Friday, June 29, 2012

Grilled Grapefruit vs. Broiled Grapefruit

As a child, Baci would give us grapefruit loaded with exponential amounts of sugar; however, an adult, I appreciate a cold, tangy grapefruit all by itself.  But lately I've been reading blogs and recipes for warm, cooked grapefruit.  Many of the grilled grapefruit recipes I've seen are really for broiled grapefruit.  Maybe they just like the alliteration.

All week I have been experimenting with grapefruit.  I decided to prepare my grapefruit three ways: broiled, grilled on the George Foreman, and grilled on the gas grill to see if "grilled" vs. "broiled" really made a difference.

Trial #1: From the UK recipe I cut the grapefruit in half, separated the segments, and added cinnamon and brown sugar.  Then I placed the fruit on a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil and broiled it in the oven on low for about 15 minutes.  The cinnamon aroma was divine.  It was a warm and satisfying breakfast - a perfect start to cold, winter mornings - or the June gloom days.

Trial # 2: This time I broiled another grapefruit in the oven with cinnamon and a half teaspoon of vanilla extract per half.  Absolutely delicious!  The combination of the cinnamon and vanilla reminded me of my Mom's baking, yet without all the calories.

Trial # 3: The Healthy Cooking Camp called for a non-stick pan to grill the grapefruit face-down.  I don't own a non-stick pan so I  used the George Foreman.  I added cinnamon, brown sugar, and vanilla to one side (above left) and cinnamon and vanilla to the other side (above right).

What a disappointment!  For starters, if I am grilling, I want to see grill marks, but no such luck.  The picture on Healthy Cooking Camp does not show grill marks either.  Second, the grapefruit was mushy because I pressed down on the top of the grill, hoping for those char-marks.  And do you see the mess I created? The yummy brown sugar and vanilla caramelization oozed all over the Foreman, and never made it to my belly.

Trial # 4: Finally I wrapped the last grapefruit in tin foil and threw it on the gas grill with vanilla, cinnamon, and brown least that was the plan, until I ran out of gas preheating the grill.  Therefore, I grilled the grapefruit in the oven at 450°F for about 20 minutes (that was also a suggestion from this blogger).

This was another delicious option!  The brown sugar lightly caramelized (perhaps I could have left it in longer) and the fruit liquid was contained in the foil, which I was able to pour back to enjoy.  Delish!

Conclusion: I guess I have to get over the fact that grilled grapefruit will not have grill marks on them, like grilled peaches or pineapples.  This citrus fruit would lose all its liquidy goodness if placed face down on the grill.   

Personally, broiling the grapefruit seemed to be the easiest, quickest, and cleanest way (thanks to the foil underneath) to eat a warm grapefruit.  However, if you have time, or are willing to use your oven or grill for a single, solitary grapefruit, I would definitely wrap your grapefruit in tin foil.  Grilled grapefruit = gratifyingly, good grapefruit. But who am I to judge, try it for yourself!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Lavender Aromatherapy Shower and Scrub

Today I took a much needed lavender aromatherapy shower - so soothing!  On Pinterest, I saw a post for a cleansing soak; instead, I mixed the same three ingredients - baking soda, Epsom salt and lavender harvest essential oil from Aura Cacia - for my scented shower and scrub. 

I enjoy using Aura Cacia Lavender Shower Tablets.  You place a tablet on the shower floor and soak up the lovely lavender scent.  They're about $7, but I purchased a box on sale for under $5.  You only get three tablets in a box, but I discovered that you don't need a whole tablet for a shower and can stretch the three tablets into multiple showers.   

However, from now on, I will be making homemade lavender aromatherapy for my showers whenever I need them.  The most expensive part was the lavender harvest essential oil, but a small $7 bottle goes a long way (you only need a few drops/shower or bath).  My shower was hot, relaxing, and cheaper than the lavender shower tablets, not to mention the concoction doubled as a body scrub.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Anthropologie-inspired Curtains

My friend saw these hand-dyed batik curtains at Anthropologie for her guest bedroom, but you have to purchase each panel separately.  She would have needed four panels at $99/panel (ON SALE) which would have cost her $400 plus tax and shipping.  Instead of paying for the outrageously priced curtains, which would not have fit her uniquely sized bungalow windows anyway, she asked me to design them for her. 

