Archive for the ‘NaBloPoMo’ Category


Crochet Petite Scarf

November 20, 2013

Here’s a crochet scarf for that in-between weather when it’s chilly but not quite deep-freeze weather. It’s quick to make because it’s not very long, plus it’s worked with a size N hook, which is large. The flower is made separately and sewn on.


Note the button on the left side – quite a few people commented on the pattern saying that there were no instructions for fastening the scarf. Some people added a button and buttoned it through the center of the flower. I decided to keep the button behind-the-scenes. I thought I’d be able to fasten the button through the back of the scarf behind the flower, but that didn’t work too well. Instead, I made a short chain that I tied on as a loop behind the flower.


Here’s a close-up that hopefully shows what’s going on. The loop fits over the button and secures the scarf, but the button and loop aren’t visible.


Project notes:

  • The scarf pattern is Petite Scarf from Lion Brand Yarn. The pattern is free, but you may need to log in to access it.
  • Instead of the flower that’s part of the pattern, I made the flower from an ear wrap I had just finished making. I liked the flower so much, I thought I’d use that one instead.  It goes great with the scarf and is just the right size.

Crochet Ear Warmer / Headband

November 19, 2013

Ear warmer, headband, head wrap…whatever you call it, it’s a good way to keep your ears warm in chilly weather. It’s also a super-easy and quick crochet project.

Crochet ear warmer

I have a stretchy fleece ear warmer that’s very functional, but not very cute, so I’m looking forward to being a bit more stylish this winter. And I’ll be coordinated, because I used the same yarn that I used for this scarf.

Next, I made a green one to give as a gift; this one includes the (very cute!) flower that’s part of the pattern. I also gave this one a ribbed effect by crocheting through the back loop. I love how this one turned out and plan to make another one for myself, maybe in a bright color.


On both of the ear warmers, I added two buttons, figuring that after a while it might stretch out and then I can switch to the other button (washing it should help it shrink up a little bit too). The two-button technique is good if you are giving this as a gift and don’t know the exact size of the person’s head (I don’t know about you, but I don’t know anyone’s head measurements!).


Project notes:

  • I followed the instructions at Frayed Knot, but instead of counting the rows, I wrapped it around my head as I was making it and kept going until it was long enough. I made the green one a little shorter than the brown one; it’s a gift, and I think my friend’s head is smaller than mine.
  • If you have a button in mind, have it handy and make sure that the buttonhole is the correct size. If you buy a button after you make the ear warmer, take it to the store so you can be sure you’re buying the proper size button.
  • If you’re not familiar with crocheting through the back loop, check out this post to see examples of both loops, front loop, and back loop.
  • The brown yarn is Lion Brand Quick & Easy Mohair Look in color 403, Camel Spray. I bought it a couple of years ago, so I don’t know if it’s still available. The green yarn is Red Heart Super Saver in color 0624, Tea Leaf. The green one is stretchier.

Frozen Bananas with Magic Shell

November 18, 2013

Magic Shell, the ice cream topping that hardens when poured onto ice cream, is a blast from my past. When I discovered that you can make it with chocolate chips and coconut oil, I was thrilled. And then, America’s Test Kitchen improved on the recipe by adding vanilla, espresso powder, cocoa powder, salt, and vanilla. Perfection! It’s super-chocolatey, hardens beautifully, and isn’t waxy.

Of course it’s great on ice cream. But what happens when you run out of ice cream? Well, you can put it on frozen bananas!

I got on a roll making chocolate-dipped frozen bananas when I saw this post on Sugar Hero. I made her version of the bananas a few times; toasted coconut is my favorite topping. Then one day I ended up with some leftover magic shell and no ice cream and wondered how it would work on a frozen banana. It worked quite well, thank you!

