Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Maple Bacon Donuts!

Did I ever tell you I worked at a bakery when I was in high school?  It was an awesome old school mom and pop kind of place.  They hated my pink mohawk, and I hated my pink mohawk in a hairnet, but we all managed, and no small part of what kept me showing up every day was the endless supply of sugar.  The on-the-job perk of the place was that we were allowed to eat as many donuts as we wanted.  And me + free donuts=perfect after school job.
The place is gone, but I've never gotten over my lust for fresh, lovingly made donuts.  Unfortunately (or not), they're hard to get around here.  Other than a 20+ mile, bright and early round trip which really isn't part of my ideal weekend morning, our options are grocery store or gas station, neither of which even sort of comes close to the real, made-with-love thing.
But every once in a while it occurs to me that I can fix that right in my own kitchen.

Maple Bacon Donuts!

I used the Alton Brown yeast donut recipe for these, which is absolutely lovely.  And the bacon.  Well, that's bacon.  I used a pound for topping one batch of donuts, but you couldn't go wrong with more.  Make it the best you can get your hands on.  Before cooking I diced mine into bite size pieces to avoid everyone's least favorite maple-bacon donut eating pitfall, the full slice clean and jerk.  So far, so good, right?  So the real revelation here is the glaze.  Many or most examples of the maple bacon donut leave me wanting.  They're usually overpoweringly sweet and not much else.  And I need punch.   I want in your face maple and bacon, with sugar as the background music, all cradled on pillowy, yeasty fried goodness.  So maple syrup, yes, you'll find that in most maple glaze recipes, but the real key is the artificial, chemical goodness of maple extract.  The glaze just can't carry a tune without it.  Also, a bit of salt.  And the super secret ingredient:  apple cider vinegar.  It's a trick I've learned with caramel sauce.  Just a teaspoon or two of acid creates a perfect balance in super sweet stuff.  (For caramel I use lemon juice which would work just as well here, too.)

Maple Glaze
enough for 16-20 long john shaped donuts.

2c. powdered sugar
2T. reserved bacon fat
2T. maple syrup
1t. maple extract
1t. salt
2t. apple cider vinegar
milk or cream

Mix first six ingredients with just enough milk or cream to make a thick, gloppy but still somewhat pourable glaze.  Adjust consistency by adding more powdered sugar, if necessary.  You want it thick enough to stay mostly on the tops of the donuts.  Dip or spread on cooled yeast donuts.  Add bacon strips or pieces while glaze is still wet.
I dare you not to eat at least two standing right there at the counter.

These freeze beautifully.  I found 10 seconds in the microwave brought them back to thawed and nearly as perfect as freshly made.

P.S. no one will ever know about those those dough scrap "holes" you ate all of yourself.  They never existed, and especially not if you are making these on the heels of the biggest ass kicking in the history of workouts, aka Cross-Fit.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Envelope Clutch

I think we all know I'm a huge fan of the stylish, fun bag.  And I think any handbag user knows that those two things are not always in the same category as practical and functional.  Stuff falls out or the bag flops around or is too impractical to carry, yet isn't the ultimate point of a handbag to be functional and to make our lives easier?  Clutches have always begged this question for me.  As elegant as they may be, girl doesn't always have a free arm to keep some handle-less bag pinned to the side of her body, or a free hand to clutch the clutch.  Fumbling and spilling and looking burdened, tres non chic.   It's been my dilemma with the style forever.  It's taunted me.  Teased me.  Tickled me to create a solution.  How to preserve sleek and simple while adding practical?

Designed and whipped up on the fly as the result of finding myself in the midst of a handbag emergency, here's my take--a flat, stylish envelope-type clutch with a wristlet for ease of carrying and with enough structure to banish the flop.  Best of all, it incorporates a hidden zip closure keep the contents secure.  Inspired by the need for something a little bigger than my mini-clutch and by all the great envelope clutches that have come before:
envelope clutch

And the deal sealing, practical-izing interior:
envelope clutch interior

I love that this simple style is a blank canvas for embellishment, and that the wristlet gives a little sneak peek at the fun interior fabric.  The possibilities are endless.  Need an extra pocket on the back?  No problem.  A fancy decorative inset or cutwork element on the exterior?  Absolutely.  Bright and happy or dark and subdued?  Either way, handy and multi-purpose and utterly useful.  I think I'll take one of each!

Here's wishing you happy sewing in the new year!


Thursday, January 03, 2013

Happy 2013!

