Monday, November 1, 2010

Birthday Gift Ideas for a Loved One & cool cake

Everyone has a birthday once a year . . . unless they are sneaky and somehow get a second one :)

I am always confronted with the challenge of finding just the right gift and not being able to really think of anything good. I find that thinking of a good gift rather than a birthday gift is better. I don't focus on the birthday aspect and just consider what would be cool to give to someone.

My boyfriends birthday is coming up in December and I don't make very much money to get him something really amazing and cool like I would prefer such as going to an expensive restaurant, seeing a play, buying him a suit, etc. Things that he would like as a regular guy.

I found out his favorite car, and drew a large picture of it to the best of my ability (Picture Bellow), and I will take it to Jo-Ann's Fabrics and Crafts store to get it custom framed. Because I know it will be a little costly I drew the picture early on, and I will save up for a few weeks before taking it over with a %50 off coupon on this service.

Other gifts I have given to others are personalized quilts, drawings of the individual I give it to, cakes and cookies, etc. Home made gifts are some of the best I think. You find something that matters to the person and get something that relates to it.

An increasingly popular cake to make is Red Velvet! Here is a recipe from Better Homes and Gardens.

3 eggs
3/4 cup butter
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
2-1/4 cups sugar
1-1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 1-oz. bottle red food coloring (2 Tbsp.)
1-1/2 cups buttermilk
1-1/2 tsp. baking soda
1-1/2 tsp. vinegar
1 recipe Buttercream Frosting
1. Let eggs and butter stand 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour three 8 x 1 1/2-inch round baking pans; set aside.

2. In medium bowl combine flour, cocoa powder, and 3/4 tsp. salt; set aside. In large mixing bowl beat butter on medium-high 30 seconds. Add sugar and vanilla; beat until combined. One at a time, add eggs; beat on medium after each. Beat in food coloring on low.

3. Alternately add flour mixture and buttermilk to egg mixture; beat on low-medium after each just until combined. Stir together baking soda and vinegar. Add to batter; beat just until combined.

4. Spread in prepared pans. Bake 25-30 minutes or until pick inserted near centers comes out clean (cakes may appear marbled). Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes. Remove from pans; cool.

5. Prepare Buttercream Frosting. Place layer flat side up on plate. Spread top with 3/4 cup frosting. Stack layer, flat side up; spread top with 3/4 cup frosting. Stack final layer, flat side down; spread remaining frosting on top and sides. Makes 16 servings.

Buttercream Frosting: In medium saucepan whisk together 1-1/2 cups whole milk, 1/3 cup flour, and dash salt. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Reduce heat; cook and stir 2 minutes more. Transfer to small bowl; cover surface with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until cooled (do not stir). In large bowl beat 1-1/2 cups softened butter, 1-1/2 cups sugar, and 2 tsp. vanilla on medium 5 minutes until light and fluffy and sugar is almost dissolved. Add cooled milk mixture, 1/4 cup at a time; beat on low after each until smooth.

Monday, October 11, 2010

BBQ Time!!

The humidity drops from 100% to bearable here in Florida and that means for me that it's time to go outside and do something fun!

For our Church group of younger adults we get together every Monday night to have a discussion followed by some fun activity, and tonight my boyfriend and I have put together a BBQ of wild pig and fish - with side dishes brought by everyone else.

He went with his dad this past week to go hunting for wild boar and fish so there are some interesting things to try out. They will be digging out a pit to build the fire and a friend will be coming over earlier to roast them for the group since he has experience with this. It is a potluck so everyone has signed up to bring some sort of side dish to share.

I am contributing chocolate chip cookies from an earlier post here with the recipe, and black beans to go with the white rice another girl is bringing.

Besides GREAT food, there will be guitar hero, Billiards, a movie, some board games, and when you get a good group together - a lot of mingling and conversation. These are all things that make a great get together as long as you have the participation of others.

Because it is a church group we are also including an little spot with note cards, stickers, and markers for everyone to write a letter to one of our friends Erin who left on her mission in Spokane, Washington.

