This is gonna happen!

My Pinboard featuring my plans for celebrating the Game of Thrones premiere.

Oh yes. This is definitely happening. (While you’re over at Pinterest, follow me! I pin alllll theeeee tiiiiiiime.)

I’m getting up early (like 9 am) to start the bread dough. Then we have to take the dog to get some booster shots. Then I’ll be home and cooking.

I made some awesome progress on my Readering this week, and it’s actually below 1000 total (haven’t seen that in aaaaages). I hope to manage a Roundup tomorrow, but it may be late, or even Monday.

And OF COURSE there will be postings and pictures about the special meal! Don’t worry!

 

Cornbread

Quick breads are one of the easiest things to make. And if they’re made well, they’re impressive and delicious. They only require a few pantry-staple ingredients, and take only a few moments to throw together. If you’re from or have visited the American South, you’re definitely familiar with cornbread. If you’ve never encountered this delicious beast, I pity you.

I make this recipe following the one in my BHG cookbook. I don’t always love their recipes but this one is pretty hard to get wrong. ;)

Now, if you’re a fan of Alton Brown or are a knowledgeable baker, you’re familiar with the Muffin Method. You have a group of dry ingredients, a group of wet ingredients, and you stir them together. That’s what we’re gonna do.

Here’s your dry goods:
flour – 1 cup
cornmeal – 3/4 cup
sugar – 2 to 3 tbsp
baking powder – 2 1/2 tsp
salt – 3/4 tsp


And here’s your wet goods:
eggs – 2
milk – 1 cup
oil – 1/4 cup
You’ll also need a tablespoon of butter.

In your cast iron pan (that’s important), melt the butter. It’ll only take a few moments. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Combine your ingredients into two bowls. Mix both thoroughly.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, and stir gently. You do not want to produce a perfectly smooth batter – it should be a bit lumpy. (This picture is NOT stirred – it does need to be stirred more than this.)

Pour the batter right into the cast iron pan. The butter on the bottom may travel up and lay around the edges – that’s okay. Slide the whole pan into the oven and bake for 15 minutes.

Perform a standard toothpick test to make sure it’s done. (Just poke a toothpick in near the center. It should come out dry.) If it’s not, put it back in for a few more minutes.

Cut it and lift out a wedge. The bottom of your cornbread will be a glorious golden brown and delicious color.


When you open it up, it’ll have a lovely spongelike texture. Can you see the steam rising? Does it make your mouth water? I like mine with a bit of butter, preferably next to a bowl of slow-cooked beans.

Fried Mozzarella Sticks

I love fried cheese sticks. I don’t love weird preservatives and high prices. I love to make my own yummy things. I don’t love dumping something from the freezer into the microwave. So, it’s pretty obvious that I make my own cheese sticks. I started with this recipe from Allrecipes, and it’s pretty much the same. But I have pictures! ;-)

These are a great, easy introduction to frying, and nearly impossible to mess up.

You will need:
- string cheese (look for coupons for these, I scored a great deal on mine!)
- crumbs
- herbs and seasonings
- an egg and some water
- flour and cornstarch
- lots of oil
- three bowls, two forks, a pair of tongs, and a heavy frying pan

First, mix up your crumbs with the seasonings. I used dried parsley, dried oregano, dried basil, and some garlic powder. (I used saltine crackers, but any kind of crumbs you have on hand would be acceptable.)
Then, beat your egg a bit with some water.
You’ll need about 2 parts flour to one part cornstarch (say, 2/3 cup and 1/3 cup) as well.
Line all these bowls up, assembly-line style. This is a pretty standard setup for frying – a series of bowls full of coating materials, ending at the hot oil.

Speaking of the hot oil, get it hot, preferably in a cast iron pan (it helps keep the temperature steady). You can use a frying thermometer for this, but usually the pan is too shallow. You’ll need the oil to be about the depth of the cheese, more or less.
I usually take a tiny drop of water on my hand and fling it (from a distance) into the oil. If it immediately sizzles and pops, you’re ready. (NO, that’s not safe, but I’m being real here.)

When the oil is hot enough, take a cheese stick and roll it in the flour mixture.

Then, dip it in the egg mixture. Let it sit there for just a moment, so that the flour soaks up some of the egg. Make sure the whole cheese stick is coated thoroughly.

Now, fish out the eggy cheese and roll it in the crumbs. Roll it and pat it (and mark it with a B if you wish) and make sure the whole cheese is covered.

Drop your cheese into the oil (use the tongs to protect your hands). It’ll only take a few seconds to cook. Since it’s just cheese, you don’t need to worry about “internal temperature” like you will with meats – just judge the doneness by the color of the crumbs and the amount of leaking cheese you can see.
Don’t crowd the pan with too many cheeses, and don’t walk away – this is a quick and dangerous process.
If the cheese doesn’t immediately begin bubbling like crazy when you put it in, take it out again and let the oil get hotter. If it just sits in the oil and isn’t furiously bubbling, it’ll absorb the oil and get gross.

