Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Cherry Cordial Ice Cream

A good husband knows what his wife favorite things are.  For me, one of my all time favorite combinations is cherries and chocolate together.  Wouldn't you know it for our anniversary in February I saw hubby come home with both a bag of mini chocolate chips, a jar of maraschino cherries, and some heavy cream.  What are we making I ask with great anticipation?!  He replies, I want to try and make you a cherry cordial ice cream.  (Be still my heart).  I knew there was a reason I married him 12 years ago.  So we cracked out our ice cream machine and decided to give it a whirl (by the way, the best part of this recipe is that you can also make this even if you don't have an ice cream maker check out variation recipe at the end).  So I give you: cherry cordial ice cream!

Cherry cordial ice cream - DIVINE!

We happened across this recipe on the interwebs and only modified it slightly.  You will need:
(recipe for a 2-quart ice cream machine)

3 cups heavy cream
1 cup 2% or whole milk
1 (14oz) can of sweetened condensed milk
1 (10oz) jar of maraschino cherries (drained and chopped)
1 cup mini chocolate chips
2 teaspoons almond extract
few drops of red food coloring (optional)

First gather your ingredients:

mini chocolate chips work better in an ice cream machine than the regular full sized ones
The original recipe called for 2 cups of heavy cream, 2 cups of half-and-half.  We did not have half-and-half (which by the way means half milk/half cream), so we just made our own.  Three cups of heavy cream and one cup of regular milk is the same as the original recipe.

and you thought you would never use fractions in real life...
Pour your milk ingredients above into your bowl and then add 1 (14oz) can of sweetened condensed milk.  You will not add any sugar to this recipe.  The sweetened condensed milk is the sweetener for the whole thing.

Mmmm thick and creamy
Blend every thing together.  There is an option to add a bit of extra "pop" factor and add a few drops of red food coloring.  We also added 2 teaspoons of almond extract here (the original recipe said 1 tsp vanilla, 1/2 almond) but it's the almond extract that give the cherry flavor a huge boost!

pretty in pink

Drain your (10oz) jar of maraschino cherries carefully

and chopped them up finely.  I used a Pampered Chef hand chopper.  Also I do not know why the original recipe did not make use of some of the left over cherry juice from the jar.  I followed the recipe this time and left it out, next time I might add some in.

No cherries were harmed in the making of this ice cream... oh wait... never mind
Next, pour in the wet ingredients to your frozen inner canister and let the ice cream machine run for about 20 minutes.  Save the adding in of the cherries and the mini chocolate until the 20 minute mark and then let it churn for another 3-5 minutes at the end.

To every thing churn churn churn... there is a season churn churn churn
And what goes perfect with cherries you ask?  How about chocolate.

and a time for every ice cream... under heaven.
After that, pour the finished ice cream (which is currently in a soft serve state) into a container you can store in the freezer to harden up.  We usually let soft ice cream set up anywhere from 6 hours to over night before scooping into bowls or cones.  But look what you get as reward for all of your patience.

Behold: Cherry cordial ice cream.  If you have a spoon near by try not to harm your monitor

Now according to the original recipe, you can make this with OUT an ice cream machine.  That's right, I'm thinking of you fine peeps who have not jumped aboard the very delectable homemade ice cream maker band wagon... (yet)!  Here are the alternate directions:

Refrigerator-Freezer Method: Omit half-and-half. Whip whipping cream. In large bowl, combine EAGLE BRAND®, 1/2 cup chopped maraschino cherries, 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips, 2 teaspoons vanilla (which I would change to almond extract); mix well. Fold in whipped cream. Pour into 9x5-inch loaf pan or other 2 quart container. Cover. Freeze 6 hours or until firm. 

So this ice cream turned out to have a very light cherry taste (the cherry lover in me almost wanted more).  The cherry bits and chocolate chunks really helped add to the flavor.  Having made many other home made ice creams, this was the first time we have used sweetened condensed milk as the sweetener.  It seemed to me to mute the cherry flavor.  If I make this recipe again I will try adding a cup of sugar and some extra milk and see if that helps boost the flavor.  All in all a very good attempt at our very first cherry cordial ice cream.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Baby Bird Nests

For the first time in a long time, it was a pajama all day kind of Saturday.  I have been saving this craft as a surprise for the girls until after Easter, when I knew we would have some extra plastic eggs lying around.  It was such a fun, hands-on craft and it turned out down right adorable.  How can you not love these tiny baby birds all snug in their nest?

