Thursday, December 30, 2010


Cheesecake is one of my absolute favorite things to make, because it is the perfect creamy base to showcase different flavors and never fails to impress.  I'm always trying out new flavor combinations.  My blogland friend Rhome410 at Friday is Pizza, Monday is Soup showcased 2 different eggnog cheesecake recipes the other day.  I knew I had to try my own version of her Eggnog Latte Cheesecake.

For those of you unfamiliar with her blog, Rhome410 is a mom of 8(!) who homeschools her brood, makes all her own bread products, mills her own grains, and still finds the time to help others as one of the resident experts at the GardenWeb Kitchen Forum.  I know you can't see one in her blog photo, but trust me she wears a cape.  I highly recommend popping over there and drinking in all her great food photos, recipes, and tips.

Back to the Cheesecake.  I started with a package of Jo-Sef gluten-free vanilla cookies, chocolate would have worked nicely, too.

I placed the cookies in a baggie and crushed them with my rolling pin.  I added one stick(1/2 cup) of melted butter and smooshed the bag until all of the crumbs had been moistened.

I pressed the crumbs into the bottom of a springform pan that I had lined with parchment paper and buttered.

I heated up 1 cup of eggnog warm enough to dissolve 1 tbsp of instant espresso.  I know all the hard core coffee drinkers are looking at the instant stuff in horror, but I swear I only use it for baking.

In my mixer I beat 3 - 8oz bricks of cream cheese until light and fluffy.  I used neufchatel for this because I figured with the addition of the eggnog, I could afford to lose a little fat in the cream cheese.  When the cream cheese was light and fluffy, I added one 14oz can of sweetened condensed milk and beat until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.  I beat in 3 eggs one at a time and then added the eggnog mixture.

I poured it into the prepared pan and placed it into my oven that had been preheated to 425.  After 12 minutes, I decreased the temperature to 225 without opening the oven door.  After an hour at 225, I turned the oven off, but left the cheesecake in the oven for another hour without opening the oven door.  Just in case you missed it:  Don't open the oven door.  Temperature fluctuations will cause your cheesecake to crack.  It'll still be tasty, just not as pretty.

And because I can't leave well enough alone, I decided to add some eggnog icing squiggles(1 cup confectioners sugar plus enough eggnog to make it a piping consistency) and dark chocolate espresso beans to pretty it up further.

Thanks for popping in and joining me for cheesecake.  I'm sharing this over at Gluten-Free Homemaker's Gluten-Free Wednesday and Remodelaholic's Recipe Swap Party.

Boogieboard Cottage

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Puff Pastry

There was a lot of interest in how to make Puff Pastry, when I posted the berry strudel pic in my Christmas morning post.  I promised a tutorial so here it is.

Puff Pastry is one of those multi-step processes that can seem scary to those that have never tried it, but really it's time intensive more so than labor intensive, and most of that time the dough is chilling in the frig while you're doing something else.  Puff pastry is one of those things you make before you plan on using it.  It keeps just fine in the frig for a few days or the freezer if you make a ton in one fell swoop.

You start with your flour in a bowl with a well in it, add water to the well, and incorporate the flour into the water, by gently pulling in the sides of the well.  *Epiphany*  If you're using gluten-free flours, you can probably just mix this in your mixer because there is no danger of over-working the dough.  Since I first learned how to make puff pastry when we were gluten eaters, I made this with a well, but in the future I'll probably just pull out the mixer for this step.
I started with 1 cup sweet rice flour, 1 cup sorghum flour, 1 cup cornstarch, 1/2 cup brown rice flour, 1/2 cup soy flour, 1/2 tsp salt, and 2 tsps xantham gum.  This is for a double batch of puff pastry.  If I'm going to spend all day on a dough, you bet it'll be for a double batch.  I added 1 1/2 cups water to the well and incorporated the flour into the water with my fingers until a dough formed.  I patted this dough into a square about 2 inches thick, wrapped it in plastic wrap, and put it in the frig to chill for an hour.

Meanwhile I prepared the butter.  I put 3 not quite room temperature sticks of butter into a ziplock baggie and added 2 tbsps of sweet rice flour and mushed it up until the butter was pliable.  Room temp butter is too soft and frig butter is too hard.  You want your butter at about 50-55 degrees.  When the flour has been incorporated and the butter is pliable, shape it into a 4" square and refrigerate it for about 10 minutes.

After the dough has chilled, roll the dough to an inch thickness and then roll each side of the square out to 1/4 inch flaps leaving the center of the dough an inch thick.  I roll out directly on my floured soapstone counters, but you may want to roll out on a pastry cloth or silpat.

Place the chilled butter on the raised portion of dough.

Wrap the flaps up and over the butter like a present, brushing away excess dough as you go.

 Gently push down on the dough package with your rolling pin until it's about an inch thick. 

Roll it into a long rectangle.

