Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Oven Door Glass

Have you ever had one of those days when it seems that just about everything you touch breaks?  Well I have!  Christmas day as a matter of fact.  After an awesome morning watching the kids open gifts and play with their new toys...bad karma struck.  I dropped my good camera and broke the lens. And then...

I was baking some 5-minute artisan bread for dinner.  The recipe calls for a water bath.  Evidently I had the racks to close together and when I pulled the rack out to remove the bread from the oven, I dragged the water bath with and spilled it on the hot oven door.  It sizzled a bit and then this happened...

Yep, the glass broke.  It popped and my husband and I just stood there in disbelief.  I still can't believe that this water that was HOT could do that. .

Fortunately, my wonderful husband stopped by an appliance parts store today and was able to pick up a new piece of glass.  We installed it tonight.

We had read online that this can "easily" be a DIY job so we figured we would give it a try.  I don't know that I would describe it as "easy" but it is fixed.  It was definitely an all hands on deck job which is why this is the only "during" picture I have.

We unscrewed the door (as shown in the picture).  Then we needed to unscrew the panel that holds the glass in place.  This was the tricky part as this piece is also held in with the spring that holds the door closed.

It seemed to be a bit of a dance to get the glass, rope seal, insulation and panel lined up and in place while trying to hold the springs open and screw the panel back in place.  Honestly, we really could have used another pair of hands.

Needless to say, it is in and we are back in business.  My son is very excited because he has wanted to make the Shrinky Dinks he got for Christmas for a couple of days now. 

Oh, and I will be cleaning my oven tomorrow too. The pictures reminded me how dirty it is. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

2011 A Year in Review

Wow, what a year. While I am very excited to get 2012 rolling, I want to take an opportunity to look back at the top 10 most popular posts on my blog in 2011. So here you go...

#5:  Split Peas

Come back tomorrow for MY FAVORITE 2011 projects and later in the week I will be sharing my house goals for 2012

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Dessert Shooters

Last night we hosted a small Christmas party at our house for one of my husband's business groups.  I made an awesome machaca with fresh tortillas and all the fixings.  Machaca is a spicy shredded beef that is popular at nearly every Mexican restaurant here in Arizona.  It is by far one of my favorite foods!  One of these days I will share my recipe, but today, I am here to talk dessert.

Last summer I was wasting time perusing Pinterest and came across a number of photos of dessert shooters - decadent desserts, served in shot glasses.  These mini dessert delights give you a small taste of a yummy dessert.  Generally, you would serve several different varieties which would give your guests a small taste of several yummy treats.  Think about it, how often are you at a party or event and feel you have to choose between the cheesecake, pie, cake, etc. because there is no way you could eat an entire piece of more than one?

I spotted some nice, clear plastic disposable shot glasses at The Dollar Tree and new immediately that we would be serving dessert shooters sometime soon.  Well, last night was the night.  Since this was going to be a small group, I decided on doing two simple mousse desserts!  Mmmmmmm!

A dessert shooter is really just a method of serving a dessert.  Feasibly, most any dessert can be presented in a small cup.  You can layer pie, shortcake, pudding, fillings, etc. for a fun and unique presentation.  I decided to keep my first attempt somewhat simple with a couple of mousse desserts.  Besides, the dark chocolate mousse recipe has got to be one of my favorites - amazingly delicious and simple.  I partnered it with another classic holiday flavor - a pumpkin cheesecake mousse.

A friend of mine shared this delicious dark chocolate mousse recipe with me last Christmas when I was looking for a light, but decadent dessert to pare with our holiday feast! These small bites were perfect - although, I will admit, I ate several.  Two bites is just not enough!

Dark Chocolate Mousse

5 1/4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
14 ounces heavy cream
3 large egg whites
1 ounce sugar
sweetened whipped cream, for garnish (optional)
shaved bittersweet chocolate, for garnish (optional)

Place chocolate in a large bowl set over a Bain-marie or in a double boiler at a low simmer.  Stir chocolate until melted.  Turn off the heat and let stand.

Beat the cream until it forms soft peaks.  Set aside.  With a clean mixer, whip egg whites to soft peaks.  Gradually add the sugar and continued whipping until firm.

Remove the chocolate from the Bain-marie and using a whisk, fold in the egg whites all at once.  When the whites are almost completely incorporated, fold in the whipped cream.  Cover the mousse and refrigerate for approximately 1 hour or until set.**  Serve in goblets topped with more whipped cream and shaved chocolate if desired.

