutorial

Yes. The title says it all. Today I'll share my favorite homemade brownie recipe. I gave my husband this brownie and his exact words were "Did you always know you'd grow up to be Super Woman? I feel like I won the lottery when I married you." Then he scampered off to the living room, brownie in hand, and set up the cables and whatnot for his new XBox 360 with Kinect that I bought him as an early Christmas present. It gets here Friday. I'm so jazzed up, man. Dang, this brownie is good. Okay, here's the recipe! Feel free to halve the recipe for an 8X8 pan!


Fudge-Frosted Chocolate Chunk Brownies



Ingredients

2 sticks of butter, melted
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup chocolate chunks plus some for sprinkling over top of brownies

Frosting:
6 Tbl butter, softened
6 Tbl unsweetened cocoa powder
2 Tbl honey
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups powdered sugar


Step 1


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9X13 pan with wax paper or parchment paper. Combine the melted butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract in a bowl. Beat until combined.

Step 2


Add the 2/3 cup of cocoa, flour, salt, and baking soda. Beat until combined.

Step 3

Fold in chocolate chunks. Then pour/spread into the lined pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes. While it bakes, make the fudge frosting in the next step.

Step 4


To make frosting: Combine the softened butter, cocoa, honey, vanilla, and mix until combined. Add the powdered sugar one cup at a time. Whip for 1 minute or so. It'll be thick.

Step 5






Once the brownies are done, let them cool for 5 or so minutes. Then spoon the fudge frosting on to the hot brownie. Let it melt and smooth it over the top. Sprinkle some more chocolate chunks on top. Let cool completely before cutting. I let mine chill in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Step 6



Remove the brownies from the pan with the wax paper. Just grab the sides and lift out. Now cut and eat these bad boys.


I just wanted to share a picture of my two year old at lunch today. I'm truly blessed to have kids that love their vegetables! Today we had raw carrot sticks with ranch, "ants on a log," and geometric cheese!



That was supposed to be a star but my freehand attempt at a star left something to be desired...like an actual star shape...that would have been nice. Oh well, it got eaten.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Vintage Fabric Tote Bag!

I went to a carnival hosted by our local Catholic Church, last weekend. It's family friendly with no booze or smoking and generally well-behaved people and your typical death-trap type portable carnival rides. This year, I managed to find my way into their "Garage Sale" warehouse where I assume all the things that don't sale at garage sales end up at some point. Mostly junk, a few gems...like a table of vintage fabric and sewing patterns. I started going through the fabric and picked out 2 yards of this really nice green and cream upholstery fabric. I picked up a few gardening books, as well, and asked the woman "How much for all this?" She informed me that it was a donation garage sale and that I could pay her WHATEVER I thought it was worth. Of course, this was hosted by the Catholic Church which makes believers like me want to pony up on the donation because it's the right thing to do. I only had 9 dollars in my pocket, so I gave her all of it.

But now I had a ton of fabric that kinda smells funny and no idea what to do with it. So last night about 5pm, I had the itch to sew something. I had the pattern for a small pleated makeup bag. I didn't even pin it, I just held the pattern down with one hand and cut it 5 times as big around it. Did that with some yellow lining fabric, too. Cut some strips for a strap and upper band. I pleated where I thought it would look good, stuck a few pins in it and in 30 minutes, I turned out a pretty cute tote bag. It's flimsy, has no pockets, and the strap is upside down. But I like it...it has character!


Big enough to hold my wallet, phone, diapers, and a few sippy cups. As a mom, that's big enough for me!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

My Kitchen

A fan recently asked me how I had my kitchen organized for productive freezer cooking and baking. So, I went through and took pictures for her and described my various "stations" I have designated in my kitchen. I LOVE kitchens and it's the first thing I look at when I'm in someones house. I thought it might be fun to put my kitchen out there for the masses if anyone needs some inspiration in that area. Also, my kitchen is in the process of being renovated and you can see the posts here, here, and here!


I'm rocking the newest trend of open shelves instead of upper cabinets and I love that about my kitchen. I like not having to open any doors when I need to grab a bowl or glass. I also like how my friends seem to know where everything is without having to ask me. Ha! Mmm, that's a Chicken Enchilada freezer meal on the stove, by the way.

To the right of my stove are my spice shelves and utensils. Grab and shake is my motto in the spice department. The three most used "spices" are on the counter to the right of the stove...olive oil, kosher salt (in a glass jar) and a pepper mill. Above my stove is my super cool magnetic knife holder (which conveniently holds my magnetic measuring spoons, too...genius!!) that my husband made me out of scrap cherry wood from his shop and hard-drive magnets from spare parts of computers he's worked on or built. He also put a few hangers for my trivets. To the left of the stove is my NEW food processor!! I <3 it so much, I can't even tell you. And above that, on the very top shelf, are my vintage mixing bowls.


