Fall Leaf Cookies Tray

Fall Leaf Cookies

I’ve said it before but I just love Fall! and I love fall leaves. I love to recreate them in any way possible. I know in just one short month we will be celebrating Christmas but I hate to let go of Autumn.

While there’s still a bit of time to squeeze into my schedule, I wanted to make these cookies. I made them several years ago and loved how they turned out and actually forgot about them! So glad I did remember, as they are easier than coloring the actual dough (which is what I always used to do.)

Baking cookies

I think part of the beauty of these cookies is the shape of the leaf. Can’t remember where I purchased the cutter but it truly replicates an oak leaf.

Wilton makes decorating them easy! I used color flow icing for the yellow. The other colors were adding by simply spraying on their color mists in red, green and orange.

I know we have a lot to be thankful for. and I hope you do as well. Times are changing and life isn’t always easy, but it is a whole lot sweeter with special loved ones to share the journey with.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

Diane Long

Queen For A Day

Queen for a Day Crown Cookies

With a good part of 2015 in the rear view mirror, it’s time to start thinking about the remainder of the year. It’s holidays, family gatherings, sports themed food indulgences and changing weather.

My journey took a bit of a detour; well, hit a brick wall is more like it. But we mustn’t forget the joy creativity brings us, even in trying days. Force ourselves if we have to, to get into the craft studio, kitchen or garden. To feed our souls as well as brightening someone else’s day.

Queen for a Day Crown Cookies

Don’t you just love birthday parties? There’s nothing like them! We recently celebrated a loved one’s birthday who doesn’t care for cake. Since I am a huge cookie baker, I was up for the challenge.

I’ve been collecting cookie cutters for years. There are so many things you can do with them it’s simply endless! They are an easy size to manage, and I decorate them over several days. This is especially helpful when making Christmas cookies.

I bake the cookies one day and store in plastic containers. You can also take a day to make several batches of dough and refrigerate for up to several weeks.

To make the icing I use Wilton’s Color Flow recipe and try to keep on the thick side. Keep it covered with a wet paper towel as this icing dries quickly. After mixing in a stand mixer I pour some out in a shallow bowl, take the cookie and dip top side down and drag a knife across to remove excess. Place on a rimmed cookie sheet lined with wax paper. Let them dry several hours or over night. Avoid stacking the cookies sheets until icing is thoroughly dry, otherwise the color comes out blotchy. I do stack sheets in oven overnight (to keep out of sight and wandering hands).  Its amazing but they don’t get stale once the icing is on.

Now they are ready for the piping. This is a Wilton Royal Icing recipe. It does have to mix for a long time and can crack or be hard to work with if it’s not right. Definitely worth checking out some videos for helpful tips. Now the fun begins! although your hand will get stiff from squeezing, you can decorate and embellish with any sort of sprinkles, glittery shapes or colors your heart desires. If you want, you can individually wrap them in clear plastic bags with colored twist ties or bows. Add a cookie to each place setting, add some with a gift of coffees, hot cocoa or basket of baking supplies.

Make someone’s life a little sweeter with something from your kitchen.

All the best,

Diane Long

How to Dry herbs

How to dry herbs image

I just love having an herb garden! With little effort, nature produces tons of free herbs that last the entire year. It amazes me every spring to see the barren dead ground come alive and provide lush fresh herbs to be used in cooking, homemade scent blends, aromatherapy and more. Some of the herbs in my garden are mint, chives, sage, lemon balm, catnip, and oregano.

herb garden

Even if you don’t have a garden, you can have herbs, even tender perennials, inside on windowsill. You can also get herbs in season at the local farmers market and dry them yourself. I’ve found the best place to dry them is in the attic. The heat and dry air work wonderfully. If you don’t have an attic you can use, check with a neighbor. They might be willing to “rent” you the space in exchange for some herbs of their own.

Drying Herbs

When I purchase fruit, vegetables or herbs I always soak them in vinegar for a few minutes and rinse well. When I bring in herbs from the garden, I soak them for a few minutes in salt. If any little pests were carried in with the herbs, they will soon make a run from salt.

The easiest way to wash them is with a salad spinner. Let them soak for a few minutes in the basket, then lift out, rinse well and put the basket back in the salad spinner and spin. Stop the spinner, pour out any water, replace the basket and spin again. You probably won’t even need to pat them with a paper towel but you can if you like.

herb spin

The easiest containers to dry herbs on are the trays (flats) you get from the nursery that annual flowers come in.  There are a few different styles. I try to get the ones that are flat on the bottom but the other kind will work as well. Just lay the herbs out spreading them evenly across. If the flats you find have very large holes on the bottom you can cover it with a piece of screen.