Chocolate-dipped frozen banana

Here’s how:

  • Peel bananas, cut in half horizontally, and insert a stick in each piece (I couldn’t find old-fashioned popsicle sticks, so I used cookie sticks). Wrap in waxed paper, seal in a plastic bag, and freeze a few hours or overnight.
  • Make the magic shell topping ahead of time so that it has time to cool to room temperature. I highly recommend America’s Test Kitchen’s recipe (you’ll need to scroll down a bit to get to the section titled Chocolate Ice Cream Shell.)
  • Remove bananas from the freezer and unwrap. Using a large spoon, spoon the magic shell over the banana. It hardens right away, so work quickly to evenly coat the banana. And, since it does harden so quickly, if you want to sprinkle it with any toppings, you’ll need to work incredibly fast – I recommend having a helper so one set of hands can do the coating and the other set can do the sprinkling.
  • Wait until the chocolate is completely hardened before setting the banana down. Serve immediately.
  • Note: I usually pop several bananas in the freezer at once and then pull out a couple at a time to dip and serve. I’ve left the undipped bananas in the freezer for several days with no problems.

My Cool Oven Rack Tool

November 17, 2013

I was watching Baking with Julia one day and and noticed the neat tool she uses to pull out and push in her oven rack. I pointed it out to my husband and he made one for me! My oven rack does not glide in and out effortlessly, so the tool has been really handy and I think it’s spared me from some wrist burns.

I can use it to pull the rack out.


And to push it back in.


It’s one handy tool!



Top Kitchen Tool: Oil Mister

November 16, 2013

Earlier this year, I got hooked on watching America’s Test Kitchen. Frequently, they’ll review gadgets and kitchen equipment, and frequently after watching, I ponder whether I need a new or upgraded item in my kitchen. One item I decided to purchase is an Orka Flavor and Oil Mister by Mastrad (I bought one from Amazon for about $13). I’ve had it for a few months and haven’t felt the need to reach for the aerosol cooking spray I used to rely on.

To use it, fill to the fill line with the oil of your choice (I use canola), pump the lid a few times to build up some pressure, and then spray. You’ll need to pump each time you use it. The mist isn’t as fine as an aerosol can, but it provides even coverage and it’s worked well for both baking and cooking.

Here’s a picture of a pan that I sprayed, plus a couple of views of the mister.

oil mister

oil mister

oil mister

If you didn’t see the show, you can read about their review and watch a video of the segment here on America’s Test Kitchen’s website. (Everyone should be able to view the video. Some of the content on the site is available only if you log in.)


Roasted Red Pepper, Tomato, and Olive Sandwich Topping

November 15, 2013

Sandwich Topping

This sandwich topping combines so many things that I love: roasted red peppers, fresh and sundried tomatoes, plus olives and pickles. It’s my adaptation of a Jamie Oliver recipe for Stuffed Focaccia – in that recipe, a focaccia loaf is heated, split horizontally, and filled with a version of this topping. It’s delicious served that way, but also works well on other types of bread (I put it on some naan in the photo above), and tastes great as part of a more traditional sandwich, with sliced ham, turkey, and/or cheese. It would also be a welcome addition to a green salad.

I should probably call this Trader Joe’s sandwich topping, because many of the ingredients are things I stock up on there – all of the jarred items in the ingredients list are things I buy there. I got hooked on the cornichons a while ago and haven’t tired of them yet. As much as I love dill pickles, those tiny, sour pickles are addictive!

Roasted Red Pepper, Tomato, and Olive Sandwich Topping
Adapted from Jamie Oliver’s 30 Minute Meals

1 12-ounce jar roasted red peppers
1 teaspoon capers, drained and rinsed
3 oz sundried tomatoes in oil (I use a little less than half of an 8.5 ounce jar)
10 kalamata olives, pitted
10 pimento-stuffed green olives or pitted green olives
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
6 cornichons (also known as gherkins)
small bunch of parsley
minced hot pepper, to taste (optional)
juice from 1/2 lemon
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Parmesan, for serving

Roughly chop first 7 ingredients (roasted red peppers through cornichons) and put in a medium bowl. Remove leaves from parsley and roughly chop; add to bowl. Add hot pepper, if using. Stir in lemon juice and olive oil. Store covered in refrigerator. Remove from refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving to take the chill off. Serve on focaccia or as part of a sandwich. Tastes great with Parmesan grated on top.


