January 30, 2009

Two Spoonfuls: The Muffin Method

This week, I'm going to continue with Alton Brown's book, "I'm Just Here For More Food" by talking about The Muffin Method. Generally speaking, The Muffin Method is used for things like muffins, pancakes and quick breads.

Basically, the method is as follows:

- Sift together dry goods

- Combine all liquid ingredients (including sugars - because sugar dissolves so quickly, it's considered one of the "wet" ingredients)

- Add the wet ingredients to the dry. Do not overmix! Only mix the ingredients until they come together. There should be lumps at this point and they will bake out.

So, that's it. I had to give one of Alton's recipes a try, and I went with the least muffin-ey recipe in this section of the book. I've made "Chocolate Chip Cookie #10". Traditionally, cookies are made with the Creaming Method (we'll get to that in another post), but in this case, the butter is melted so the Muffin Method is used instead.

Technically, I'm not supposed to copy Alton's recipe out of the book, so I'll just tell you how it went.

Alton is a firm believer in using weight to measure ingredients, rather than volume. It's a much more accurate way to measure, especially with things like flour that can compact differently. I use my digital scale from when I was on Weight Watchers. It's great because you can set it back to zero after putting a container on it.

Another great tip I learned in this book is to use my food processor to sift the dry ingredients. This will aerate them and keep you from having to mess with those awful flour sifter thingies, eugh.

I used a small ice cream style scooper to dish out my dough. This seems to be a very standard method, but it's taken me ages to catch on. It'll make your life a lot easier if you do it this way rather than spooning the dough. What a mess. And, your cookies will all be the same size!! yay

I loved this recipe because the butter was melted. For some reason, creaming butter into a batter just makes me get all tense & nervous. I know, I'm weird that way. haha The final result was a really yummy cookie, and it was easy.


Now, I don't want to leave you empty handed, so here's where you can get Alton's other chocolate chip cookie recipes:

~ The Thin
~ The Chewy (This one uses the Muffin Method)
~ The Puffy

And if you'd like to see Alton's Good Eats episode where he makes all 3 of these recipes, click here for part 1 and here for part 2. Cool!
While we're on the subject of chocolate chip cookies, you might want to check out this article from the NY Times, it's a keeper.


I believe Jenn is searing this week, let's go see what she made...

January 27, 2009

A Weekend in Seattle

Well, it was a quick weekend, but nice just the same. Nick and I looked at about 6 houses and saw a few more we liked. It was fun and it even snowed for us! We're really glad we decided to make the trip, we definitely accomplished some things. The only downside is that I didn't take a single photo! Can you believe that? haha

Don't worry, I may not have taken any pictures, but I brought home a couple new friends.

There's a great shop in the Seattle airport called Fireworks. They've got a little of everything so I enjoy a good browse each time we pass through (here's what I got last time). This weekend I found this adorable bunny. How could I resist a bunny in a striped cardigan? I'll be giving him away as a gift at some point.

I also brought home a little sock monkey. He's got somewhat angry eyes, but I love his striped appendages. He's got magnets in his hands & feet too. I think he'll enjoy hanging in my sewing room.

We were only there for two days but we packed a lot in. I have to thank Jenn for the burgers & cupcakes. We had such a yummy time!! See you soon. :)

Now I must get back to work. I need to get some new monkeys made for the shop.

January 23, 2009

Workin' At It

Guess what I got in the mail this week? Yes! Knitting looms. Thanks to Lisa, I had to try these. I took a knitting class a while back, but I haven't had much time to devote to mastering the needles. So, when I saw Lisa's posts on her looms I thought to myself, "hey, self, that looks like fun".

So, the other night I got out some thick brown yarn (yeah, I've got lots of brown yarn, so what!) and gave the tiniest loom a try.

Here's what I made, and it didn't even take me that long. It's a little boring in this color, but what newborn baby doesn't need a wooly hat?

I can always add to it and jazz it up a bit. What do you think?

I've also finally figured out a way to label my monkeys. I'm approaching the 600 mark and they're still not branded! Terrible. I'm gonna give these little Shrinky Dink buttons a try. I think they look pretty nice and they don't take long to sew on or make.

I've got loads of other little projects going on right now, these are just a few. I've got a bigger project in the works starting tomorrow. Nick and I are flying up to Seattle to begin the house hunting process. Hooray!!!! We might get to move soon. That's on of my goals coming close to completion. :) Have a great weekend, and wish us luck!