When placing the trays in the attic, I rest them on small plastic bins (the kind in the dollar store that looks like a little laundry basket- has square openings on the sides) This way the trays are not on the floor but lifted up so that air can circulate all around. Check on them in a few days, they should be a crispy dry, with no signs of moisture.

herb dry

To make labels, I just typed up what I wanted and used a clear frame stamp. Stamp with clear ink, emboss with silver embossing powder. Simply cut out and run through a Xyron adhesive sticker maker. Store herbs in a glass jar in a cool dry space.

herb label

Dry herbs can also make a great gift! Take a jar of oregano and basil and add a jar of gourmet sauce and a pizza stone. Include a recipe for homemade pizza and you’re all set!

See what you can create with Summer’s bounty.

All the best,

Diane Long

Yeast Recipes Made Easy

Yeast Recipes Made Easy

I just love to bake! Any warm sweet treats in the oven have my family running to the kitchen. Whether it’s cookies, muffins cakes or pies. No wonder recipes are the number one search on Pinterest! When scouring recipes, I often come across breads and baked goods requiring yeast. I was especially intrigued with the Pizza recipes. I loved the idea of making pizza dough in batches to freeze.

But, you know what happens when working with a recipe that requires yeast, you need to heat the water to an optimum temperature of between 110-120 degrees. (check package directions as brands differ)  So…..  you turn on the faucet until the water feels warm, test it and find it’s not quite hot enough.  You put it in the microwave for a few seconds, and it’s still not hot enough, so you put it in for a few more seconds. Now it’s too hot! So you add a bit of cold water. Back and forth you go trying to reach the magic number

The trick to avoiding all of this is by simply starting with water that’s always at a consistent temperature. Whether you get water from your refrigerator’s water dispenser or you keep a pitcher of water in the fridge, this is the water you want to use. Although the temperature of this water can fluctuate, It should only be slight.

Getting the water just right

Microwave it for 45 seconds. Take the temperature, put in for another 20 seconds or so, until you’ve reached the allowable range. Add up the total time it was in the microwave. Now take another cup of cold water from the fridge and microwave that for the total time you recorded for the other cup of water. Take the temperature and it should also be in the allowed range. This is your magic number! Right it with a Sharpie marker on the jar of yeast, stick it to the door of the fridge or put in your favorite cookbook. Now when you want to make a recipe calling for yeast, you just stick it in the microwave once, check the temperature, and the water should be just right.

Water Temp, Yeast Recipes Made Easy

Water Temp, Yeast Recipes Made Easy

Regardless of how much water the recipe may call for, as long as it’s a cup or less you will have the perfect temp, just pour out the excess.

Remember, whenever you replace your refrigerator or microwave, you’ll have to do this procedure all over again as appliances vary.

So, put away your doubts and start surfing Pinterest for some great yeast recipes.  One of my family’s favorites is Heritage English Muffin Toast

All the best,

Diane Long

 

When Something You Create Becomes Meaningful

Homemade donuts

Holiday traditions can be time consuming, a lot of work and very inconvenient. It becomes so easy in our busy lifestyles to say “oh, let’s just skip that tradition this year”. Yet, we said that last year too, and what about the year before?

Our family, like many others, have members who not only remembered the traditions that were handed down, they kept them going faithfully through the years. Until the years got to be too many, and they were no longer able to tackle them.

I didn’t want another year to go by, another party to go by, without mom’s famous donuts being served. Did they take a long time? yes, Was it kind of a pain to do? somewhat, but it was SO well worth it!

It wasn’t just donuts, it’s what they represented. It was a display of the past, and a promise to carry on what is inconvenient but oh so important in the future.

I hope you get a chance to create something meaningful today.

All the best,

Diane Long

 

Heritage English Muffin Toast

Heritage English Muffin Bread Recipe

Today my creative journey takes me into the kitchen. Inspired by Crystal Paine of the MoneySavingMom blog. I always say “necessity spurs creativity”. Inventions are born out of the need to solve a problem or to make life better. A wealth of information is in her blog and the creative yet disciplined way she approaches life, motherhood and family.


Her desire to be free from financial burden sparked her creativity. She found ways of successfully dealing with the daily financial obstacles of running a household.

Her latest series of Four Weeks of Filling your Freezer led me to share one of my favorite recipes from a friend. I hope you try it and enjoy it. Be sure and visit Crystal’s blog and see what it inspires you to do.



Heritage English Muffin Toast

In a bowl (or large Kitchenaid Mixer) blend

7C flour
2TB regular yeast ( prefer jar not packets)
1TB salt
2TB sugar
1Tsp Baking soda

Add
3 C milk
¾ C water- microwave these till temp is 115 degrees

After blended, pour into 2 loaf pans that have been greased and coated with cornmeal.

Rise in loaf pans for 30 min

Bake at 425 for 25 min
Enjoy,

-Diane 

The Riches of Life

blueberry muffins

Although it would be nice to have some of the finer things in life. The occasional getaway, financial security, career success. Life still has its worries. Life still has its sorrows. It’s hard to wait on God, wondering if He will remove you from a situation or take you through it. But it’s nice to notice the hidden treasures in your day, like a really great batch of homemade muffins. Perfectly risen, golden and the sweet smell that wafts through the house. Take notice of these simple everyday moments that make you stop and think, life isn’t perfect, but it is GOOD.
Diane