When they’re done to your satisfaction, pick them up with the tongs and place them on a few layers of paper towels. The paper towels will soak up some of the remaining oil, leaving them crispy instead of soggy.

Serve them hot, with marinara sauce.
Now that you’ve mastered this process, you are ready to move on to more complicated fried items (although none of them are especially hard except for chicken – there is a *secret* to chicken).

Do you have a favorite appetizer? Are you afraid of frying? Are there any cooking methods that you’ve been afraid to try?

Battle of the Morannon

It’s another Nerd Holiday! I’m spending this afternoon and evening curled up on the couch with a sewing project and watching the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy.

If you’re still confused, check out this link. :) I’m thinking of hunting down some recipes to commemorate the occasion, as well.

 

Oh, another thing: we saw The Hunger Games. And it was GREAT.

Web Weekend #6

Hello again! It’s been a long time. I wish I knew where all my time has been going. I am wayyy behind on my reading (and on my crafting and on my chores, and apparently on life in general). I decided to make an exception and do this roundup anyway even though I’m not caught up. Most notably, I’ve not gotten around to IO9 and The Mary Sue, nor Apartment Therapy. :(
If you’re curious, I currently have 325 subscriptions.

Laughed out loud, in real life.

Things

Mario Question Block hanging lamp. (Laughing Squid)
Clever concept for carrying recyclable bottles. (Laughing Squid)
Geeky medicine cabinet, just for fun. (So Geek Chic)
A gorgeous sampler of couched threads (The Smallest Forest)
I love hardware accessories! Hose clamp bracelet! (Thanks I Made It)
Bold colors – DIY CMYK lanterns (Oh Happy Day!)
Gorgeous antique embroidery (Feeling Stitchy)
Paperclip Parrot embroidery (Feeling Stitchy)
Plague Doctor (Drop Dead Quirky)
Beautiful math-y sampler (Button Button)
R2-D2 inspired birdhouse (Badder Homes and Gardens)
Pillow Beast! (Badder Homes and Gardens)
Medieval Weapon pushpins! (Badder Homes and Gardens)
A roundup of Jellyfish stitcheries (&Stitches)

Ideas

I really like my theme here on my blog, but I might make a custom one. (Lifehacker)
A hanging book display DIY. (Lifehacker)
Put a rain gutter in your picnic table. I am SO doing this. (Lifehacker)
Turn wooden shutters into a wall rack. (Lifehacker)
Bookends from detergent bottles. (Recyclart)
I got several ideas from this Easter Egg roundup (LilSugar)
Fuzzy dot rug – might feel nice while dishwashing? (Decor Hacks)

Food

Quick and cheap “Emergency Cake.” (Lifehacker)
Hard Baked eggs? Alton says so. (Lifehacker)
Quick caramel from sweetened condensed milk. (Lifehacker)
Passover Sweet and Sour Meatballs. (The Shiksa Blog)
A lovely Tomato Salsa (Good Girl Gone Green)
Homemade sugar cubes (Ruffles & Stuff)
Stuffed Green Peppers inspired by A Song of Ice and Fire (Inn at the Crossroads)
Coconut Macaroon Nutella Nests (Two Peas and Their Pod)
Adorable Mock Dormice (Inn at the Crossroads)
Sandwich Bread for beginners (The Kitchn)
Tears of Lys – yes I love ASOIAF okay (Inn at the Crossroads)

Lilo at Hogwarts? Yikes. :) Painting by Amy Mebberson

Articles and News

Seriously, DON’T buy a Keurig. (Treehugger)
The 1940 census will be released soon! Info geeks rejoice! (Gawker)
Party balloons are interfering with Science. Stop it! (Gawker)

Entertainment News

New Companion! And other WHO news that’ll make you flail! (Anglophenia)

Art

Zelda Potion Ad by Barrett Biggers (via Copiously Geeky)
A quote from Banksy that I just LOVE (via The Smallest Forest)
Some thoughts on artistic “stealing” (via The Smallest Forest)
The Doubtful Dalek by Kathleen Jennings – hilarious mental images included free (Errantry)

Did you see anything cool around the internet this week? Is there a blog I should be reading? Share your own thoughts and links in the comments! Make sure to follow me (here, there, and everywhere) to get more updates!

Grasshopper Pie

One of the biggest Nerd Holidays of the year is Pi Day. Traditionally celebrated on March 14 (at 1:52 pm), it’s a day to commemorate the intriguing infinite number pi, and also to make and eat delicious pies.

Meet my costar. She's waiting "patiently" for me to let her do something.