January 16, 2009

Two Spoonfuls: Good Reads

Welcome to another episode of Two Spoonfuls with Ginny & Jenn. We've decided to get the new year started with a little help from Alton Brown of Good Eats fame. Cheesy logo and theme song aside, Good Eats is a great show! Naturally, you can watch the show, but Jenn and I would like to introduce you to a couple of Alton's books. I'll be talking about the baking side of things with "I'm Just Here For More Food" and Jenn's going to tell you about Alton's first book, "I'm Just Here For The Food", a sort of general cooking primer.

First, I'm going to let you in on a little secret about me. I'm not one of those Food Network junkies, so it takes a lot to get me watching a cooking show on a regular basis. I know I have a lot to learn about cooking and baking and the way Alton presents information really works for me. It's one thing to open a box, add some eggs & maybe a little milk and throw it in the oven, but I want to know why. That's what's so great about this book. I'm learning what the difference is between wheat flour & cake flour, and how to measure it properly. Did you know that once you've opened a can of baking powder it's only good for 6 months?! I didn't.

"I'm Just Here For More Food" is divided into sections as follows:

Introduction - All about good baking habits, equipment, measuring and other basics

The Parts Department - The ingredients in the ingredients and the stuff in your pantry like flour, sugar, butter and eggs.

The book is filled with cool illustrations and diagrams that appeal to my visual side.

Then there are the methods of mixing:

The Muffin Method

The Biscuit Method (mmmmmm) and The Pie Variation

The Creaming Method

The Straight Dough Method

The Egg Foam Method

and The Custards

Along the way are tons of factoids, diagrams, notes and other little tidbits that really make this book stand out. I love a cookbook with pictures, but it's even better when you get actual helpful information and knowledge that will help you make the recipe a success.

What I've Learned So Far:

I'm only in the Parts Department section but I already know enough to notice that when I tried a recipe from my new Ben & Jerry's cookbook last week, something was wrong. I followed the directions for Blonde Brownies to the letter, I used the pan they said to use and this is what I got.

A big cookie. Not brownies. There was definitely a lack of moisture in the batter and the pan they suggested was obviously way too big. Perhaps the 1 egg should have been 2? Maybe there should have been milk? Anyway, the big cookie was really tasty, it just wasn't brownies. My point is, that now that I'm reading Alton's book, I feel confident enough to try adding something next time to make the dough into batter. I knew there needed to be more moisture in the recipe. I hope to get a lot of knowledge out of Alton's book and I plan to read it cover to cover.

Now I'm anxious to see how Jenn's doing with "I'm Just Here For The Food", because it's next on my reading list!

January 12, 2009


Know what these are?

Super deluxe handmade pretend gadgets!

Because I don't happen to own every popular gadget in the world, I asked a friend to make me a few fake ones.

I painted them black & now I have an Amazon Kindle, an iPhone and an iPod Nano to use in my monkey photos. These are great for making the monkeys too. I'll be able to check sizes with my little stand-ins.

Pretty neat, huh?

January 07, 2009

On My Desk - January 7, 2009

Hey! It's my first On My Desk post of the year...cool. Here's what's on my cutting table today...

I had a few bibs to make for orders. Too bad I can't sell the ones that are already made, haha. Perhaps if I get them listed in my shop, hmmm.

I made two new monkeys last night. Marsha and Sebastian. Marsha is monkey #550!!! Wow, and she's already been adopted. Goodbye Marsha.

(click this image to see how great the quilting is)
I've got some binding to do. Unfortunately, my shops are busy today so I'm going to have to get to this project tomorrow. The quilting was done at a shop with a long arm quilting machine. I wish I had one of those.

Aren't things supposed to be slow this time of year?

January 05, 2009

Forced Air

I may have been the only person in Target today who thought to buy a humidifier on a rainy day. I'm so glad they had the one I wanted.

What shall I call him?

January 02, 2009

Two Spoonfuls: Comfort Foods

What could be better, when the weather's cold, than a hot chicken pot pie? I found this recipe in one of my old, circa 1997, Pillsbury mini cookbooks. These pot pies are super easy to make and can be thrown together with stuff you probably have on hand. The only thing I had to buy was 2 10oz. ramekins. I got mine at Sur la table because it's right near my house.

Let's get started.