And to the left of the sink, we have my "baking station" with my vintage KitchenAid mixer and glass containers of flour and sugar for quick and easy baking prep. Lots of bowls above it on the top shelf for mixing icing or what not.


On the other side of the kitchen is my "decorative shelves" where I display my more colorful dishes. I also keep my slow-cooker and microwave over there, out of the way, since they are self-sufficient appliances and don't need me standing over them while they do their thing. Also you'll see my gigantic freezer.


This is as much of my kitchen as I can fit in one picture. My girls have their own part of the kitchen, which contains their very own kitchen and dining table. My 2 year old routinely "cooks" her own food when I'm cooking mine. Today she made me "Honey Stew." Yum! Over the window, you'll notice my collection of cookbooks on a shelf and to the right of that is my pantry and fridge. The center island is where I do most of my chopping and kneading. Pots and pans are in the island cabinets and small appliances that don't get used routinely are stacked in the cabinets below the slow-cooker. Also, can you see the Key to the City and my cooking awards on the middle shelf above the toaster?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

My always on-hand Ingredients

I've been asked what ingredients I always keep on hand in my kitchen. I actually walked around my kitchen, opened every door, and tried to imagine which of the items I couldn't live without. Here's my list of 40 ingredients I keep on hand at all times for creating dinners on the fly.

Spice cabinet:

Olive Oil
Vegetable Oil
Cajun Seasoning
Kosher Salt
Pepper mill
Packs of Taco Seasoning
Honey

Pantry:

Yeast
Flour
Sugar
Bread crumbs
Spaghetti Sauce
Alfredo Sauce
Rice
Boxes of Chicken Stock
Several varieties of "Cream of" soups. Mainly "Cream of Mushroom"
Cans of Whole tomatoes
Small cans of Tomato Sauce
Cans of red Enchilada Sauce
Cans of Refried Beans
Cans of Chopped Green Chilies
Garlic
Dry pasta (Spaghetti, Ziti, Lasagna)
Bag of Red Potatoes

Fridge:

Milk (Whole)
Heavy Cream
Eggs
Monterey Cheese (block-I shred as I need it)
Container of Grated Parmesan Cheese
Fresh Mushrooms
Celery
Carrots

Freezer:

Chicken (Leg Quarters and Split Breasts, bought in bulk and separated into Ziploc bags)
Ground Turkey (bought in bulk, separated into Ziploc bags)
Chopped fresh parsley (frozen in Ziploc bags)
Chopped fresh Green Onions (frozen in Ziploc bags)
Chopped onions (Bagged in 1 cup increments and then put in one gallon sized bag)
Bags of Frozen vegetables
Bag of Frozen Shrimp
Bag of Frozen Tilapia filets (Fish)


Does my list look anything like yours?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Chicken Crescent Bundle Tutorial (FREEZER MEAL)

This is one of my husbands FAVORITE freezer meals. I made a dozen of these when I was pregnant with my first child and they were such a lifesaver to have in the freezer when the baby came home. I didn't have to cook dinner because my husband could take out two of these in the morning and put them in the oven that night and dinner was ready. They are super easy and delicious. I actually made 8 of these last night but two never made it to the freezer. My husband kept whispering with every bite "These should be a tutorial, these are SO tutorial worthy! Please say this is a tutorial, people will LOVE these." Here you go, folks, you can thank my husband.

Ingredients

1 package (8 ounces) PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese (softened)
4 tablespoons butter, melted, divided
2 tablespoons green onions
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
4 cups cubed cooked chicken
2 tubes (8 ounces each) refrigerated crescent rolls
1 cup crushed seasoned chicken stuffing

Step 1


In a large bowl beat the cream cheese, 2 Tbl butter, green onions, milk, salt and pepper.

Step 2


Stir in the cooked chicken.

Step 3


Open and unroll a tube of crescent rolls. Don't separate them. 

Step 4


Pinch the diagonal seems shut, creating four rectangles.

Step 5


Spoon 1/8 of the filling on to each rectangle.

Step 6




Take the opposite corners and twist them together at the center of the bundle. Repeat with the other corners. Do this for all eight bundles.

Step 7


Put the bundles on a baking sheet. Brush with remaining butter.

Step 8


Top with a handful of dry, seasoned, stuffing. You can also use croutons if you don't have stuffing. Press down gently to make sure they are secured on the bundle. Put baking sheet in freezer. Once frozen, place in labeled Ziploc bag.

Step 9



To bake, let bundles thaw overnight or during the day. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, until crescent roll is cooked completely.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Two 10lb bags of chicken...

One of my favorite sales at my local grocery store is the 10lb bags of leg quarters. A leg quarter, for those that don't know, is a connected drumstick and thigh. Each bag has roughly 10 drumsticks and 10 thighs. I've gotten leg quarters as cheap as 49 cents a pound. That's less than 5 bucks for a giant 10lb bag of chicken! Today,  I picked up a couple bags for 59 cents a pound which isn't bad, either. Here's what I do with two 10lb bags of chicken leg quarters.