This year, Pi Day fell on a day that I really really didn’t feel like dealing with things. As you’ll see in the pictures, my kitchen was a MESS. And I was definitely in no mood to make a fiddly pie crust. I asked my friends for suggestions of a yummy pie that didn’t require a crust. April offered Grasshopper Pie, and I decided to go for it. I had to go to the store to get some ingredients, but it was kinda nice to get out of the house that day. I followed this recipe from The Pioneer Woman, but there are other versions out there (ones without alcohol, for example). I made a few changes – some by choice (trading the cookies) and some by accident (leaving out the creme de cacao).

To begin, you’ll need to gather these ingredients:
- Chocolate cookies – Oreos are traditional, but I used Thin Mints
- 2 tbsp butter
- container of marshmallow fluff
- 2/3 cup half-and-half
- 2 tbsp creme de menthe (you could sub some mint extract)
- 1 cup heavy cream

First, melt the butter. Put it in a small bowl and cover with plastic wrap (trust me on this) with a few holes poked in it. Microwave for a few seconds (like 20).

Put the cookies and butter in the bowl of your food processor and pulse until smooth.

Pour the crumbs into your pie plate, and pat it down and up the sides.

Now put your marshmallow fluff and half-and-half in a pan and heat it until it’s all melted. Ree used a large container of fluff and I used a small one but somehow we both filled the pie? I’m not sure how that works, but okay. Maybe she uses a bigger pie plate.

While you’re tending the fluff on the stove, have your helpers fill a bowl with ice. When the hot mixture is all melted, remove from the heat and put it in the ice bath. As it cools, add the creme de menthe. If yours is clear, you’ll want to add some green food coloring. Stir and let the mixture cool.

Now break out your beater and whip that cup of heavy cream. Pour the cooled fluff mixture into the whipped cream and fold gently.

Fill your cookie crust with minty goodness. Pop that baby into the freezer. Make sure it’s flat. Ree says “at least 2 hours” but mine needed a little more than 3 before it was hardened.

Slice it and serve. It’s cool and minty and refreshing – a perfect pie for hot summer days. I’ll be making this a lot this summer, I think. The thin mints rehardened into basically one solid cookie, and it was excellent. I’ll have to hide the rest of the boxes we bought from my husband so I have them for next time. The only downside to this pie was that it took up valuable space in my freezer until we ate it all.

Laundry Soap

April from Red Dirt Mama is one of my closest friends. A few months ago, one of her blogfriends made laundry soap, and she decided to follow suit. Her post about it is here. When she made it and raved about it, I decided to take a spin of the wheel.

This “recipe” is really easy. Actually, it’s pretty much idiot-proof. It’s also a million times cheaper than store-bought, pre-made laundry detergent. It has a lovely “clean” scent, not an nauseating fake floral or fruit scent. It also seems to be non-irritating. My daughter and my husband are both sensitive to certain kinds of laundry soap, and both of them are doing just fine.

One of my fears about making it was that it wouldn’t be worth the effort – that I’d have to make it every week (or make a ton of it at one time), or that it wouldn’t smell good, or wouldn’t work as well, or something. Let me tell you – it’s definitely worth it. I put in about 20 minutes of work, and got a good supply of it. I made it almost a month ago, and I’ve barely made a dent in it.
This is suitable for HE and standard washers. Anecdotally, my washer smells better too – it doesn’t have that gunky smell that front-loaders are notorious for getting.

Here’s what you’ll need:
Super Washing Soda – 1 cup
Borax – 1 cup
1 laundry bar soap (Fels-Naptha is common)
Baking Soda – 1/4 cup

I also added a cup of Oxy-Clean to the mix, but it’s not necessary, and not pictured.
I also should mention that I still have a TON of the baking soda, Borax, and washing soda left. Next time I make this, I’ll only need to buy the bar of laundry soap. All these items (except the baking soda) are found on the laundry aisle of your store.

You’ll also need a container. I buy those dishwasher “pod” things, and I had an empty tub from those that works just fine (yes I am one of those crazypeople who saves every container, but I really do use them), but you can use whatever. An empty peanut butter jar, whatever.

Here’s the hardest part – you have to grate the bar of soap. Just sit on the couch with your favorite show and get at it.


Watch your fingers when you get it down to a little nugget.


This is what it looks like when it’s done. Reach in there and crumble it up a bit.

Get out your measuring cups and dump in the other ingredients, and stir it up with your hands. (If you shake it, all the soap will work its way to the top – just stir.)
I always add a bit of Oxy-clean to our laundry, so I made my life a bit easier and added the Oxy-clean to the soap mix.


This is what it looks like. I put 1/8 cup (that’s 2 tbsp) in the soap compartment of my washer (I have a front loading HE washer, by the way). Our clothes are clean and smell great, and none of us have itchy skin! Not to mention how nice it is to not have to buy it so often.

Do you make any of your own cleaners? Why, or why not?

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