We did our annual New Years' Day brunch again this year--it's either year five or six of this particular party, and this year we introduced new feature you can oogle over at Modern in MN.  It's tarty and exciting but not edible.
Here's a look at the spread this year:
brunch buffet 2013-2

brunch buffet 2013

Looking back through my photos, I seem to have lost or more likely never gotten around to taking the 2012 brunch buffet shot, which is inconvenient given the fact that I can't remember what I've served from year to year and thus risk repeating dishes I may not want to.  Sigh.
Don't worry, though.  One can count on the DIY waffle bar and homemade almond croissants from now until eternity (should I be so fortunate as to have an eternity), but there's a lot of other stuff that I either want or don't want to make again and could use a little help remembering.
Anyway, it's a good thing that this year, or technically the end of last year, marks when I've finally gotten around to keeping a party journal to document menus and planning to revisit how things came out or didn't, as both nostalgia and reference.  In my wishful thinking, delusional playland, I'd be one of those people who has meticulously recorded and filed every detail of every party I've ever had--menus with recipes, invitations and guest lists plus clever little anecdotes and follow up about the party itself. I have yet to become THAT person.  Yet it seems like a simple, easy enough little step to keep track of just menus or whatever, and I've actually had the blank journal purchased for such a purpose for at least a year, but it wasn't until planning for this year's brunch that I finally busted it out and committed to keeping track of things.  Neatness and organization be darned--at least I'll have some kind reference even if it means paging through a jumble of scrawled and scribbled randomness.  That seems to be a lot closer to my reality anyway.

What do you wish for your reality for 2013?  Lots of tasty and good things, I hope!

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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Tart Sweets

I had this idea to tart up some jars of freshly made preserves--"tart up" meaning make cute and suitable for gift giving, vs. tart up in the make sour sense.  I figure I owe this to all the people with whom I have deposited pickles, lest they assume I only give them boring and uncute and sour edible things.
So I was digging around on the internets looking for some kind of label for my jam that went beyond the standard piece of masking tape + Sharpie or boring, traditional canning label.  And yes, it did occur to me to make some myself but I seem to score a big fail every time I  try printing labels at home, and since I wanted them round and awesome and I was too lazy to go out searching for blank round label stickers and then get crabby by trying to get Gimp and the printer to obey me,  I went the pre-printed route via zazzle.  There I found stickers perfectly sized and with non-permanent adhesive.  Awesome.  Plus I didn't even have to fuss with getting a nifty design on them, but I did lose another bit of my life to obsessing about color and font selection.
While I was creating stickery goodness, I got the idea that some kind of tag would be cool, too, so I went ahead and wasted another hour finding the perfect template and text for some custom wee notMOO cards.
Fast forward to later that night, and I'm still obsessing about the whole schema for my little jars of jammy awesome.  I got distracted looking at stationary and die cut tags, and happened across a reference to washi tape, which I had not heard of so of course I had to Google as I do all terms I am unfamiliar with.
And thus I tripped into the bottomless pit of awesome.
Did you know about washi tape?
Earlier this canning season I had been wishing for some of that paper sealing tape like you'd find stuck over the top of a bottle of olive oil or booze or something, but I didn't know what to whisper to Google to find such an item.  In any case, it turns out washi tape is about that exact thing only much, much more neato because it comes in a bazillion patterns and colors and widths.  Combined with the previously ordered printed stuff, a tarty jar scheme was born.
Being indecisive me, I am now the proud owner of more washi tape than I am likely to use in a decade, along with some equally awesome colored bakers twine which was what got me wading around in this whole sticky mess in the first place.
Here's how I put it all to use:
jar cuteness

Now I want labels and tags and fabulosity for ALL my canned stuff!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Oh Boy, Boy

I outed myself on Twitter today with the admission that I am just a wee bit resentful of the ongoing cucumber and zucchini insanity.  Boy is accusing me of being on the verge of stashing pickles in his underwear drawer.  I really need to let the pickle thing be done.
On the bright side, I have discovered the loveliness that is cucumber agua fresca, and am excited that I have both cucumbers--no surprise there--and some weekend free time to partake of such loveliness with the addition of booze.  I'm thinking I'll start with gin, possibly with a dash of elderflower liqueur, and diversify as the mood takes me.