There are things that can be added to this type of activity like people dressing up in luau apparel, putting up decorations etc. or even making it a Halloween themed party since it is right around the corner.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Biking in the "Glades"

It's called Shark Valley, and though there aren't any sharks because it's in the Everglades, there are aligators, birds, snakes, crows, and other Florida typical animals.

This is a 14 miles bike loop that offers a nice smooth ride with a view of many aligators and other animals. If you aren't into physical activity there is a tram you can ride out on. The halfway point is a watch tower type structure where you can look out at the large expanse of flat Florida and get some nice pictures too :). There are bathrooms too, you just have to make it to them.

It is a very pleasant ride and many people go with older individuals and even children. This is a GREAT activity to do with friends or on a daytime date to get to know someone. With 2 hours of riding you can talk quite a bit. I've done this ride with groups a few times and it's always great to bring lots to drink (because of the heat and exertion) and a sack lunch to eat at the halfway point. Sunscreen is a good idea too.

The bikes they rent are about $15 and they are not that great so I like to bring my own bike, and there is a $5 per person entrance fee so you save more money by bringing your own bike anyways. It is a neat place to go and definitely a good tourist activity as well as a fun thing to do with friends and family. The drive is not too bad to get there, and you can't miss the turn.

This is one type of thing I think everyone should do at one point or another. If you don't happen to live in South Florida, so on a bike ride somewhere closer to you. Find a nice park, a trail, somewhere with great scenery where you can spend some time around or in nature and relax, as well as get a little exercise.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Gotta Love the Donuts

There are a ton of "little known" establishments out there that not a huge number of people know about but that are really good. For example, some Donut shops such as Dandee Donuts. They bake their donuts fresh in the morning (which are super tasty) and they also have a variety of other pastry's as well as sandwiches, pizza, etc. It is a small place, but nice and one of a kind among the local shops. I've heard that in the early morning around 4 or 5am there is already a line of people to get donuts and other things so they are definitely doing something right. I have had some donuts from there myself and they are great!

I'm not sure if there are Dandee's Donuts anywhere else, I assume that there are though. You should check it out and see for yourself. If it's good in Florida it's bound to be good elsewhere.

The one I see from time to time driving past it is on a corner in a downtown area, there are a few mom and pop owned sort of places as well as establishments like this donut place. The atmosphere is laid back and non-demanding. You can chill outside at a picnic sort of table or inside with the air conditioning. Expect to buy more than you intend or to try out something that looks so good you will forget about your regular choice.

- So here is the first of a Feature of "local cool spots" that I will do from time to time. These posts will not be consistent all the time, they will will jump from one topic to another so they stay interesting and new. If anyone has any comments or idea's, feel free to make one bellow :)-

Monday, May 17, 2010

Etsy Seller Features (3)

I decided that I wanted to feature an Etsy seller here once again and so I went to the forums and gave directions to come here and take a look to see if they would like me to feature them and to make a comment as well on a post. Some people just used the forum to promote themselves and waste space for those who were genuinely interested which is sad and rude. What was once a real place to chit chat has become a place for promotion "whores" - they post their shop link and items in practically every thread not even paying attention to what it is about or what it says :(

So I chose three sellers who posted in the thread that have excellent shops - I couldn't choose just one! I appreciate their participation, interest, and skill that they share to anyone interested in purchasing their work or to just take a look at what they have to offer.

Amy sells cards, prints, postcards (which is what this photo is), and note cards of whimsical art from her imagination and fairy-tales. Her work is simple and cute, I like the neatness of the image and colors she uses. Her female characters are so delicate and pretty you will want to look at every single one :)
Curiouscupcake's shop is all jewelry. There are some unique pendants and other pieces in there though that are worth it to look at. One of my personal favorite pieces is this dragonfly earing set which is purple but there is also a pink set. Her work is individual and has a different flavor from the numerous other jewelry makers on Etsy. Her items are great for the everyday person and also those who want some stylish accessories.

MichelleAmber's shop is so bright and cheerful! She has quilts to hang on the wall or use as a table cover, animal blanket, purses, and wallets. They are beautiful quality pieces and I personally wish I could get every single one I love the wallets and purses (example on left). She has been sewing for many years and you can tell from her work.

