Some Favorites from 2012

After my last post where I whined about not accomplishing too many of the things on my to-do list for 2012, my mom emailed to say she didn’t like the post. Since we should all try to keep our moms happy I thought I’d do a quick recap of some of the things I DID accomplish last year.

My first big project of 2012 was my Craigslist dresser rehabilitation, and I’m still in love with it. I still sometimes (ahem – yesterday) look at it and can’t believe that I did it all myself. Refinished Dresser1For Valentine’s day I came up with some rather tasty looking heart-shaped cookies. It’s not so much my baking skills I’m proud of for this post, but it was my first attempt at food styling, and it’s not so bad. Raspberry Window CookieSt. Patrick’s Day had me sharing with you a recipe for Irish brown bread. This was my second attempt at food styling, and yes, I did buy the smoked salmon and cream cheese specifically to take pictures. Don’t worry – I made sure to eat all the props once the pictures were taken – no point in wasting it. Brown bread, cream cheese and smoked salmonIn April I shared the little Ikea table and chairs I customized for my boyfriend’s nephew. Table and Chairs4In June I made a little change in my kitchen by replacing the cabinet door handles. This is a favorite as I think it took a bit of mettle and moxie to attack my cabinet doors with a drill, and the new handles look SO much better.Spann kitchen handles on Abstrakt cabinetsMy refinished media console was my next big project, and I’m happy to report it does a wonderful job at storing all my crafting supplies and other random things I can’t seem to find a place for.In all it's gloryMy blog underwent a couple of makeovers in 2012 starting with this post, but I have to say I’m quite pleased with it’s current look which I revealed in November.

The old and new header images - the new one is simpler

The old and new header images – the new one is simpler

And last but not least was my Almond Cream puffs. This post is a favorite not just for it’s a gastronomic delight, but the pictures make me drool, so I think my photography skills are improving.Easy and Delicious Almond Cream PuffsSo there you have it – my favorite posts from 2012, and no, it hasn’t escaped me that almost half of them are relating to food. I wonder what I’ll say were my favorites from 2013?

Almond Cream Puffs

With Christmas just a few days away I thought I’d share a go-to dessert recipe from our family. I have no idea where my mom got the recipe, but I do know that it’s an easy dessert that always has people asking for more. If you’ve been asked to bring dessert to a gathering this holiday season, and you’re looking for something easy that looks like you spent hours in the kitchen this is the recipe for you.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 eggs
  • Almond Cream (see below)
  • Chocolate Glaze (see below)

Directions

  1. In a 2 qt. saucepan over medium heat, heat the water, butter and salt until the butter melts and the mixture boils. Remove from heat. With a wooden spoon, vigorously stir in the flour all at once until the mixture forms a ball and leaves the side of the saucepan.
  2. Add the eggs to the flour mixture one at a time, beating after each addition, until the mixture is smooth and satiny. Cool mixture slightly.
  3. Preheat your oven to 400F. lightly grease and flour a large baking sheet. Using tablespoons drop batter into about 10-12 even mounds on the prepared baking sheet.
  4. Bake the batter for about 40 minutes until golden brown. Turn off the oven, and let the puffs remain in the over for an additional 15 minutes. Remove the puffs from the over, and cool on a wire rack.
  5. When the puffs are cool, using a long serrated knife, slice horizontally in half. Prepare the Almond-cream filling and spoon into the bottom of the puffs. Replace the top of the puffs. Refrigerate.
  6. Prepare chocolate glaze. Spoon Glaze over top of puffs.

Almond Cream Filling

Prepare one package of vanilla flavoured instant pudding as the label directs, but use only 1 1/4 cups of milk. Once it’s set, fold in 1 cup of heavy or whipping (35%) cream, whipped, and 1tsp of almond extract.

Chocolate Glaze

In a heavy double boiler, over hot, not boiling water, heat 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate pieces with 1 tbsp. butter, 1 1/2 tsp. milk, and 1 1/2 tsp. light corn syrup. Stir occasionally until smooth.

This recipe makes about 10-12 puffs. While the recipe recommends you start about 3 hours before serving, I’ve made the puffs the night before, and then stored them in a air-tight container overnight. I would recommend you allow the puffs to set in a refrigerator for a about an hour before you transport them anywhere. Serve at room temperature.

I hope you enjoy these almond cream puffs as much as my family does.

Linked to: The Shabby Nest, Chic on a  Shoestring, Beyond the Picket Fence, Fingerprints on the Fridge, {Primp}

Put a Little Bit of Ireland on Your Table: Irish Brown Bread

It’s St. Patrick’s day on Saturday, and as I’m genetically 50% Irish I feel I would be highly remiss if I didn’t share something of my heritage with you. I love all things Irish – I was extremely lucky growing up and got to visit Ireland every summer. My boyfriend D says I can spot an Irish flag from any distance (For some reason he finds this odd – he’s never been and therefore doesn’t understand how wonderful a country Ireland is), and the sound of an Irish accent always makes me smile. I debated just what to share – there’s the picture of me in the leprechaun hat (I decided that would most likely cause permanent damage to your retinas given the hat came complete with a red beard), but then remembered this recipe for brown bread that is quite similar to one my grandmother used to make (and still does) whenever I visit her in Dublin.

Irish Brown Bread

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 tbsp. wheat Bran
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1 3/4 to 2 cups buttermilk *

* If you don’t have buttermilk you can make your own. Pour 2 tbsp of lemon juice into a measuring cup. Fill to the 2 cup mark with milk, and let it sit for about 10 minutes until it’s curdled.

Preheat your over to 400 degrees and grease a large loaf pan (I use a spray)

In a large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients. Add the buttermilk, and stir to form a thick batter. Pour it into the prepared pan.

Bake in the preheated oven for 1 to 1.5 hrs, or until the top is nicely browned. You’ll know the loaf is done when there is a hollow sound when you tap on the bottom of the pan. Remove the loaf from the pan and wrap it in a damp dish towel until cooled – this softens the crust (although it will still require a good bread knife)

This recipe makes one loaf.This bread is lovely served with plain cream cheese and lox, or even toasted with peanut butter.

Irish Brown Bread with Cream cheese and Lox

Linked to: Addicted 2 Decorating

Valentine’s Day Raspberry Window Cookies

To make these Valentine’s day cookies I used my Mom’s sugar cookie recipe:

Sugar Cookies

  • I cup butter
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 cups flour
  • 3 tsp vanilla

With the butter at room temperature, mix in the sugar and lightly beaten eggs. Add the rest of the ingredients, and with your hands mix it all together until you have a nice evenly mixed dough.

Chill the dough for one hour or overnight. Roll out and cut out shapes as desired. Bake the cookies at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes or until they are lightly brown.

I used two heart-shaped cookie cutters – one a little smaller than the other. I cut out the large hearts, and then removed the centers of half the shapes with the smaller cutter. I found the hearts retained their shape if I cut out the centers when the cookies were already on the baking sheet.

Once the cookies were baked and cooled, I spread seedless raspberry jam over the large shapes, and then used the jam to ‘glue’ the other shape on top. You could use any type of jam you like, but I prefer the look of the seedless variety. Once the jam has had a little time to set (it will remain sticky) you can package the cookies in whatever manner you like to make them into a sweet Valentine’s Day treat. Enjoy!Linking to: Under the table and Dreaming, The Girl Creative, Flour me with Love, The CSI Project