Speaking of Boy, I sent him out to the garden the other day with the instruction:
"Cut me a few sprigs of regular basil and one of Thai basil"

Here is what he came in with:

How and in what world does any of the above make sense, like even sort of?
On the other hand, he fixed our washer for $10 using Google and guessing at what part it needed without having to take it apart first.  So even though I mourn the scalping of a previously still-growing carrot, I celebrate a handy Boy, clean clothes, and one less sprout of pigweed sullying my garden beds.
A girl cannot complain.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Offhand, Off track

Sometimes I forget to think about the day to day stuff, because, well...I'm in the middle of day to day stuff.  Summer in particular is that way, and about this time in the season I am half buried in cucumbers which doesn't help.  Nor does the all 90, all the time weather we've had for the last month and a half.  Ugh.
Anyone want pickles?  My latest is curry bread and butter chips.  Pickle chips, that is. I'll let you know in a month or so how they are.  
Canning is annoying that way, at least for impatient people like me.
Did I mention it's hot?

I've been sewing some weird things lately.  A while back I became obsessed with a couple of my little-used, oddball knives and decided they needed cases so they could live happily in a drawer during the 363 days a year I don't need to use them:
knife cases  
They're my new favorite nifty thing, even if I do only see them two days a year.  They make me want to take a trip or go camping or something.  
Have meat cleaver and Ulu knife, will travel.
I just did one for this crazy breaking knife with a 14" long blade which could totally do double duty as part of a Halloween costume. In hindsight, I definitely should have put a belt loop or a shoulder harness on that one. 

I have also been meaning to show you this great canvas and leather backpack I did for a client:
white backpack
white backpack top
These are my other new favorite thing.  Still loving the canvas with bits of leather in all forms. I've got a flap-less variation of this design on my worktable now just itching to be finished.  I think it's going to be a keeper.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Via Motos

YO friends!
Boy and I are freshly returned and recovered from a ten day motorcycle trip.  It was fun and interesting and hot and dirty and refreshing all at the same time.  Despite both our histories of decades of enthusiastic motorcycling, this was one of the first times either of us had done any kind of long distance thing and needless to say I was a little apprehensive even though the trip was half my idea.  Turns out I can't wait to do it again!
Just the highlights, as I am a terribly irresponsible vacation photographer.

Here we are, bright and early and ready to roll:
hitting the road
First stop, Kadoka, SD and the Minuteman Missile National Historic site (thank you internet for this interesting and seemingly unknown-to-most National Park Service attraction.  Totally worth the visit.)
Minuteman Missile National Historic site, aka middle of nowhere SD
Then a quick run for my very first visit to :
Clark Griswold goes motorcycling
Boy has climbed Devils Tower twice, so it was fun getting his first hand narrative while watching the climbers on the rock that day.
Then another blast to overnight in Gillette, WY, and the best BBQ I've had maybe ever, Pokey's.  We have a policy that once we're checked into a hotel and off the bikes, we're off for the day, so getting to this place involved a two mile walk each way.  It was hot, and Boy was NOT into it but I'm pretty sure the cold beer and great BBQ won him over.  Again, totally worth it and a great, accidental find.  
Day three, a long haul through what is the middle of nowhere, AKA south from Gillette into Colorado.  It's the most nothing I've ever experienced.  Not even a bush or blade of tall grass to pee behind in an emergency for hundreds of miles.  And hotter than blazes.  Like the hottest I have ever been ever in my 20+ year history of motorcycles and leather and asphalt.
Day four, twisty mountain road joy down to southern Colorado and a few days to hang out, talk smart, play and sightsee with more motorized vehicles and friends:
meanwhile, back at the ranch

custom aged, hand cut strip and ribeyes, thanks Tom!
now that's a bike trailer
how about that for a meaty pile of awesome after a day in the dirt?
cinnamon and engineer pass rendezvous

top of engineer pass
because nothing goes with fun on bikes like splatgirl cookies.
Did I mention the cooking and eating?  Of that there was plenty, as is the custom with this crowd.  Old crew favorites and a couple of fantastic new additions, plus my first attempt at high altitude baking.  Thanks and credit to Carol for the food shots.  I was too busy drooling.

And back at home in MN, here's what Pupcake got up to for the 4th:
I'm pretty sure he didnt' want to come home.
I took exactly no photos on the road back to MN.  I can report, however, that there is a lot of really tall corn in Nebraska, and the feed lots are just as stinky and disgusting as you'd expect them to be.  Other than that, just some more serious hot and whole lotta nothingness.  Unrecorded highlights include seeing several of the big windfarm wind generators being transported.  Those blades are really, really long, and watching the truck hauling one of them negotiate a turn at a small town intersection was cool and hair-raising.
Also notable from the trip is my new discovery of the awesomeness of music and podcasts while riding.  
For some dumb reason I hadn't investigated the whole music-in-the-helmet thing since, like, cassette tape days, but I glommed on to the idea as part of my pre-trip prep, and am I ever glad.  I ended up getting a pair of inexpensive "noise isolating" headphones, which basically work like musical earplugs.  Very possibly the best $25 I have spent on motorcycling, ever.  Having TED talks and Splendid Table and all of my favorite music and streaming radio to listen to while hammering down those straight, flat and bleak miles made the experience 100x better.