Fold the dough in thirds like a letter, bringing one short side up, then the other short side up.  You should have a smaller, but thicker rectangle.
Wrap this back up in plastic wrap and chill for an hour.  This is one turn.  When you pull the dough out of the frig, push on the top until it's an inch thick then roll it into the long rectangle again.  Fold in thirds again.  Chill for another hour.  You want to do this patting, rolling, folding, chilling routine for at least 6 turns.  Have you ever wondered why the baker pats, then rolls, the dough before marking it with a B in the classic nursery rhyme Pat-A-Cake?  Apparantly he was French. 

Each turn your dough will be a bit less crumbly and easy to deal with.  After6 turns(more if you want,) your dough is done.  Chill for at least 2 hours before using it.  Puff pastry is great for napoleons, strudels, and any number of other desserts as well as appetizers.

Thanks for popping in and making french pastries with me.  I'm linking this up to the Gluten-Free Homemaker's Gluten-Free Wednesday.

Editorial Note:  I just now realized while writing this post that I've continued to be really gentle with certain baking techniques because of what I learned while using regular wheat flour, but now that we're gluten-free I don't have to worry about creating long gluten strands and a tough & chewy overworked dough.  DUH!  It's funny how just writing out the process could lead to such an Aha moment.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Knit Baby Dress & Guest Posting

Remember back when I posted this Knit Butterfly Embellishment tutorial?  I promised that it was going on a much bigger knitting project that I'd be featuring sometime in the future.  Well this is the future.  I knit this little dress

and matching hat

for my bloggie friend Fawnda's new baby girl.  She's taking some time off to welcome the baby to the family and I've shared the patterns for the dress and hat over at her blog, Fireflies & Jellybeans.  Check out the detailed pics and instructions for this project and all the other neat projects on her blog.
Tute yourself tuesday red and white

A Look Back at 2010

At the end of the year, it's fun to look back at what we've been up to.  Rhoda over at Southern Hospitality is hosting a Best of 2010 party as is Kim at Savvy Southern Style.  These are some of my favorite projects from this past year.  I only started blogging this autumn, so some of these projects were undocumented and I only have the After photos.

Laundry Room Doors.

I took the existing doors and flipped them upside down, removed the upper slats, cut plexiglass to fit, installed the plexiglass with some quarter round molding to hold it in place, frosted the glass, and installed new handles.  It was a toss up between "Laundry Room - drop your pants here" or what I ended up using - "It all comes out in the Wash."  I felt like the latter, while not as funny, read better for all guests and since we're huge card players had additional "inside" meaning.  "The Wash" is what it's called when the dealer spreads the cards out and moves them around vs a traditional shuffle.  One of the best things about this change is that now morning light floods the stairwell opposite these doors.

Finished Backsplash.

This counts as a 2010 project, because it was drawn out for so long.  I actually installed the tile before Thanksgiving 2009, but didn't grout until Spring 2010.  Our kitchen was one of those DIY projects that stretches out way beyond when you'd kick a contractor to the curb for not finishing in a reasonable amount of time.  The problem with DIY is once the room is usable, there's no big push to finish.  The backsplash is a mix of carrera marble, grey porcelain, ceramic tile in various shades of grey, and my favorite glass tile, Interstyle Barcode in Dragonfish.

This project was easy to do and could be broken up into small chunks.  Any time I had a spare 1/2 hour, I could quickly bang out a chair.

Indoor furniture isn't the only stuff worthy of a re-do.  I love the turquoise and orange paisley fabric I used on these chairs.  It's cheerfully bright and fun without being overly cutesy.

This project was spread out over the entire year.  Just like with the kitchen project, I tackled small chunks whenever I had the time to finish one small step.  The quilt actually stretched out over a couple of months, cutting a dozen squares at a time, and sewing at 20 minute intervals.  The big push to finish this was when CG was out of town for a week and I had the whole house to myself.

This was a fun project, that used up some of the paint leftover from SB's room makeover, and commemorated one of the best camping trips of the year.  We still exchange stories about this camping trip when we get together with our friends who camped with us.

I need to give some love to some of my holiday projects, too.

We can't forget the Halloween Party.

CG and I had so much fun decorating for this party and the kids had a blast.

My favorite Christmas project:  The Photo Wreath.

It was so much fun going through all the old photos to put this project together.

This was a fun trip down memory lane.  I can't wait to get started on some new projects for the new year.  I've got tons of ideas brewing for 2011.  Also check out the other neat projects at The DIY Showoff.


Monday, December 27, 2010

New Year's Centerpiece

Presents have been unwrapped(mostly, still a few more showing up this week with the in-laws,) cookies have been eaten, and I'm itching to start working on some of the projects that I've set aside for the new year(bookcases, stairs, etc.)  None of these projects will happen until after the holiday entertaining is over and all of the Christmas decorations have been put away.  We still have one more weekend of entertaining before the decorations can be put away.  Still, I like to change things up.

The days until Christmas sign that I made here needed to be put away leaving a blank wall in my foyer.  So the mirror that I had used as part of the centerpiece of my Christmas table needed to go back to it's spot in the foyer.  This led to making a new table centerpiece for New Year's Day.