We took a trip to Joann Fabrics with the Anthropologie picture on her ipad for inspiration.  She wanted blues and greens like the nearby ocean as well as batiks.  We selected four fabrics: a white paisley eyelet, grey batik, white cotton with rick-rack and ribbon, and sea foam green with circles.  All the material for both windows, metal clips, and rods to hang the curtains cost less than $50.  That's a huge difference from the $400 sale price. 

At the store, J. arranged the material - keeping the whites in between the batik and print. After several calculations I cut the various rectangular panels from about 9" to 5.5" and then sewed them together.  I finished the edges with a zig-zag stitch.  The final curtains are 42" wide x 40" long each.  They look beautiful in her beachy bedroom and are even more J. than the Anthro ones.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Upcycled Crayons

Upcycle your old crayons!  From this.....

To this.....

You will need: old, broken crayons, silicone muffin pan, cookie sheet, and a warm oven. 

We baked them at 230°F for 15 minutes and voilà! Brand new people crayons.  We waited for them to completely cool before popping the little people out.

Why not make crayons to spell your child's name, the students in your class, or give them as party favors!

NOTE - do not fill the crayons to the top of the muffin pan.  About three-quarters of the way seemed to work for us. We placed a cookie sheet under the muffin pan for good measure.  While this is a neat craft for kids, we did not make them with the children since the oven is hot and so is melted wax. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Jamie's Jalapeño Poppers

In honor of my Dad and Father's Day, I am sharing his recipe for stuffed jalapeño poppers.  His name is James or Jim, but Jamie's (Hi-MEH) Jalapeño Poppers has a better ring to it, at least I think so anyway. Hope that's okay Dad.  It's still your recipe.

This is my Dad's signature appetizer for family cookouts or for a night-in with good company and beer that he adapted from Rachael Ray's Big Orange Book.  The peppers can be spicy, but they're addicting.  You keep eating them even if your mouth is on fire.

For this dish you'll need:
10 jalapeño peppers
4 ounces Asiago cheese
4 ounces cream cheese (whipped cream cheese works well)
12-15 Manzanilla olives
1 pepperoncini
a handful of cilantro or parsley
salt and pepper to taste

1. Cut the stems off the peppers and slice them in half length-wise.
2. Scoop out the ribs and seeds, unless you like super hot and want to keep them in.
3. In a food processor, blend all the other ingredients and add salt and pepper.
4. Spoon the mixture into the peppers.
5. Place on a cookie sheet and bake at 440°F for 12 minutes, or until golden brown.

Makes 20 Jalapeño Poppers.

Cooking Notes from Jamie:

Wear gloves when working with jalapeño peppers. 

Place the poppers in the oven (before it has preheated) and they are usually golden brown when the timer rings at the 12 minute mark. 

Drink beer, not water, if your mouth is burning or eat a slice of bread to combat the fieriness.
Happy Father's Day, Dad!
Thanks for sharing your love of cooking with me.


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Roasted Root Vegetables

Tonight we had dinner with Baci and I made roasted root vegetables.  Baci stated that she doesn't like beets, but she'd try them.  Despite her hesitation, she actually liked the sweetness and thought I added sugar or honey, but I didn't.  Just a few simple ingredients, which are listed below, make a healthy and pretty side dish. You could use other root vegetables and spices, but my Dad and I have been zen cooking here and we used what we had in the fridge and pantry.

Roasted Root Vegetable Ingredients:
cooking spray
8 carrots
1 onion
3 large beets
2 stalks of celery
4 cloves of garlic
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and pepper
thyme (dry or fresh - we used dry)

Chop the carrots, onion, celery, beets, and garlic into bite-size pieces.  Spray a 13x9 pan with cooking spray and add the veggies.  Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, and thyme.  Again, we are zen cooking so we didn't measure the spices, but I'd say we used about a teaspoon of dried thyme and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for at least 45 minutes at 425°F or until fork-tender, making sure to stir/flip halfway through.  My Dad shut the oven off after 45 minutes and left the veggies in the oven for another 15-20 minutes (until the rest of the meal was ready). 

