When I first moved to L.A. I was on a crazy strict budget. I’m talking the kind of budget where I was eating once a day and that meal consisted of, like, a few dollar tacos. It was kinda sucky, but honestly I’m really thankful for that time in my life; it gave me drive and made me more conscious as to how I spend my money. Before this, I strictly bought beauty products at department stores and Sephora. My little broke period forced me to start buying beauty products from the drug store; and you know what, I still buy A LOT of my beauty products from Walgreens. I find that many of them are just as good as fancy products.
One of the things I stopped buying during this period was Fresh’s Lip Polish; not because it wasn’t effective—it’s my absolute favorite—but because I found that it was SO easy to make at home. I made a big batch the other day when my lips looked cracked and gross and really needed some refreshing. While Los Angeles has had an oddly warm winter, it has been super dry, leaving my lips not looking their cutest.
While I can totally do without Valentine’s day, I absolutely LOVE St. Patrick’s Day. I love Irish food and adore the color green, though just like Valentine’s Day, I don’t think food should be turned green against its will. Can we just let food live? Another reason I’ve always loved St. Patrick’s Day, in college when I worked at a brewery, it was always my highest grossing day of the year. People love an excuse to drink. Me included.
If I’m being honest, I don’t always go for cream or milk mixed with my alcohol. I think it goes back to the days when I used to have to bus glassware that had the remnants of stout mixed with irish cream and whiskey. It was curdle-central all up in there and it was not cute, my friends.
Having said all that, I’ve had dreams of making Homemade Irish Cream without a curdle in sight.
Ok, so let me preface this post by saying that this isn’t a recipe. This isn’t a recipe for filtered water because that would be RIDICULOUS. And it’d be much like Paula Deen’s recipe for English peas. Remember this? It was amazing. No salt, no pepper, no nothing. Just lots of butter and peas. Very Paula-style!
A few months ago Rikumo offerred to send me a few pieces of Binchotan charcoal. I was super intrigued after reading about its purifying capabilities so I said yes, and a few days later it arrived wrapped in a piece of brown paper. As I did some research I found some interesting things. For starters, Binchotan charcoal is made in the Kishu region of Japan and is activated through extremely high burning temperatures, along with a rapid cooling process.
After this process, these charcoals are extremely porous and end up having a variety of uses; mainly ones that call for absorbing impurities. They’re specifically known for enhancing blood circulation when placed in hot baths, absorbing odors when placed in closets, smelly fridges or shoes, stimulating soil in your garden and lastly, purifying drinking water.
Purifying drinking water with these Binchotan charcoals is a bit of a process (albeit a very short and easy one), so I figured I’d show you, in case this is very new-to-you (it was to me too, like, two days ago).
If you’ve ever seen the film Chinatown, you know that water is a big deal in Los Angeles. There is heavy debate as to whether Los Angeles has super healthy water or water that follows outdated regulations. Because I can’t do a full-on investigation myself, I always filter my water or use bottled (though I try and stay away from the bottled stuff whenever possible). And honestly, I don’t love the way Los Angeles water tastes. When I lived in North Carolina, I thought the water was delicious! It tasted like it was straight from a spring. So, I was pleasantly surprised when I could taste the difference from these charcoals.
Step 1: When you receive the charcoals, they’ll be dusty. This isn’t a big deal if you’re putting them in a bath or placing them in your fridge, but since we’re purifying water with them, we’re going to start by rinsing and brushing off the excess ash.
Step 2: Transfer the charcoals to a pot of water and boil for 10 minutes. Drain the water and allow the charcoals to cool completely.
Step 3: Fill your container with water and place the cooled charcoal inside. Allow the two to sit for several hours; about 2-3 hours. During this time the charcoal will absorb the impurities in the water.
Step 4: Feel free to leave the charcoal in the container and refill it when you’re low on water. The charcoal will work for 2 to 3 weeks until it needs to be refreshed.
Step 5: Refreshing the charcoal is super easy. Simply boil it for 10 minutes and it’s good to go. The company that makes this charcoal recommends replacing it all together every 3 months or so.
This cool-looking Chikuno Cube has replaced the box of baking soda that used to be in my fridge—it’s very effective! I also have my eye on this charcoal toothbrush. I think they’re pretty cool.
*This is not a sponsored post. I just think it’s a super cool product and wanted to share.