Little baby blue birds with their beaks open... feed me feed me
I got the idea from the Busy Bee Kid's Crafts website and fell in love with it the moment I saw it.  Here are the items you will need to make this craft:

Plastic eggs
Construction paper (shades of brown, orange, and colors to match for wings)
Dessert sized paper plate
Brown paint
Paint brush
Glue - your choice (multiple kinds, glue stick, rubber cement, glue dots or hot glue gun)
Note: Lay down some old newspaper to protect the work area

Here's how to make it:

First, paint the paper plate brown.  I used an extra plate to load the paint on.  A wider brush worked best to spread the paint around. Try to cover the whole thing and let it dry.

you could also buy brown plates but I had trouble finding that shade.  These black ones were from Walmart
Each of my girls had a different painting technique.  The middle child ended up accidentally using the plate that had the starting paint on it, but spread all the goop around and it worked out fine.  My youngest made harder brush strokes (middle picture) that actually gave it a "wood grain" look, and my oldest painted with concentration and precision.  

While your brown plates are drying it's time to work on the baby chicks.  We tried to find eggs that were lighter and pastel in color, to make them look more like baby birds.  We also tried to to use the shorter, rounder end of the egg.  The two air holes were in the perfect position to make "eyes".

The rounder bottom of a plastic egg shell.  You need one for each baby bird you will make
The nests have room for two or three baby birds.  You want to fold a small piece of orange construction paper together and cut tiny triangles out to make the wee little beaks.  We tried several different glue methods, and I guess it depends on your patience level for which one you choose.  Glue dots would have been my first choice, but we were out, and since I didn't want to run to Joann's in my PJ's, we then tried rubber cement.  We found out that does take some tedious time holding the folded beak in place as the glue dries, but it did work.

Baby birds, now with beaks!
My husband suggested we try the hot glue gun after that.  It worked MUCH quicker however, mom and dad had to be the only ones to place the glue and the girls gently put the beaks on without touching the glue.  We also cut out some wings that matched the color of our baby birds.  You want to make a wing shape that has a small fold at the end, so it attaches to the slick egg surface better.

Cheep cheep
Most construction paper is only in bright primary colors.  To get our wings to color coordinate with our pastel birds, we took some pale blue paper and colored it with color crayons in a shade that was close to our birds.  Here is a whole "army" of baby birds with matching wings.

these baby birds are mighty colorful!  Love it.
While your baby chicks are setting up, it's time to cut up some brown construction paper strips for the nests.

We used two shades of brown construction paper, and I also cut up parts of a brown paper grocery bag to get a lighter brown color.  Using a glue stick this time have the kids put glue on each strip, or "twig" and layer them around the outside ring of the brown paper plate.

Messy but glorious fun
I forgot to show a nest being built in progress (we were having too much fun) however after a few layers it will start to look like a "real" nest.  We couldn't resist putting our baby birds in there to see how they liked it.

Look at these faces!!
Each person chose their own color birdies to make.  Even Mr. D got in on the action and made a nest too.

Top left: oldest, top right: middle child, bottom left: baby, bottom right: hubby
Since the hot glue gun was still blazing, we hot glued the birds securely in their nests.  Then, in a moment of brilliance we decided to glue a strong magnet to the back of each nest, so we could display them on the refrigerator.  How cute is this??!!

Baby bird nests lovingly displayed on the fridge
It turned out to be a great place to display our handy work.  It is such a great reminder of new life in spring time.  These were so fun to do as a family Saturday craft project.  I hope you get a chance to do them too!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Spring Boutique Bag - Remix

Last year I found the cutest free pattern for a little crochet clutch bag.  I absolutely have been using this baby all the time now.  I am not usually a big purse carrier anyway, as most of the time I just slip a thin wallet in my back pocket and call it good.  I actually marvel at those ladies with those heavy 20 lb totes slung over their shoulder and wonder what the heck they have in there at any given time.  This purse is perfect for going to the store, running errands, or a night out on the town, and just big enough to hold all the essentials: A small wallet, your cell phone, some hand sanitizer and your keys. I'm also told it's the perfect size to hold a Nintendo DS or other small electronic equipment, so it would also make a great gift for the tween or teen in your life too!  Not to mention it is down right adorable.  I have people all the time stop me and say... did you make that?!!  One lady even stopped me in a craft store and I had to give her a link to my pattern to my blog before she left!  Well this week I decided it was time to make myself another one, and this time to use some of my favorite colors!