** I skipped this step of letting the mousse set up.  Using a piping bag, I filled my individual shot glasses with the mousse and then refrigerated.  Just prior to serving, I piped on some sweetened whipped cream and shaved a little chocolate on top.

I was serving a variety of chocolate candies and treats so I knew I wanted a non-chocolate dessert to provide some variety.  Since pumpkin pie is a classic holiday dessert I offered a twist using these flavors with a pumpkin cheesecake mousse.  I did a Google search and came across a few different recipes but ended up modifying this no-bake pumpkin cheesecake recipe from Kraft Foods and Philadelphia cream cheese.  Here is my version:

Pumpkin Cheesecake Mousse

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1 can (14 ounces) pumpkin puree
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
14 ounces heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks
Sweetened whipped cream, for garnish (optional)
Fresh grated nutmeg, for garnish (optional)

Beat cream cheese, pumpkin, sugar and pumpkin pie spice with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended.  Gently fold in the whipped cream.  Refrigerate until set, 2-3 hours.  Serve in goblets topped with whipped cream and nutmeg, if desired.**

** Like the chocolate mousse, I skipped this step and placed the mousse in a piping bag to fill my shot glasses and then refrigerated until set.  Just prior to serving, I topped them with whipped cream and grated nutmeg.

*** While this recipe was good, I will try blending the pumpkin, spice and an egg or two over low heat to help develop the pumpkin flavor and offer a richer texture.  The pumpkin tasted "raw", unlike the pumpkin pie flavor I was hoping to achieve.  Let me know if you try this and what you think.

 The dessert shooters where a huge hit and will most definitely be served again.  While I used disposable shot glasses, I did try to salvage as many as I could and washed them up to use again.  I may have to keep my eye open for a bunch of shot or cordial glasses in the future.  I know I have seen a variety of sets of cordial glasses at the thrift store.

If you are looking to serve these at a party, I would plan for your guests to have 3-4 desserts (or one of each kind, depending on how many varieties you are serving) each.  

Also, depending on the glasses you are using, you may need to find some small demitasse spoons so that you can get all of the dessert out of the cup.  My cups were wide enough that I was able to use a teaspoon for my desserts (I used plastic).  If regular spoons would not have worked, I was planning to hit the party store or restaurant supply to find a small sample spoon much like you find at ice cream shops.

This was such a fun dessert for a fun event.  I look forward to trying other dessert shooters in the future.  Truly, the options are endless.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Countdown to Christmas

Wow, it is December 1st!  Let the countdown to Christmas begin!  Although, I will admit, I have been counting down for a few weeks already!  I absolutely love the holidays and all that they mean!  Family, friends, giving, sharing and overall Joy!  Oh how I love Christmas!

A couple of years ago Pottery Barn featured a fun advent calendar using a series of ornaments.  Each day you would place an ornament on the tree.  This simple yet fun and beautiful idea has been recreated all over blog land.  While it is nothing new or original, I knew I wanted to do this and this house had the perfect wall!

We have a narrow wall that separates our kitchen from the formal dining/living room.  The picture above gives a bit of perspective.  Behind the wall is my refrigerator and well, you can see my dirty dishes on the counter.  To the left of the wall is our formal dining room which is currently covered with Christmas decor and unfinished craft projects and supplies.

I pulled together a few decorations to use for this project.  My theme this year emphasizes a deep Christmas red along with a clean rustic style.  I love our Christmas tree because it is an eclectic mix of ornaments from our childhood up through today.  I will share more about that next week.  For now, we are talking advent.  In addition to some of the ornaments from our tree, I made a few as well.

I love the cinnamon ornament in spot 2, some beautiful crystal on day 3, an apple ornament on day 5 which has been on my husbands family tree for many years.  I also added a hook to a pine cone and a star fish to add a sense of nature.  Of course on day 8 I used my Santa belt ornament and day 10 is an simple paper ornament I made with some sparkly scrapbook paper.

A couple of other favorites is the sparkly green bow on Day 12, jingle bells on the 13th, a paper star and an old glass pine cone ornament that I spray painted silver and then rolled in Epsom salt for a snowy effect.  I even simply used a candy cane.

I love the overall look on the wall.

Tonight is the night we will take the first ornament and place it on the tree.

I can't wait!  In addition to the ornament count down, we will also plan to do something special each day.  Today we will be going to dinner with my in-laws to celebrate my Father-in-Laws birthday!

We actually started the fun holiday activities last night by watching The Muppet's Letters to Santa on TV.  I have been recording a few other holiday classics for other days as well.  Have I mentioned how much I love the holidays!!!