Wasn’t Pie Week fun?! I kinda miss it already. I’m already scheming for a possible Cookie Week in December? And maybe more pie. Always more pie.
On Wednesday I’m headed up to the Bay Area for a very short trip for Thanksgiving, so I figured some of you might actually be heading to other people’s homes, too. I love hostess gifts that have a nice personal touch, and since this time of year is so crazy, they need to be quick and easy. I looove having winter herbs in my kitchen for cooking and making cocktails. These herbs will all survive a cold winter – they’re considered “aggressive” herbs, or so they say.
Supplies you’ll need to make this lil’ quick and easy DIY:
- 3 small terra cotta pots
- Assorted colors of acrylic paints
- Painter’s Tape
- Acrylic Top Coat Spray
- Winter Herbs: Rosemary, English Thyme, Mint, Cilantro or Sage
- Paint brushs
Step 1: Brush each pot with two to three coats of paint. Allow ‘em to dry completely.
Step 2: You can do any sort of patterns that you like. I figured it’d be nice to do all an assortment of patterns that all sort of compliment one another. For the first one, I cut out triangles from the painter’s tape and placed them on the perimeter of the pot.
I gave it two coats of metallic light gray paint, allowed it to dry and then removed the tape.
Step 3: Continue with a different pattern. I chose little hand painted dots.
For the third and final patter, I used a spouncer – which is my favorite tool and word – dipped in paint to make a larger polka dot pattern.
Step 4: I allowed the pots to dry completely, about 30 minutes, and then sprayed each pot with a clear top coat, which will help protect the terra cotta pots against moisture, weathering and overall handling.
Step 5: Divide the herbs between the pots and fill with potting soil.
And that’s it! Super easy and quick. Tomorrow I’ll show you a cocktail recipe to use with one of these herbs. You know, so you can give your host the gift and then use it to make something. Super classy!
Pie is my love language. And this week I’ll be serenading you with butter and caramel and fruit. It’s PIE WEEK!
Each day I’ll be bringing you a new pie. Some will be classics with small twists; other’s will be new-to-me (and you, hopefully) combinations.
Thanksgiving is next week and if you’ve worked it right, you’ve got the savory stuff down. You have your turkey reserved and situated. Dessert, though, might still be up in the air. If so, I urge you to make a lil’ pie. What’s great is that all of these pies can be made the night before and then served the next day. They all keep well.
I’ll admit that the first time I made pie, years ago, it was a complete disaster. I blame myself for being a terrible reader of instructions AND pies aren’t “easy as pie.” (That might be the most inaccurate, idiotic idiom I’ve ever heard.)
Pie has its challenges, though it’s definitely not impossible. Hopefully these tips and photos will help make you successful at da pie-a-makin’.
INGREDIENTS:Freeze your butter. Start with frozen butter. I generally freeze the butter for about an hour or so prior to starting.
Step 1: Possible obvious advice: Careful when measuring out your dry ingredients. I always weigh out my dry ingredients (because I actually find it easier than dirtying up cup measures). If you do use cup measures, make sure to fluff the flour, scoop it and then level it off with a butter knife.
Step 2: Use a box grater to cut up the butter. I find this WAY easier than breaking it up using a pastry cutter. Just shred the frozen butter atop the mixed dry ingredients. The end goal when making pie dough is to get the butter to resemble pea-sized bits; well, if you use a box grater, you’re already there. This makes it so you handle the flour mixture less, which will result in a tender pie crust.
Step 3: The key to good pie crust is everything should be cold, cold, COLD! This includes the water. I usually drop a few ice cubes into the water so the water is chilly.
Step 4: I usually add about 50% of the water I need to the dry ingredients, mix it together, AND then add more water a tablespoon at a time, until the dough comes together. Knead the dough a good ten times and form it into one cohesive ball. If it’s a bit shaggy, no biggie. When the dough rests in the fridge, the moisture will disburse throughout.
Step 5: This is a double-crust, so I slice it in half and reshape the dough into two discs. You should see the butter striated throughout the dough, creating layers of butter and flour.
Step 6: Let the dough rest. Resting the dough for an hour usually does the trick, but ideally it should be kept overnight. Have you ever had problems with your pie crust shrinking in the oven? This usually happens because there’s too much water in the dough and/or the gluten in the flour hasn’t had enough time to relax. Overnight is always better.
