Monday, May 31, 2010

A Day in the Garden


I've been meaning to post these for awhile now.  They are the results of a Mother's Day visit in Jacksonville, FL.  I grew up there, but I forgot just how beautiful and lush it was at the height of Spring.  

1- A Red- Headed Woodpecker looks for food on an old oak tree

2- Macro shooting of the buds of a hydrangea bush

3- A Male Cardinal in the drive

Friday, May 28, 2010

Sunsets, Galore!

Forgive my distance between posts, I have been vacationing on Estero Island (think of Sanibel).  It is always one of my most looked forward to parts of the year, this year not being an exception.  Sure, it has fallen in a very hectic time.  I've been moving from apartment to apartment, looking for a place to live in South Carolina, looking for jobs in South Carolina, lining up voice lessons with my future teachers, lining up remaining lessons with my students, packing for real . . . well, you get it.

But man, were the sunsets worth it!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Mother's Day

We made Mother's Day cards!  Inexpensive, creative, makes Mothers swoon.  

In a word: brilliant!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Orange Chocolate Almond Biscotti

My friend Hali and I decided to make biscotti.  I had been wanting to try my hand at it, even though I never really eat any.  How hard could it really be?  All the ingredients looked tasty, you dip it into coffee, not overly sweet, sounds good to me.
We decided to go off of this recipe as we already had most of the ingredients in the pantry:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 egg white
1/2 cup chopped almonds
2 tablespoons orange zest
4 (1 ounce) squares bittersweet chocolate

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a cookie sheet.
In a medium bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Beat in the egg and egg white, then mix in almonds and orange zest. Knead dough by hand until mixture forms a smooth ball.
Roll the dough into a log about 10 inches long; place on the prepared cookie sheet. Press down, or roll with a rolling pin, until log is 6 inches wide.
Bake for 25 minutes in preheated oven. After baking, cool on a rack. With a serrated knife, cut into 1 inch slices. Place slices, cut side down, back onto the baking sheet.
Return them to the oven for an additional 20 to 25 minutes; turning over half way through the baking. Melt the chocolate over a double boiler or in the microwave oven. Allow chocolate to cool but not harden before dipping one side of the biscotti into it. Place cookies on wire racks, chocolate side up, until cool and dry.

This recipe called for dipping the biscotti in melted chocolate, but we decided to add the chunked chocolate into the batter.  We used 4 ounces of 100% unsweetened baker's chocolate that my boyfriend found on sale at the grocery a few weeks ago.  It added a creamy richness without adding too much sweetness.  We found that because of this the batter was a little too wet, so we added some flour.  This stickiness also led us to forgo the rolling into a log and rolling pinning.  Instead we spooned it directly onto the baking sheet in what looked like a log.  Kinda.
We also skipped the cooling process between the toasting of the slices on each side because, well, it was getting late.  We had already whipped up some chicken breasts and a delightful potato and zucchini casserole.  It seemed fine.  No noticeable problems.  I think they lie about the cooling times anyway...
And as if the recipe could not get any better, we decided to add a glaze!  We had two already zested oranges just looking for another use.  We juiced those babies and stirred in confectioner's sugar until it started to thicken.  When the biscotti cooled we poured, drizzled, and slathered the glaze on top of the biscotti.  Delish! Something I will definitely try again, maybe as Christmas presents.
The picture looks delicious, right?

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Salvaging Candles

     I love candles, burning them frequently.  However, I had a few that didn't burn properly, or the wick was faulty, or just a general fail.  All of my pillars were fine, I can take care of those with proper "hugging," or folding in of the edges as it tunnels down to burn the wax evenly, but the jar candles were more difficult.  Being a cheap college student on a budget I tried to devise a way to revive these candles.  Candles are expensive these days.  

     So I devised a makeshift plan to melt the wax down and combine them with a new wick.  They were both vanilla scented, so it should work out.  With the help of all my boyfriend's awesome kitchen equipment (i.e. double boiler system, candy thermometer, random screwdriver) it went pretty smoothly. 

     The pictures chronicle my journey.  Candle wax melted well between 150-175 degrees, even faster with some stirring.  I didn't want it to get any hotter for fear of the glass shattering.   I poured in layers around the wick that I attached to the bottom with some warm wax as glue.

     My project was almost complete when my roommate brought out his devastated pillars!  Oy!  No worries.  I grabbed a can out of the trash and began to melt them down as well to make... a CANdle!  Sorry, that was uncalled for...  The can is not near as insulated as the glass jar, so it will need to burn on a coaster or something.  Maybe I'll slip it in a beer coozie!  I also found that the lids of the jar candles made good tea light or votive holders.

     All in all, I saved a lot of wax and made two new candles.  Not bad for a throw together!  And I actually did something in the realm of "going green."  Now I can wear those silly recycle and reuse shirts... *rolls eyes*... or not.  Hopefully this will be helpful to someone else as well.