Monday, December 28, 2009

Fresh Baked Biscuits

My mother used to make breakfast on Christmas morning. Most of my memories include a strata or quiche. Something that could be put together the night before, and tossed in the oven to cook while we opened presents.

My husband doesn't like eggs. He cooks for me about 364 days a year. This year I wanted to take care of breakfast on Christmas.

I was browsing Smitten Kitchen a week before Christmas, just poking around to see if there were any recipes I wanted to try. The stars must have aligned in my favor, because I found a simple biscuit recipe. My husband, you see, had recently mentioned that he wanted biscuits.

The recipe called for all of five ingredients and allowed for your biscuit dough to be frozen until use. Perfect!

I made my biscuits on Christmas Eve, and popped them into the freezer overnight. Christmas morning, when we were ready, I buttered the tops and cooked them in the oven. Viola! Delicious, fresh, mouth watering biscuits.

These were so easy, I'd be foolish not to make them again. Besides, I'm pretty sure my husband won't argue.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Screen Printed Shirts

I love the holidays. Which, I am sure, comes as a suprise to those of you who read this blog.

I love giving gifts, I love making gifts, and of course receiving them. Of all the gifts I give and receive, some of my favorites are those that are handmade. Don't get me wrong, a good iTunes gift card makes me smile (and usually dance later on)- but there's something about a homemade gift that's just extra special.

This year I'm trying to make things for my close friends and family, in addition to things from their wish lists. It's been a lot of fun, and I haven't seen any of their reactions yet- but I'll be sure to share some photos after the holidays.

Way back over the summer, I spoke with my friend Christyn of BeadUp about doing a trade of sorts. She works in beads (which you probably know, as this isn't the first time I've recommended that you check out her blog) and I was in search of some unique jewelry for a wedding I was in. We settled on a trade: two pairs of earrings, a necklace, and a bracelet for some screen printed t-shirts (from me). I was expecting to churn out a few BeadUp! shirts for the lovely lady.

More recently I received an email from Christyn saying that she wanted to use her shirts as gifts for friends. Feeling the way I do about handmade gifts, I was beyond thrilled to accomodate her wishes. We went back and forth a little bit about her designs (and they were designed by her, 100% so I take no credit there). Mainly we were trying to settle on some designs that she liked and I felt would screen print well.

Screen printing by hand can be very tedious. Some of you may know about the freezer paper method, but I prefer to do it differently. I use a large embroidery hoop, very sheer curtain fabric, a design (printed on paper), a pencil, and some glue to create my screens. That way, I can reuse the screens with ease. It takes me a while to make a good screen, and every time you print from it the design will look a little different.

Christyn emailed me a design that said "I love cupcakes" that she wanted printed on a small pink t-shirt. She told me she was giving the shirt, as a gift, to her friend Cheryl (of Cupcakin' It Up). I've been brainstorming an idea for a similar shirt for a while, so I was excited to try this out.

The shirt in the photo above, was the result of the screen that I made. Unfortunately some of the cute details in the cupcake didn't come out as well as I had hoped. It's awfully hard to make such a detailed screen by hand- at least for me. Overall, I thought the design came through nicely.

Besides, I received a glowing email from Christyn telling me how awesome she thought the shirt was. Then, I got an even better follow up email saying that she'd given the shirt to Cheryl and she'd proceeded to wear the shirt around work for the remainder of the day. That was definitely a nice boost to my ego.

And now, I'm off to finish up some more handmade gifts for the holidays. Hope you all have a wonderful holiday season!

*Photo courtesy of Christyn, BeadUp

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Ten Things Any Baker Would Love to Unwrap this Holiday Season

Long time no post, huh? I've been doing crafty things and baking, but I've been busy and forgetful when it comes to pictures. I'm sorry. But to make it up to you and your loved ones, today I'm featuring 10 gifts any baker would love to receive this holiday season.

1. Kitchenaid Stand Mixer.

If your favorite baker doesn't already
have one of these, you will
score huge points by giving them
one. They're expensive folks, so I understand that it may not be within
your reach. If it is, and
you can't make up your mind. Ask yourself this one question, "how often does my baker need to mix things?" Because if the answer is more than once a year, this is a perfect gift. The first time I made cookies after I bought my mixer? Amazing.

2. Extra bowl for the Kitchenaid Stand Mixer.

If your favorite baker already has a Kitchenaid Stand Mixer then I am willing to bet they've
discovered what I have: one bowl is not enough. I can't tell you how frustrating it can be to have to stall out on a baking project because you have to wash your mixing bowl before you can whip
up frosting or the other half of your dough, or whatever it is. Another mixing bowl will solve that problem.