Step 7: Have you ever started rolling, only to find out the pie dough starts to crack on you?! Very frustrating. Allow the dough to sit on a floured work surface for about 10 minutes. This way it’ll shake off its chill, making it easier to roll out.
Step 8: Flour everything. Everything!! Press your rolling pin and roll outward. Give it one push, then rotate the disc a quarter turn, and repeat the process until the pie dough has reached about a 13-inch circle. Keep flouring, too. If the dough seems like it’s sticking to your counter, lift it and sprinkle a little flour underneath.
Step 9: The transfer. I like to do it grandma style by rolling the dough onto the rolling pin and then laying it over my pie pan. Some people like to fold it like a business letter and then transfer it. Both work fine.
Step 10: Trim the dough, leaving about a 1/2-inch overhang. There will be a bit of shrinkage, so just prepare for it.
Step 11: Crimp, if you like! Or braid it. You can also take a fork and create little indentations. Place the pie pan in the freezer for 20 minutes. This is also a good time to preheat your oven. If you’re filling it with fruit, do it post-freezer trip.
Here’s what I like and why.
1. Pie Pan – Glass. I like this Pyrex one. I love vintage-y pie pans I find at yard sales, but they heat unevenly and get way too hot. I like that the Pyrex ones are inexpensive and see-through so I can see how the crust is doing.
3. Box grater. See above for my long-winded, very passionate reason why I use a box grater! Another thing that would work is a food processor with the cheese grater attachment. But do we really want to clean a food processor? Not really.
Most years I’m a total failure at sending holiday cards. The years when I finally do get them out, they end up being so crazy late that it’s almost not worth all the effort. Not this year, my friends! I’m so on it.
This year I teamed up with Zazzle to create some custom holiday cards and I couldn’t be more excited how they turned out. In lieu of cheesy family portraits (I do love them, by the way), I decided to give our holiday cards a bit of a food-spin by creating Christmas items out of some of my favorite holiday foods.
For the first holiday card, I dusted some freshly fried churros with edible gold glitter and took a photo. I ended up eating the scraps and feeling sort sick but it was worth it. On the site you can use their nicely designed template (I used this one), or you can create your own. I thought it’d be fun to mix and match.
For the next holiday card, I made a Christmas tree out of chocolate cupcakes and added a crazy amount of sprinkles.
I wanted to make my own greeting, so I made the right side in Illustrator and uploaded the two files. Super simple!
The next holiday card might be my favorite. I made the pancake wreath by making pancakes in the shape of a circle and adding sprigs of sage and cranberries as garnish. Since I liked the photo so much I made these much bigger.
As I was looking through their selection of holiday gifts, I stumbled upon custom mailing stamps. Whaaa!!! I used a photo of sprinkles to make the custom stamps. I loooove them, especially when paired with a red wax seal stamp. Very festive!
Thanksgiving is just a few weeks away and this year I’m actually prepared. I have my menu all written out, I have my recipes written, I have a proper head count. Who am I? I don’t even know anymore.
Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing quite a bit of Thanksgiving recipes. For my first Thanksgiving-ish post, I teamed up with Canon and their PIXMA MG7120 printer to create some fun (and easy!) napkins for your dinner table.
Start by taking photos of your cute fall objects. Since the PIXMA can print via your mobile device, I found super easy to just take the photos from my phone.
I changed the picture to black and white and then used their app PIXMA Printing Solutions to print out the picture onto 4″ x 6″ iron-on transfer sheets. The app couldn’t be simpler to use and it’s particularly awesome because you can print multiple pictures at once.
Next, the printing! The printer’s sounds made Amelia’s head do that tilting thing that dogs do when they’re super confused. When I showed her the pretty pictures she understood, though.
Then, using my scissors I cut out each of the photos. I placed the photo where I’d want it and then flipped it over. I took my iron and set it on the setting that reads “cotton/linen” and with the steam option OFF (very important!). I ironed over the entire photo, moving the iron from side to side for about 30-40 seconds.
I peeled the photo off revealing the cute lil’ persimmon!
In my brain I wanted each photo to be surrounded by hand-stamped geometric shapes. I went to the craft store looking for a simple triangular stamp. Umm..they don’t exist! I found the most intricate of stamps. I’m talking stamps of Santa conversing with his reindeers mid-sentence but no simple stamps.