Since Baci was willing to try the roasted beets, I had to try her blueberry pie for dessert.  It's only fair! :)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Mexican Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

The recipe for healthy Mexican sweet potato skins became even healthier with the use of Greek nonfat yogurt instead of the cream cheese and sour cream.  Yogurt is the way to go!

I've made this fare twice.  The first time I followed her recipe and it was too rich - maybe my portions (for the creams) were a bit off, but anyway, this version is even better!  Last weekend I recreated this side dish for my family with Greek yogurt and it was a HUGE hit.  My Dad enjoyed it too and he is N-O-T, NOT a fan of any type of yogurt. 

In addition to the yogurt, I changed a few parts.  First I made enough for 10 servings (5 sweet potatoes) and microwaved the potatoes for a bit (in small batches) in order to cut them in half and scoop the insides out.  Also I roasted 3 ears of corn, used a whole jar of roasted red peppers, 2 cans of black beans, and of course the Greek nonfat plain yogurt - a single serving size container (about 5-6 ounces).  I incorporated some cheese into the mixture, but you could also melt the cheese on the top like the original recipe suggests.  When the potatoes were stuffed I baked them for about 20 minutes at 350°F.

A delicious and healthy side dish, or meal all on its own!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Quilt

The children's book The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle has metamorphosized into another crib-size quilt!  This baby quilt is a gift for my friend's new baby girl.  My friend is an art educator and Eric Carle is close to her heart, so I know they will treasure it for years to come.  

I purchased  four separate Very Hungry Caterpillar fabrics from The Eric Carle Museum: the fruit and junk food, very hungry caterpillar panel, very hungry caterpillar draft stopper for the sun, and color dots for the background.

The quilt is divided into three sections: top, middle, and bottom.  I cut pieces from the different fabrics and arranged them two per section.  Next I sewed the dot fabric around each piece and sewed the three sections together.   Most of the time (when I quilt) I center the blocks.  However, I saw another Very Hungry Caterpillar quilt that was off-centered, which reminded me that quilts do not have to be symmetrical.  In fact, the unbalanced blocks are pleasing to my eye.

Once I completed the quilt top, I brought the top and bottom pieces to The Bayberry Quilt and Gift Shoppe.  Within a few weeks, they quilted and bound it.   I am very pleased with the meandering orange lines throughout the quilt; it's as if the little insect really is inching its way over the leaf and through the fruit until it transforms into a beautiful butterfly.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Can You Be?

If you have been reading my posts, you may have noticed that The Very Hungry Caterpillar has been a common theme in my recent gift giving.  Well, this time I used a different Eric Carle book.  The Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? fabric made wonderful t-shirts for a little boy in my life.

These shirts were a NO SEWING MACHINE project, just like the onesies.  I cut out the animals from the Brown Bear fabric (which was washed and dried first) and adhered the fabric to the gray t-shirts with Heat n' Bond.  Then I hand-stitched the brown bear and green frog with DMC floss.  I also added a lily pad under the frog and little paw prints from non-Eric Carle fabric that I had in my collection. 

Whether you're making onesies or t-shirts, beautiful fabric and Heat n' Bond, can turn any plain article of clothing into a one-of-a-kind creation.  Happy creating!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Palm Tree Cross Stitch

It's the year of the handmade gifts by yours truly.  In one of Baci's recent letters she mentioned that she couldn't find any "nice" towels - thick, good-quality, durable - like they made in her day.  This was the perfect opportunity to practice my cross stitch and make her a "nice" tea towel.   I found a palm tree cross stitch pattern from my Mom's collection - circa 1988 - Leisure Arts: Funwear Waste Canvas for Kids by Terrie Lee Steinmeyer. This leaflet has patterns to embellish children's clothing, but the designs can be used for other things and tea towels for grandmothers.  Ms. Steinmeyer's pattern only shows the tree, but I added the sand because Baci loves to walk the beaches in Maine.