3. BeaterBlade for your Stand Mixer.

If your favorite baker is anything like me, they get annoyed by th
e fact that their mixer (and these come for other Stand Mixers, not just
Kitchenaid's) leaves ingredients along the
edges and bottoms of the bowl. This
means we have to stop the mixer, regularly, so we can scrape down the sides (and bottom) of the bowl to ensure that all of our ingredients are incorporated. This blade has spatula like pieces on every side of it that scrape the bowl as you mix. Don't believe that it actually works? Head on over to the website to check out their side by side video comparison. I promise you won't be disappointed.

4. A Spoonula.

What's a spoonula, I can hear you asking. Well, it's just what it
sounds like. A spoon and a spatula all rolled into one. A spoonula
will really help your favorite baker scrape their mixing bowl, to ensure they get all the dough, batter, frosting, or whatever out. Good for rolling up that last cookie, filling that last cupcake liner, or eating leftover dough. The price is so nice you should buy two.

7. Rolling Pin Bands

Does your favorite baker ever use a rolling pin? Chances are, they could use a set of rolling pin bands. Sure you can live without these, but why would you want to? These bands stretch and fit
over most rolling pins- one on either end. The bands then work to ensure that your dough is an even, consistent thickness. That means your cookies should cook for roughly the same lengthe of time, and no one's going to whine about how they got the "small"
cookie. Win, win, win!

6. A Silpat Mat

Is your baker constantly complaining about cookies sticking to baking sheets or having to buy more parchment paper for baking
? This is a perfect solution. Silpats are reusable, washable mats that you can use on cookie sheets or jelly roll pans in place of greasing your bakeware or using parchment paper. They may cost a little more, but they're worth the price.

7. A Cookie Spatula

I know, I can hear you asking me why in the world you need a special spatula for cookies. Is this 100% necessary? No, probably not. Is it extremely useful for someone who bakes a lot of cookies? Definitely. This particular cookie spatula is made out of silicon and has saved some of my more finicky cookies from breakage. This could even be a stocking stuffer!

8. A Cake Stand

If your baker doesn't really decorate cakes, you can feel free to skip this one. However, if they do- this is a great gift. This cake stand tilts and rotates, allowing you to get into all the nooks and crannies of your cake without accidentally jamming a finger into the frosting. I have one that just rotates, which is nice, but not as nice as this one.

9. Off Set Spatulas
This is another instance in which I recommend buying more than one. Off set spatulas are going to make your favorite baker's life so much easier when they're frosting a cake or cupcakes- or even just filling up their piping bags. They allow you to put just enough pressure on the frosting that you can smooth the surface without pushing too hard and leaving
uneven dents. Buy them in more than one size. Small is good for cupcakes, medium for cakes, and extra large is great for filling your piping bag.

10. Cupcake Courier

I don't even want to talk about how I used to transport my cupcakes. The Cupcake Courier is a lifesaver! This thing holds and transports up to 36 (3 dozen) cupcakes. You can use one tray or all three at a time. Plus, the space between trays (and the lid) is big enough so that your beautiful frosting doesn't get smushed. The trays are all dishwasher safe. Plus, it comes in three very chic colors.

So, there you have it. 10 amazing gifts for the baker in your life.

Wait, what's that you say? You have a baker in your life but you're not sure if they have these tools. So, you want ideas that won't overlap with any tools they might have already? Umm. Ok, no problem. I can do that.

2 Bonus Tools that your Baker will love:

1. Hostess Aprons

Hostess aprons are about the cutest things out there. These are stylish aprons (sometimes half aprons, sometimes full aprons) that are just asking to be worn when you have company. This isn't that dirty apron you abuse when you bake- this one is a special occasion apron. It's not something most bakers would buy for themselves, but it is something that every baker would love to have. I couldn't pick just one, so I encourage you to head over to and search for "hostess aprons." Etsy is a website that features handmade products ranging from aprons to soaps to cards to patterns. Support handmade items and make your baker smile.

2. Deni LED Cake Tray

Alright, this is definitely a luxury item. I found it while I was looking around for recommendations and I thought it was so clever I couldn't resist posting it. Are you always struggling to cut the right amount of slices in your cake? This is the perfect product for you! You put your cake on this tray and then use the LED input screen to tell it the number of servings desired. The LED lights around the tray will then light up, showing you exactly where to cut your cake. Viola! You have the perfect number of slices. Unnecessary? Yes. Fun? Definitely.

Happy Holidays everyone. I hope you're all baking up your favorite holiday treats.