Chicken Pot Pies
1 (15 oz.) package refrigerated pie crusts (one circle of crust)
1 tsp. all purpose flour
2 Tbs. butter or margarine
2 (additional) Tbs. all purpose flour
1/8 tsp. poultry seasoning
dash pepper
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/3 cup milk
1 cup cubed cooked chicken
1 cup frozen mixed vegetables, thawed

1. Let 1 pie crust stand at room temperature for 15-20 minutes. Refrigerate the remaining crust for a later use.

2. Preheat oven to 400ºF. Roll out pie crust on cutting surface and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon flour. Turn crust, flour side down, onto ungreased cookie sheet or a sheet of wax paper. Invert 2 10oz. oven safe bowls or baking dishes over crust. Using a sharp knife, cut a circle 1/2" larger than rims of bowls. Remove bowls from crust. Line each bowl with crust, flour side down. Gently press crust into bowls. From remaining crust, cut desired shapes with a small cookie cutter to place on top of pies.

I used frozen pre-cooked grilled chicken strips. I always have them in my freezer and it keeps me from having to handle raw chicken...ewww.

3. In a small saucepan, melt butter (or margarine) over medium heat. Stir in 2 tablespoons flour, poultry seasoning and pepper; cook until mixture is smooth and bubbly. Gradually add broth and milk. Cook until mixture boils and thickens, stirring constantly. Stir in chicken and vegetables; cook until thoroughly heated. Divide mixture evenly into crust-lined bowls; top with pastry cutouts.

One of the greatest things about this recipe, for me, is that it makes just 2 pot pies.

4. Place bowls on cookie sheet to catch any spills. Bake at 400ºF for 20 to 30 minutes or until crust is golden brown.

Ginny's Notes:

1. These little pies are so easy to make and they're really good too. Yummy!!!

2. This recipe makes 2 pot pies but would be easy to double or triple to make more.

3. I've made these twice, and the 2nd time I wiped a little egg white over the pastry cutouts so they'd brown a bit more. I think it worked out well.

4. You can use any vegetables you want. I happened to have cauliflower, broccoli and carrots...and a bag of peas. Once the veggies were thawed, I cut some of them into smaller pieces so they'd be uniform in size.

5. We love gravy in my house. Next time I make these, I think I'll make a second batch of the "gravy" to use on mashed potatoes. mmmm


A Bit About Pies (According to Wikipedia)

"A pot pie is a type of baked savory pie with a bottom and top completely encased by flakey crusts and baked inside a pie tin to support its shape."
The pot pies in this recipe don't, technically" have a top crust, so I guess it's not a real, traditional American pot pie.

When in the UK, Nick and I love to eat Cornish Pasties. A Cornish pasty is a filled pastry case, commonly associated with Cornwall, United Kingdom (where Nick's dad is from). It differs from a pie as it is made by placing the filling on a flat pastry shape, usually a circle, and folding it to wrap the filling, crimping the edge to form a seal. The result is a raised semicircular package. The traditional Cornish pasty is filled with diced beef, sliced potato and onion, and baked.
Our friends the Brits also love a good Steak and Ale pie, which is more like a pot pie, but with ale in the gravy. Also a yummy treat.


Now, I need something to go with my pot pies. Let's see if Jenn has something yummy.

January 01, 2009


Just thought I'd pop in and wish everyone a Happy New Year!! Nick and I are spending a few days out of town with friends. I've been looking through my photos on Flickr this morning & thought it might be fun to use some of them to talk about some of my wishes for the coming year.

Nick and I are hoping to say farewell to the Bay Area this year. It's been nice, but we never planned to stay permanently.

I hope we can buy a house and begin to build our nest in Seattle. We'd prefer to live someplace with a little more weather (Jenn and I have lots of crafting plans too).

In February we're going to visit one of my favorite places, Walt Disney World! Yes, it's true. I worked at Disneyland for nearly 15 years and I still love Disney. I can't wait for the trip, and while we're there we'll see Nick's parents and our friends from Canada.

Speaking of Canada. . . I hope to be able to go back and visit my beloved Nova Scotia. I don't know if we'll squeeze it in this year, but one can hope, eh?

My biggest wish for 2009, is that I'll need to make some of these for my own baby. Keep your fingers crossed for me! And of course, I hope that everyone will be happy, healthy, safe and well fed too.

What are some of your hopes & wishes for the new year?