I highly suggest taking a look at each of their shops even if it's just to take a peak. A huge thank you to you etsy sellers who took the time to check this blog out and to everyone else who reads! Your support is appreciated :)
Have a great week everyone!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Awesome Chocolate Chip Cookies!

One of my favorite cookies to eat (because I pretty much like ALL cookies) is the Chocolate Chip Cookie. They are tasty and almost everyone loves them. But when you're at home making them from scratch, it can be somewhat bothersome or they just don't turn out as great as you expected.

Growing up my mother had one recipe for chocolate chip cookies, and she made them every other week pretty much. They were great fresh from the oven and burning hot with a glass of clod milk, but they got hard and crunchy once they cooled down. :(
I prefer my cookies moist at all times with that homemade taste. Recently (within the past 4 years) we have started to use a new recipe because it requires less ingredients, has a better taste, and they stay soft! The recipe is originally to make them HUGE, which you can do, or follow other instructions to have smaller cookies.

Ginormous Good Cookies
2 Cups Flour
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt
3/4 Cup Unsalted Butter - melted!
1 Cup Brown Sugar
1/2 Cup White Sugar
1 TBSP Vanilla
1 Egg
1 Egg Yolk
2 Cup Chocolate Chips

1. Preheat oven to 325
2. Sift flour, baking soda, salt together - set aside
3. In bowl cream together butter, brown sugar, white sugar until well blended. Beat in vanilla, egg, and egg yolk until light and creamy.
4. Mix in sifted ingredients until just blended. Stir in Chocolate chips by hand with spoon.
5. 1.4 cup size balls on sheet - 3in. apart. Bake 15-17 minutes.

*For smaller cookies bake for 10-12 minutes. Alter temperature and time according to location/climate.
**Recipe specifications work well in Florida

Florida is heating up now, temperatures getting up into the 90's! And only a few months away from taking a Baking and Pastry program at a local school, Continue to follow if you are interested in more awesome entries because it is only going to get better :)

Friday, April 23, 2010

Heads Up!

So! I talked with the admissions officer and decided that I will indeed attend Le Cordon Bleu :) Be prepared to read more about recipes, cooking tips, etc. and I will keep up with some more etsy seller items and other fun activities and ideas. There are a few months now until the program starts for me, so I will definitely keep up with some other things until then.
Here is a very nice candle holder from nowcreations on etsy. I really do like this, you can put those candles in there for a nice presentation instead of what I usually do and I know others do as well - put the candle on a glass plate :). You can use this for any occasion, it's simple and nice, look at their shop for other types of candle holders and other wood crafts.
Some very lovely earings!Teal is one of my favorite colors too so I like them even more. It is hard to find the right jewelry on etsy because so many people sell earrings, bracelets, etc. but here is a seller with some nice pieces that you should check out. These earrings would be a great gift to yourself or for someone else for a birthday or other holiday gift :).

There are SO many great things out there! I am glad to be able to do some features again, and I will try to find more specifics in the future according to what I want to blog about. Such as Bridal Showers - I have a bridal shower to go to tonight and another one that I am holding for a friend next week, so that is one thing I would blog about and include recipes of food I made, ideas for decorations, gifts, etc. And include etsy sellers if possible. So there is just a heads-up of what might come in the future for you readers.

FEADBACK! I greatly appreciate feedback, so feel free to tell me what you think of items, anything I blog about, and also let me know if there is anything in particular you would like to see here on this blog.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Changes Coming

Hi all! So, there are going to be some big renovations yet again! I keep changing what I want to do, and what will work best, so it will be a few months before this place is up and running again smoothly. I have a meeting with a cook school admissions officer, so after that I will know for sure whats going on, and if I end up attending the school then this blog will be filled with food! I will post recipes, tips, and stories about the cooking and things of that matter.

So bear with me! I will figure it out soon. :)
Other than that, I will be in Utah for a week, yay! Going out to see the snow, try snowboarding, see my sister, and meet my boyfriends family. So I wont be able to make the changes for two weeks from now.

Cheers to everyone, I hope I can find a topic that works well.