When I get them home, I immediately start separating the quarters with a knife. Drumsticks go into a bowl for later and thighs go on a baking sheet. Today I used three baking sheets for all my thighs. Skin side up, salt/pepper/oil and bake at 375 degrees for 1 hour or so, until they are done. Then once they cool, I take the meat off the bone, and put the meat into quart sized bags and freeze.

The leftover chicken thigh bones go into two big stock pots. I pour enough water over the chicken to nearly come up to the top of the pot, I add a few carrots to each pot, a few celery stalks, half an onion, half a head of garlic, and some Italian seasoning. I let that boil for 3-4 hours. Once it's reduced by half, strain and refrigerate the stock. The next morning, skim the fat off the top, and pour into freezer safe plastic containers and freeze. Now you have fresh, homemade chicken stock for soups and stews. You can also freeze in muffin tins for 1/2 cup servings of stock for other recipes.


The drumsticks can go into freezer bags raw with various marinades. Today, I did Buttermilk Herb chicken, Creamy Mushroom chicken, Italian Vegetable chicken. Then with a bag of cooked thigh meat, I made 2 8X8 trays of Chicken Enchiladas.


So, to recap, two 10lb bags of chicken cost me about 12 dollars. With that chicken, I was able to make nearly two gallons of chicken stock, 1 gallon bag of cooked chicken, and 5 freezer dinners. I think I did about 2 hours worth of work total today.

I got other things today at the grocery store. 500 bucks worth of food and after sales and coupons, I paid 380 dollars. Also, keep in mind that I shop ONCE a month. So that's the total I spent for our breakfasts/lunches/dinners/snacks for a whole MONTH for a family of four. I think I did pretty darn good.

I went in to the store armed with lots of canned soup coupons. I LOVE soup and I especially love it during the fall and winter. So I stocked up on soups and canned goods on my trip today. About 60 cans total. It also comes in handy for hurricane preparedness. The only bad thing about my big shopping trip is my pantry and fridge are full to the BRIM with cans and food. At least for a few days, until I can do all my freezer cooking.


The picture I leave you with tonight is my husband and two year old on the top of the Ferris Wheel at the Carnival today. Best friends, those two.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Planning our Fall/Winter Garden

We are new to the gardening world. We started our first garden this spring, which did relatively well considering we have no experience in tending and maintaining a garden. Some vegetables did great and some didn't do so well. We live in South Louisiana and we have pretty mild winters and after some research, I found out that we can plant something nearly everyday of the year down here! So, work began on our Fall/Winter garden. We will attempt to grow: Lima beans, green beans, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, arugula, lettuce, mustard greens, onions, English peas, spinach, butternut squash, turnip greens, and pumpkin.

Gardens are so full of potential when you're planning them out on paper. I can see my freezer bursting with vegetables and beans from my garden. Lets see if I can make those visions a reality and, ya know, not kill them all.

We've been having THE BEST WEATHER lately. Tropical Storm Lee made landfall and provided us with some much needed rain. It left and we were blessed with a week of breezy 70ish degree clear sky weather. I've been turning off the A/C every morning and leaving all the windows and doors open all day. TV is off all day so I go about my chores listening to birds chirping outside, my pictures banging on the wall when a breeze blows through, and my girls playing with their toys. I took time to finish the Memory Quilt today. I put my sewing machine on the foyer desk and looked outside while I worked, sitting and sewing in the breeze. Listening to June "read" a book and Marie banging blocks together. One of those "Wow, I'm so blessed to be alive and be able to stay home with my kids, Thank You, Jesus" moments. Those are the best

Evenings in this weather are spent on my neighbors trampoline that she conveniently moved to be directly between our properties. After dinner, the whole family walks over and lays out on the trampoline. We play "Crack the Egg" which isn't hard when the egg is a 2 year old. Marie rolls around becomes statically charged, waiting for someone to touch her and shock themselves. She thinks that's funny.


Speaking of funny. I leave you with a video of Marie trying her first lemon. So trusting...


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Chocolate, Oatmeal, and Raisin Cookies Tutorial

I love chocolate chip cookies. My husband loves Oatmeal Raisin cookies. My kids love cookies. This is a marriage of all the cookies we love.


Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Ingredients 

3/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add brown sugar, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. Beat until combined, scraping side of bowl occasionally. Beat in eggs and vanilla until combined. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Using a wooden spoon, stir in any remaining flour. Stir in rolled oats, chocolate chips, and raisins.


Drop by spoonfuls on to ungreased baking sheet. These cookies do not spread out much when they bake, so however large you make them is how they will look straight out of the oven.


Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are golden. Let stand on cookie sheets for 1 minute. Transfer to wire racks and let cool.