Saturday, April 30, 2011

And sometimes....

Inspiration hits you like a bright light...or in this case, a solar lantern!!!!
Gifts for my friends!
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Friday, April 29, 2011

Mason Jar Solar Lantern

It must be DIY day, as I got inspired to make a solar lantern. This is basically the top of a solar powered yard light, stuck into a jar. You can paint the inside of the jar to frost it, use colored plastics to line it etc.
I wound some wire around the top of the jar so I could hang it in my garden.
My husband kept asking me, why do it? What's it good for etc? I don't know, I just thought it was a fun outside luminary, put a few little ones on crooks in the garden, hang one under the tree over a bench, I thought it looked sweet and romantic, must have been that wedding I stayed up and watched!

How to DO it:
I knew I wanted to use canning jars since I have so many. So I took a canning jar ring, wide mouth and small with me to Walmart, to size the wide array of inexpensive yard lights. Really, they had a lot to choose from, many of them 4.00 and less. I found some that fit the wide mouth, although it does stick up. I will continue to look around to find some interesting jars to experiment with. I removed to stick part, and kept the plastic protector and reflector on for the quart jar, and removed them for the half pint jar. I wound some wire around the rim to make a handle. This would be cute wound with beads and wire curliques too! I set them out in the sun to charge and waited for darkness.
They looked so cool and actually gave off pretty decent light. These would be fun table decos when camping, safer than open flames or candles and actually, would be useful at night if you lost electricity. And they look sweet and romantic!
Heck, you probably have lots of jars you can re-purpose into lanterns. The cost is limited to how fancy a yard light and jar you use. Did you know these retail anywhere from 20.00 to 39.00 dollars online? Make your own! Hang them all over your garden and patio!
If you can't find a yard light to fit, what you can do is take the solar panel, battery and bulb portion out of the plastic housing and tape them to the inside of one of the clamp on lid type jars, or an empty Yankee candle jar with lid would work too. The solar panel needs to receive light to charge, so opaque or non see through lids won't work.
Just do it!
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Homemade Cake Mix

Somehow, I came across some information on making your own cake mix, as opposed to buying a box mix. This appeals to me because I can control what's in it, and what is NOT in it.
I had everything in my pantry necessary to make this which is always a plus, and I also decided to come up with a cake flavor enhancer.
I sifted the flour and cornstarch together twice, blended the butter with some of the flour mixture, then blended the rest of the ingredients together. Make sure you mix well, as the sugar is heavy and tends to fall to the bottom.
I took 4 1/2 cups out to make my test cake, and divided the rest into two - 1 quart ziplock bags, writing the additional ingredient list right on the bag.
This will keep 1 month in the refrigerator or 3 months in the freezer.
In a large bowl, I put my cake mix, eggs, oil, skim milk, and cake flavor enhancer. Mixed it just like I would a box mix, and poured it into a greased Longaberger bundt pan. Each mix should make two - 8" cake pans, or one - 9 x 13. Baked it for 45 minutes.
How did it taste? Like a light pound cake. It was good, moist, but holey, I think I mixed it too much!
What would I change or adjust the next time I make a big batch? I would use cake flour, instead of all purpose and cornstarch, and when blending the butter and flour, add a vanilla bean, just the seeds scraped from the inside.
I did like my flavor enhancer, which was basically lemon extract, homemade vanilla extract and butter flavor. Gave it a warm and creamy flavor.
I think I will have a piece of this cake with some strawberries!
Is this cheaper than buying a box mix? No. Is it healthier than a box mix? Yes, no additives, no long chemical names. If you like organic, you could use all organic ingredients.

Big Batch Cake Mix
(makes 3)

6 1/2 c flour (or use 7 1/2 c cake flour and skip the cornstarch)
1 c cornstarch
4 1/2 c sugar
4 tbsp baking powder
5 tbsp meringue powder
3/4 c cold butter
1 tbsp salt
Process butter with 2 c flour until very fine. Sift together rest of ingredients 2 times. divide into three 4 1/2 c portions. On the ziplock write the additional ingredients:
3 eggs
1/2 c oil
1 c milk or water
2 tsp vanilla or flavor enhancer.
35-45 minutes @ 350

To make cake:
Put cake mix and additional ingredients into a big bowl.
Mix on low until just blended, then on high 2 minutes. Pour into greased cake pans. (bundt or 9 x 13 or two 8" round pans)
Bake 35 to 45 minutes at 350 degrees, until toothpick comes out clean.
Cool 15 minutes, then tip out of pans onto plate and cool on rack.
Cool completely before frosting or glazing.

Cake Flavor Enhancer
Butter flavor
Lemon extract
Vanilla extract

Start with 1 tsp each, and add more of each, sniffing after each addition, until it smells pleasing to you. You can use orange instead of lemon, tweak and change it to suit you.
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Nephew's quilt

My great nephew turns one this June, and I decided he needs a big boy quilt!
I have been collecting firefighter and fire truck prints, intending on making my husband a fire themed quilt, but I think Colby Ryan would like this one more than hubby. He's been waiting forever for a T-shirt quilt, I think he'd want that one more!
Its just the usual fat quarter shuffle. I like using that pattern because its fast, and you can really showcase fun prints and fabric combinations in a simple way.
This is going in the mail soon. Stay tuned for a new spin on my fat quarter shuffle that I used for my father-in-law's 80th birthday quilt!
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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Friday, April 8, 2011

Healthi-er banana muffins?

Maybe. Soooo, I decided to re-make my mother's wonderful but not particularly wholesome banana bread.
Here's the funny part, in my quest to make it better, I completely forgot to add sweetener :(, of any kind! So, the only sweetness is from the banana, and it actually tastes fine. But then I realized you could drizzle honey on it and control your own sweetness. I love it when I can redeem a baking mistake! This recipe will make 12 jumbo, or probably 24 regular, so freeze a batch to eat all week. I also used a homemade dough enhancer mix, and I will give that recipe too. Dough enhancer will help the rise and texture, and also the moistness. I like to use it when baking wheat bread especially, gives you light fluffy loaves that keep well.

Banana Muffins

1 c flax seed meal
1 c oat flour
1/4 c flour
2 tbsp dough enhancer
3/4 c canola oil
4 eggs
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
5 very ripe mashed bananas
2 tsp vanilla extract

Mix all dry ingredients, make a well in the center and add eggs, oil and mashed bananas. Lightly mix these wet ingredients together in the well, then start stirring in the dry. Mix just until no dry lumps remain.
Use muffin papers or lightly spray or oil muffin tin.
Fill muffin cups about 3/4 full and bake about 30-35 minutes at 350 degrees. Eat them drizzled with honey, or make a cream cheese frosting!

Dough enhancer

1 c soy lecithin granules (Bobs Red Mill)
1 c vital wheat gluten
1 c potato starch flour
1/2 c non-fat dry milk powder
2 tbsp citric acid (fruit fresh)
1 tbsp ground ginger (you won't taste it, helps the yeast)

Mix well then store in a quart mason jar with clean tight fitting lid, in the refrigerator. Use as directed in baked goods, or as a rule of thumb, about 1 tbsp per cup of flour. This works best in recipes that use whole grain flours, not really necessary for all white flour recipes, but then I might only use a teaspoon per cup of flour for those recipes.

This post is linked to Lets Do Brunch!
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