An Easy Way to Squeeze Water Out of Frozen Spinach

November 14, 2013

I used to dread squeezing the water out of thawed frozen spinach. Using a strainer or cheesecloth is awkward and messy. Sometimes I’d do a shabby job and would end up with too much water in whatever I was cooking.

Then I discovered that a potato ricer is the perfect tool for spinach! A 10 ounce box fits perfectly.

Potato ricer with spinach

After a quick squeeze, the spinach is ready to be scooped out with a spoon or spatula.

Potato ricer with spinach

I also like to use my potato ricer when making mashed potatoes. I put cooked potatoes into the ricer, and squeeze them a mixing bowl, then add the rest of the ingredients and mix with a stand or hand mixer. My lovely all-metal ricer was handed down from my grandma.

Potato Ricer

I’m amazed that the price stamp hasn’t washed off after all these years. It makes me laugh every time I use it!

Potato Ricer


Sweet Bourbon Corn Pudding

November 13, 2013

The first time I had this dish was at my in-laws’ house. When I heard we were having corn pudding, I was thinking “yuck.” One bite and that yuck turned to yum! I must have gotten pretty excited about it, because my mother-in-law has made it for me several times since then, and now calls it “Jill’s corn.”

Bourbon Corn Pudding

This dish is a little sweet, a little bourbon-y, and full of corn goodness. Last year I made it for Thanksgiving instead of my family’s usual corn dish, and it went over really well. I made a double-batch to ensure that I had leftovers; it’s just as good reheated in the microwave the next day. 

Sweet Bourbon Corn PuddingFrom AARP The Magazine

3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons bourbon
2 large eggs
3/4 cup evaporated milk
2 cups canned cream-style corn (note that this is 2 cups, not 2 cans – you’ll need a little more than 1 can)
2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350°.

  1. Spray an 8″ square baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. In a small bowl, mix the cornstarch and bourbon.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and milk until combined. Whisk in the cornstarch and bourbon mixture. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir with a spoon. Pour into prepared baking dish. Bake 45-48 minutes or until lightly browned and no longer jiggly in the center. Serve warm.

Note: I usually have to bake it longer, especially if making a double-batch.


Two-Ingredient Chocolate Buttercream

November 12, 2013

Frosting made with just butter and chocolate chips? Believe it!


It looks like frosting, tastes like frosting, and is really easy to make.

Cupcakes with frosting

Heads up:  You need to plan ahead a bit because the butter and chocolate chips are melted, cooled, and then brought back to room temperature before mixing into a fluffy, smooth frosting. But it’s worth the wait! You’ll find the recipe here on Cookies and Cups. I made a smaller amount, using 1/2 cup of butter and 1/2 cup of chocolate chips, which worked just fine.


Chalkboard Labels: A Reality Check

November 11, 2013

After seeing a lot of cute chalkboard labels on containers, I decided to make my own. I bought a roll of chalkboard contact paper, a paper punch, and chalk. I punched some labels and put them on my pantry containers. So far, so good.

Then I wrote on the labels. My non-artistic handwriting, combined with the cylindrical pieces of chalk, didn’t result in an attractive label. I dug up a sharpener for a long-gone “chubby” makeup pencil; it did a good job of sharpening the chalk, which made it easier to write on the labels.

And then. I used the containers and realized that when I grabbed them, my hand smudged the chalk. Even now that I know I’m going to smudge it, I still manage to grab the containers in a way that I smudge the label.


So, they kind of work, but I’m not holding my breath for my pantry to be featured in a home decorating magazine!


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