Spring Boutique crochet bag with accent flower - (original purse design by Sara over at Tangled Happy)
I love to hook this baby over my wrist while I'm pushing the cart around the grocery store.  It keeps my valuables next to me and not left in the cart when I turn my back to get something off the shelves.  Here is a picture of what the first purse I attempted looks like, and here is a link to my blog about how I made the pattern easier than the original free pattern by starting with the bottom of the bag closed instead of creating it open then whip stitching it together at the end.

Super cute Clutch!  This is a free pattern by Sara over at her blog Tangled Happy (click link)
Sara at Tangled Happy has three lovely versions of this same clutch purse.  The first time I made this, I used soft bulky 5 weight yarn with a purple flower accent.  This time I used a Lion Brand Homespun yarn in black, for a more textured look.  You can see it's the exact same pattern, however, the puffiness of the yarn almost makes it look like there are no holes.

The bag before I added the flower
One of my new favorite colors is any shade of aqua/turquoise so I decided to make a two toned flower out of those, with a pearl accent.  I really wanted the flower to have a three dimensional effect, so I went searching online until I found something that would work

Flower accent on the spring boutique bag clutch
If you would like a copy of this free crochet flower it is called "The Irish Rose" (isn't it pretty?) and can be found here:

Lion Brand free pattern for the "Irish Rose" accent flower

Once I had the flower created I chose a small pearl to give some shimmer to the middle of the flower.  Next I blind stitched it carefully to the bag so that neither stitches shown on the top, nor on the inside of the bag.  The trick is to make small stitches in the middle of the yarn threads so they don't show up on either side.  After that throw in your essentials, runs some errands, then sit back and wait for the complements to pour in.

Finished spring boutique bag
By the way, this pattern whips up fairly quickly.  I made the bag one evening while watching just a few TV shows, then I made and attached the flower the next evening.  Intermediate to advanced crocheters could make this entire bag in a few hours.  Enjoy!

Friday, April 05, 2013

Ham and Cheese Roll-ups

Have any leftover ham still lying around?  (We tend to chop up and freeze ours right after a holiday to use in soups, omelets, and pizza toppings later in the month).  Well, after trying a recent pinterest recipe with much success, I decided to try a theme on that variation for dinner the other night.  The original recipe was for pepperoni roll-ups using string cheese and pepperoni wrapped up inside a crescent roll, then dip your final creations in some warmed up spaghetti or marinara sauce.  Easy, delicious, and the kids actually loved this quite a bit!  So I was staring at my extra tube of crescent dough in the fridge when I had one of those head slapping moments and thought, wait a sec, how about ham and cheese roll-ups?!

A quick, yummy, easy dinner.  Ham and cheese roll-ups

You can use small diced up chunks of left over ham, or take some thinly sliced deli ham like I did here and cut it into thin ribbons.  You don't want one big piece of ham, because after the first bite, you will pull the ham straight out of the crescent.  Small pieces are the way to go here.

Ham and cheese.  Or is it, cheese and ham?
Shred up some of your favorite block cheese (I used medium cheddar) on the smallest setting, because the finer the cheese, the easier it will melt.

What's not to love about meat and cheese?
Take your meat and cheese and start at the base of the crescent at the widest part and roll up to the tip.  Try to keep the mixture inside the rolls and seal up the edges when possible to prevent the cheese from oozing out during the baking process.  My girls helped me roll this up, so they are not runway fashion model ready, but don't worry, they still come out quite tasty.

We used the same plate as we went, so after a while, some of the shredded cheese rolled up into the outside of the crescent roll.  It actually baked up nicely and gave some extra flavor to the roll-ups.  Bake according to the package directions (I think 11-13 minutes) but I tend to add a few extra minutes to make sure they get nice and golden brown, a little over 15 minutes at 375ยบ.

Ham and cheese melty goodness

Make a creamy mustard sauce for dipping or just eat them as is.  This is a nice alternate take on a grilled cheese, or a plain ham and cheese sandwich, plus a great way to use up leftovers.  You could also cut the crescents in half and whip up a batch of these as an appetizer at a party.

Flaky crescents and warm melted ham and cheese bites

By the way, speaking of left overs, these make a great take along snack the next day.  Either breakfast as you are running out the door, or stashed in a school lunch.  They were just as tasty cold as they were hot.  So there you have it, nothing earth shattering, just a quick, tasty meal the whole family enjoyed.

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