So, here I am, cutting a potato with my exacto knife to make a stamp. It was actually pretty easy.
Instead of dipping the “stamp” into a puddle of paint, I rolled it on for more of an even distribution.
Next, I stamped away. I did a few different patterns of triangles. I think my favorite is the one with the dahlias.
Here they are all finished…
And that’s it! Super simple.
Can I be honest? Before this I didn’t have a printer. If someone emailed me and said I needed to print something out, sign it, scan it and send it back, it felt like they were asking me to climb Mount Everest.
I’m psyched because this printer does it ALL. It prints high-quality photos from your computer or phone, acts as a scanner and even makes copies. I mean, you need nothing else. It’s made my life SO much easier. And I can make cute napkins and print out actual pictures, which I feel like we never do anymore. Total bonus.
Let’s make some pasta! I was pretty excited to learn how to make chocolate pasta. I came home with a few tricks that I’d like to share because I’m an over sharer and I like you.
I’ve made pasta in the past by just rolling the dough using a rolling pin, so I know it can be done, but your arm might fall off. A pasta maker makes life sooo much easier. I used this pasta maker. Is it great? Eh…I mean, it works. And it worked pretty great, actually. I got pasta! The bonus is that it’s pretty inexpensive. Its longevity will be tested. we shall see! In a perfect world where I make homemade pasta on a weekly basis, I’d invest in this one.
The pasta begins with mixing caputo flour, cocoa powder and salt. I’d like to discuss flours for a second. Caputo flour is finer in grind compared to all-purpose. It’s actually kind of similar to cake flour in its consistency, though its protein level (about 10-12%) is similar to all-purpose flour. And since it’s made of durum wheat, it means you’ll end up with a strong pasta that isn’t very elastic-like. It’s worth seeking out for this pasta, but if you can’t find caputo flour, all-purpose will work.
I’m not sure there will ever come a day when baking isn’t magical to me. I still get giddy when I turn on the oven light, peek through the glass to see biscuits doubling in size. Or when a waif of baking banana bread skips through the house and under my little nose. Baking is my magic.
I love the trust and faith we must have in a recipe, in the ratio and in the ingredients. We trust that those ingredients will interact, react and transform into something so beautifully delicious.
Having just whispered all those sweet words of nothing, I’ll admit I’m not really a cake-maker-type girl. I’m not sure if a single layered-cake even lives on this blog. I’m pretty sure it has everything to do with me being an impatient person and thinking cake decorating is a little tedious. But when I want cake inspo, I turn to Sara from Matchbox Kitchen. She makes some insanely pretty cakes. One thing I LOVE about her cakes is how they’re all perfectly cylinder. The tops are completely flat. Flat cake tops are all the rage in the cake world.
Cake layers usually dome on us, rising right in the center and then cracking. I think doming on a quick bread is beautiful. I love it. My friend and baker, Hourie, wouldn’t think to serve a quick bread that didn’t dome. Cakes are different, though. But not to worry because baking flat cake layers couldn’t be easier!
I am officially a crazy Spring cleaner. And I’m going to be honest, I’ve never really done Spring cleaning. I’ve always done Spring cleaning when I’ve moved from old apartment to new apartment, or when the disorganization got between me and finding something I wanted to wear.
Spring cleaning has never been something I’ve done in, well, Spring. But this year, oh this year! I’ve really impressed myself. I’m doing Spring cleaning. And it’s actually kinda nice. It’s making me feel more in control of my life, like I have it together or something. I’ve started with the part of my house that gives me the most anxiety: my pantry (that’s actually just a gigantic cabinet). In the back, in the far corners of this beast, I found oh I dunno like five or six bags of dark brown sugar. All of them hard as a rock.
Let me interrupt myself to say that I have no idea if you know how to soften brown sugar. You might be rolling your eyes when you see this post. I mean, does everyone know this is how you rehydrate brown sugar? Am I posting obvious advice? Is this going to be useful? Does everyone have a grandma who told them these things?
My grandmother never taught me to do this. I learned about this years ago from Google. I’m pretty sure I was baking at midnight (my favorite time to bake) and wanted to make cookies (obviously), only to find that the brown sugar was hard and looked like McDonald’s chicken nuggets.
If this isn’t obvious advice to you and you really would like to know how to save your brown sugar, continue…
If not, I’ll have some OMG-breakfast situation tomorrow.