Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Mother Bear Project

If you like to knit or crochet, chances are that you already know about the Mother Bear Project.  This wonderful organization collects handknit and crocheted bears and distributes them to children that have been affected by HIV/AIDS in emerging countries.  Everyone who participates uses one of the four Mother Bear patterns:  flat knitting, knitting-in-the-round, flat crochet, or crochet-in-the-round.  The patterns are for sale for $5 at their website; the $5 going towards the cost of distributing the finished bears.

I recently finished my first Mother Bear using the knit-in-the-round pattern:

I think he turned out kind'a cute!  I hope he'll bring lots of happiness and comfort to the child who receives him. 

I have a strange feeling that he's just the first of many more to come.  They are strangely addicting to make....

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Easy Cupcakes

When I first took a cake decorating class many moons ago, I had dreams of being my very own
Cake Boss.  Unfortunately, lack of talent and limited time has made me take a much simpler route when it comes to my kids' birthday cakes.  One of my favorite (and easiest) ways of turning out cakes that kids seem to dig is to make cake toppers from Candy Melts.  They are easy to use (just nuke 'em), come in all the favorite colors, and the molds are (mostly) inexpensive.  Purchase some heart and star-shaped molds and you have what you need for most occasions. 

For SugarBear's birthday this year, I found some silicone ice cube trays shaped like Lego Minifigures over at lego.com.  These molds are pricier than most, but they work wonderfully for chocolate!  The boys went crazy for these cupcakes:

Now I just need to find a way to put the eyes and smile on them.  I tried the FoodWriter pens, but they didn't work well.  Feel free to leave suggestions in the comments.

Make a Wish!

Here are some other little cakes I've done in the past using molded chocolate decorations:

For a USC fan.

I molded a cake-topper using a #9-shaped cake pan. 
(You can find them on ebay.  Search for Wilton number pans.)

I molded this topper in a bowl and used a number candy mold. 
Then I added drop-flowers made of royal icing.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Crafty Friends

I don't mean to brag or drop names, but did you know that I am a close, personal friend of Bee,
of Bee's Hive o' Drama fame?  Please don't be jealous.  But please DO visit her awesome blog, especially if you love paper crafting.  She designs SVG/DXF files for e-cutters, too!

One of the benefits of having crafty friends is that sometimes they make you really nice handmade gifts for your birthday.  This is the nice little surprise that Bee gave me for my recent special day:

A sweet altered notebook for keeping my private thoughts (or maybe my grocery lists- that would make marketing seem more special).

She also made a cute birthday card to go with it:

Thanks so much, Bee.  I am truly blessed by our friendship!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Beef Stew

I'm movin' another recipe over from my old blog.  January always makes me think of making a
big pot o' stew, even though we've been having summer weather in these here parts.  As soon as
it cools down, I'm making this:

Recipe from The Best Slow and Easy Recipes.

Classic Beef Stew

1 (3 1/2 to 4lb) boneless beef chuck eye roast, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
salt and pepper
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 medium onions, minced
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp minced fresh thyme (or 1 tea dried)
3 Tbsp flour
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 cup dry red wine (Cotes du Rhone)
1 1/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 1/4 cups low-sodium beef broth
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 lb red potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 lb carrots, peeled and sliced 1-inch thick
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/4 minced fresh italian parsley leaves

1. Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 325 degrees. Pat the beef dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat 1 Tbsp of the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add half of the meat and cook, stirring occasionally, until well browned, 7 to 10 minutes, reducing the heat if the pot begins to scorch. Transfer the browned beef to a medium bowl. Repeat with 1 Tbsp more oil and the remaining beef; tranfer to the bowl.

2. Add the remaining 1 Tbsp oil to the pot and place over medium-low heat until shimmering. Add the onions and 1/4 tea salt and cook, stirring often, until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the garlic and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the flour and tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the wine, scraping up any browned bits. Gradually whisk in the broths until smooth and bring to a simmer.

3. Stir in the browned meat with any accumulated juices and the bay leaves and bring to a simmer. Cover, place the pot in the oven, and cook for 1 hour. Stir in the potatoes and carrots and continue to cook in the oven, covered, until the meat is tender, 1 to 1 1/2 hours longer.
4. Remove the stew from the oven and remove the bay leaves. Stir in the peas, cover, and let stand for 5 minutes. Stir in the parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste before serving.

For our family, this makes enough for 2 dinners plus a lunch for hubby.  I like to serve it with corn muffins.