I liked the added sparkle of having a mirror on the table so much that I grabbed a beveled mirror from my bedroom to lay down the center of the table.
I grabbed a trifle dish and filled it with some miscellaneous ornaments and gold beaded garland.
I grabbed some sparkly wire garland and snipped it into 12" lengths and poked them into the center of the trifle dish letting any bits and scraps decorate the mirror like confetti.

and After
Sparkly, festive, and fun.  All I need to finish this is some dollar store noisemakers to place at the base of the trifle dish.

Thanks for popping in and checking out my New Year's centerpiece.  I'm linking this up to Between Naps on the Porch's Metamorphosis Monday, Dittle Dattle's Amaze Me Monday, The DIY Showoff's Holiday Highlights Party,  A Stroll Thru Life's Tabletop Tuesday, and My Romantic Home's Show & Tell Friday

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

I hope everyone is enjoying a very Merry Christmas.  Today started out obscenely early, but that's what Christmas morning with children is.  Furtive whispers of, "Is it morning, yet?" coming from the kids' bedrooms and tiptoed feet on the stairs heading to check out the stockings on the mantel well before the sun has come up are par for the course when you have kids.

WD awoke at 2:45 and could not go back to sleep.  He held off on checking out the stockings until 4.  SB was up by 5.  They were both whispering about what Santa had brought when I finally emerged from our bedroom signalling that it was officially morning and they could grab their stockings off the mantel and dump them out on the floor. 

CG came out and started up a pot of coffee, and the present opening finally started.  SB would crawl under the tree and grab a gift for WD and one for himself, announce who they were from, they'd open them, then SB would grab another 2 gifts.  The last present was unwrapped by 6:15.
I made a berry strudel for breakfast.  I didn't take pictures of the process, but I'll have to do a tutorial because it turned out so flaky and yummy.  This was my first stab at gf puff pastry and it was a definite success.  Puff pastry is a bit of a pain in the rump to make, but the results are so good it's worth the effort.
From Our Home to Yours
Have a Very Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Traditions

We all want our kids to grow up with a sense of tradition.  That's never  more the case than at Christmastime.  Here are some of our family's Christmas traditions.

The Annual Tree Hunt I posted about here.  It's not officially the Christmas season until we've trekked out with our best friends and cut down our Christmas trees.

Baking and Decorating Cookies
Whether it's sugar cookies or gingerbread, we always bust out the aprons at Christmas.
New Christmas Eve Pajamas

I love these ones from Luxury Baby Gifts.  Unfortunately my "babies" aren't such wee ones anymore.  I love taking pictures of the boys Christmas morning in their new pjs.  CG and I also get new pjs.  I always buy my own Christmas pjs in the kids section where they are half as much as they would be over in womens.  I'm cheap like that.  XL boys runs slightly larger than XL girls and fit a long torso nicer, so I usually buy myself an XL boys pj.  Next year, I might try my hand at making our Christmas pjs like Maleah at Little Eme did here.

Orphan's Christmas

We have some of our friends over every year for Christmas Eve.  We started this tradition the year after we moved down to the Binghamton area.  WD was 5 our first Christmas away from family and we traveled back to Rochester for that first year.  The trip was a whirlwind of go to house #1, open presents, play for 1/2 hour, go to house#2, open presents, play for a 1/2 hour, go to house #3, etc.  We made the decision that WD would wake up in his own bed and run out to his own tree and stocking hung by our fireplace for every Christmas from then on.  Anyone who wanted to see us at Cristmas could come, but we weren't going anywhere.

We settled in to the Binghamton area and became friends with people who were in the same predicament as us.  Family away and kids they wanted home for Christmas morning.  We invited them over to share Christmas Eve with us for that sense of extended family that we were missing.  Thus "Orphan's Christmas" was born.  Christmas Eve for people who's families are elsewhere.  My little brother and his roommate started to come for Orphan's Christmas as did my cousin and her boyfriend and everybody brings their dogs.  We joke now, that we'll need to rename it, since the older children are reaching adulthood and those adult children won't be "orphans" at Christmas.

Unwrapped Santa gifts

All other presents are wrapped and under the tree.  Santa leaves the "big" gift.  He gets credited with the one "WOW" gift.  Santa leaves a note attached to his gift with the childs name on it on special Santa stationary that only he uses.

I hope that these traditions envelope the boys memories in warmth and joy.  What are some of your traditions?  What things will your kids want to continue when they have their own kids?

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Classroom Winter Party

Snuggle Bunny's class had their winter party today.  Many of the kids were in their Christmas finery and talking about the upcoming Christmas vacation, but the adults weren't allowed to mention Christmas as this was a Winter Party.  I think it's ridiculous, but hey, I don't make the rules.

The kids had cupcakes and listened to a story.

I love the green mouth on SB's classmate in this pic.
They decorated gingerbread men and had such a good time cookie decorating, that we ran out of time for the game we had planned.

So we let the kids just kind of run around and socialize for the last 5 minutes.  Here's SB with 2 of his friends.

Only one more day of school, then the kids'll be all mine for 11 days.  Thanks for popping in and checking out SB's class party.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Wish Me Luck

Remember the DIY Silhouette Art I created here?

I'm entering it into the DIY club's Purdy Awesome Party.  Wish Me Luck.