And here we are home, just in time for bean and cucumber insanity from the garden!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Sewing Stylishly

The Summer 2012 issue of Sew Stylish magazine is about to hit newsstands, and when it does you can check out my "Quilted Convertible Bag" project and pattern to make yourself your new favorite summer accessory.  The project is a gorgeous chain strap shoulder bag that converts to a fold-over clutch, and it's made from quilted silk. 

Sew Stylish, Summer 2012
The example project uses a large scarf as the fabric, but the idea and design lends itself to all kinds of interesting variations.  I think it would be a great way to show off those special little tidbits and scraps you've had tucked away in your stash or scrap bin.  Pieced together for pattern-y awesomeness, quilted in a 1" grid to gild the lily and then perfectly detailed with shiny, blingy bits.  Yum.

For geekier palates, today's yum is another great canvas bag up for grabs at over at Etsy:
olive robot flap
I've got a few more of these still to list, both plain and embellished.  And as always, if you'd like something in a different combination of materials or with (or without) a particular embellishment feel free to give me a holler.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Post-Whirl Peek

Here's just a couple of new things I didn't get a chance to show you before the crazy weekend of Art-A-Whirl:
I am totally, utterly obsessed with this Dia de los Muertos themed stuff for summer.  Something about bright orange canvas with the pewter leather just screams sunshine and breezes:
Muertos Messenger

And more canvas-y awesomeness, my new fave for being lightweight, fantastically durable and great to work with.  It's pushing all my handbag buttons lately:
olive tiki messenger

I've also fallen hard for a couple of great new neutral color leathers.  I first created this tiered, pocket-laden bag in black with white stitching as a traveling and sightseeing bag for myself.  Subsequently dubbed the "Paris", I've been filling custom requests for it in various colors ever since, as it seems to be the perfect combination of chic yet adequately sized and functional.  At long last I got around to making a few for show stock, and I've got just this gorgeous tan one left after the weekend.  It's soft without being fragile and feels great in the hand:
Paris bag

The messengers pictured are up for grabs on Etsy.  The Paris bag possibly coming soon...

Monday, April 23, 2012

And Now, on to Growing

It must be beer o'clock, because the hard part is done! 

Since about year one and a half of veg garden I had been thinking I wanted to add a few more plots to the project.  I began with six semi-raised beds which, at the time was a crazy effort that seemed just on the verge of being too much.  All that sod busting and digging and making nice is just so backbreaking here in the land of clay that it was painful to undertake and difficult to forget.  And I'd been dreading and procrastinating having to revisit it all, but this season turned out to be the year.  My strawberries have gone nuts and earned full run of their bed instead of just half, and I decided I'd take my own advice and plant a full bed with asparagus crowns instead of the meager few I started with, and thus more room to grow got moved to "priority" instead of "dream".
And of course I also needed time to get Boy used to the idea, because he's where the shovel meets most of the dirt most of the time.    

My hard working, never complaining, most dearest Boy did the real tough stuff--breaking up and removing the sod making spots for the new beds and screwing around with moving and remaking the fence.  We made quick work of building four more boxes from 2" x 8" lumber and of tidying up my existing six beds with a load of compost.  Hurray yet again for schleppage via our big truck.  It ain't pretty at the mall, but it sure makes the hauling and the dirty work less work. 

four new beds
On to bed making!  I finally had the bright idea to buy a digging fork, aka a "spading fork" as a hopefully easier way to get down into our hard, heavy clay soil and break it up, the better to mix in the stuff that actually grows stuff.  And to call what we sit on soil is a misnomer--it laughs at even the biggest roto-tiller I can borrow.  But because even my beginning veg gardener chops have been schooled--via a season or two of stubby carrots in my existing beds--that soil prep is the key, I knew I needed to find a way to do better.  And I can't believe I didn't think of the fork thing sooner, because it was a revelation and proved to be much more effective than trying to shovel or till.  Still, this was not an easy adventure by any means, but miles better and easier than the alternatives.  Anyway, an entire days' worth of forking and breaking up and mixing with good stuff and I've got four tidy new beds and six better-than-ever beds almost ready for plants.  One more big trucks' worth of compost to top off those new ones and we'll be set! 

Now I want to know--what are YOU excited about growing or digging up this year?

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