Monthly Archives: February 2013

Ghirardelli Chocolate-Covered Cherry Brownies

Excuse the poor lighting; this was taken under fluorescent lights in my cubicle at work.

Last night I made these brownies for a co-worker.  They were inspired by the chocolate cherry cake balls I recently saw on Hungry Happenings.  If I had more time, I probably would have followed Beth’s recipe as-is.  With more ideas than time, however, I wondered if I could instead suspend the cherries in a sheet cake.  Or maybe brownies, since the batter would be more likely to hold the cherries in place than cake batter would.  That’s the ticket.

Since I am sensitive to gluten, I don’t have traditional baking products (flour, refined sugar, etc.) in my kitchen pantry.  When I bake for my co-workers, I typically start with a mix and ‘pimp’ it to add a more homemade taste.  Ghirardelli Brownies are a great go-to mix.  I bought two boxes, because I wanted a thick, but chewy, brownie to complete cover the cherries in the batter.  I followed the directions on the box, except I substituted the reserved maraschino juice for the water called for in the recipe.

The full recipe is posted below, but I wanted to show you guys some of my technique.  I spread half the brownie batter in the prepared pan, and then I evenly spaced the cherries on top.  Using a small ice cream scoop, I added more dollops of brownie batter between the cherries.  Then, using an offset spatula, I spread the additional batter over and around the cherries.  I don’t think that I will need to be so meticulous about this next time, since the brownies rise in baking and cover the cherries well.

Before I put the brownies in the oven, I started to worry that the stems would burn.  They are completely saturated in a super sugary syrup (say that three times fast).  Never fear, I made them all little aluminum foil overcoats to protect them during baking.  (Sorry for the blurry photo; it was late and my kitchen lighting leaves a lot to be desired.)  Unfortunately the stems still got a little crispy, but who cares?  Unless you guys were planning to tie them in knots with your tongue…just saying.  When the brownies come out of the over, just slip their coats off the stems.

I wanted the frosting on these brownies to be rich and sugary, almost like candy.  I decided to use a variation of the frosting that I make for Texas Sheet Cake.  While it was warm, I poured it over the still-warm brownies.  It was easier than I thought to dodge the cherry stems.  I think any other frosting may be more difficult to maneuver, but you could skip the frosting altogether.

Next time around I will probably use more cherries spaced more closely together, and I will cut these into smaller brownies.  Then it will be easy to eat these in one bite while pulling out the cherry stem.  As is, there isn’t as much cherry flavor in each bite as I would like.  And there is a danger of getting a cherry stem up your nose as you daintily nibble the edges.  Not that I would know anything about that.

Chocolate-Covered Cherry Ghirardelli Brownies

2 20-ounce boxes of Ghirardelli Chocolate Supreme Brownie Mix
24 maraschino cherries, drained
1/2 c. reserved maraschino cherry juice
2/3 c. vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 cup unsalted butter
4 T. Ghirardelli unsweetened cocoa powder
6 T. milk
1 t. vanilla
1 1/2 pounds powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 325°F and prepare 13×9-inch baking pan by lightly greasing or spraying with non-stick cooking spray.

Mix together the maraschino cherry juice, vegetable oil, and eggs until well combined.  Add the dry brownie mix and chocolate syrup packets from both boxes of mix.  Stir until the dry mix is just incorporated into the wet ingredients.  Do not over-mix.

Spread half of brownie batter in the prepared pan.  Evenly space the drained cherries on top of the batter in the pan.  Using a small ice cream scoop, add more dollops of brownie batter between the cherries.  With an offset spatula, spread the additional batter over and around the cherries.

Wrap the cherry stems with aluminum foil so that they won’t burn.  Then place the pan in the oven for 50-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Immediately after taking the brownies from the oven, begin melting the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. When melted, add the cocoa and stir to combine.  Remove the pan from the heat and add the milk and vanilla.  Stir again, then add the powdered sugar a cup or two at a time, stirring with each addition. When all the powdered sugar has been added, continue to stir briskly until the frosting is smooth.  Pour the warm frosting over the still-warm brownies.  Allow to cool slightly, or completely if you can resist the warm chocolatey temptation, before cutting.

Makes 24 brownies.


Catalog Hack: Uncommon Goods Cookbook Bird House

Woohoo!  It’s time again for the Pinterest Challenge.  I swear, when Sherry and Katie first imagined up this link party, I almost started blogging.  But then I didn’t.  I did, however, enjoy following along…kind of like the shy girl who isn’t quite ready to join in the reindeer games.  Now I’m ready to show off my bright and shiny nose first catalog hack project.

A few months ago, I pinned this Julila Child cookbook bird house after seeing it in the Uncommon Goods catalog.  I love the concept.  Books in any form are my thing, but I am especially digging upcycled book projects like these:

Inspired, I made a quick run to the craft store to buy bright, shiny new supplies.

This is my first time using the Mod Podge Outdoor.  I’m hoping that using it will give me the option to display this birdhouse outdoors (probably in a somewhat protected area).  I’m not saying I will; a girl just likes to have options.  I next headed to the thrift store to find a vintage cookbook that caught my fancy.  I’m not sure it gets any more perfect than The American Girl Cookbook, circa 1966.  Well, maybe a vintage Julia Child cookbook, but my Goodwill store didn’t have that in stock.

Usually I wouldn’t be able to tear apart a cookbook for a project like this.  Instead, I would curl up and read it like a good book (once or twice) while admiring the lovely illustrations.  Then I would add it to my hoard.  Maybe I would give a recipe or two a try…maybe not.  This cookbook, however, was just plain grody.  They don’t photograph well, but there are actually dried-up bug guts stuck to the broken binding in the shot above.  Ewww!  No curling up with this one.  Well, except for the dead bugs.  I couldn’t resist paging through the book and admiring some of the more ‘creative’ recipes, but afterward I felt like Lady Macbeth.  I couldn’t get my hands, or the cookbook, clean enough.

The bird house that I purchased came with a perch already installed.  Gently rocking it back and forth, I was able to break the glue without damaging the wood.  With more twisting, rocking, and pushing, I was able to remove the perch.  My spoon was slightly larger than the hole left with the perch removed, so I used a drill to make it a little larger.

If you haven’t noticed yet, my sense of humor is more than a little quirky.  So it will come as no surprise that I picked out all the fun egg recipes from the cookbook to paper my bird house.  Ha!  Get it?

With my pages selected, I measured the front and the side panels.  The pages were a little narrower than the pre-made bird house walls, so I centered the pages on each side.  I cut the pages according to my measurements.  To make the holes for the entry and perch on the front of the birdhouse, I used a pencil to poke through the book page, creasing the edges around the holes as I went.  I then removed the page, laid it face-down, and trimmed the bent edges with scissors.  I had to whip out the cuticle scissors for the finer detail cutting.  Always resourceful, I am.

Please forgive my Yoda impression.  I next covered the sides of the bird house and the backs of the cookbook pages with mod podge.  I placed the pages back onto my prepared bird house walls and used a small brayer to smooth them and remove any air bubbles.  For tighter areas, I used a small plastic putty knife.

I let the mod podge dry for 15 minutes.  I am bad at this waiting part, but I was fortunate to have a dilemma to solve in the interim.  Remember that my cookbook pages were narrower than the bird house walls.  What could I do with those bare corners?  Suddenly, I remembered that I had some leftover wooden ‘fork’ party picks.  Why couldn’t I use these as a sort of gingerbread detail on my cookbook bird house?  The perch was going to be a spoon after all.  What goes better with spoons than forks?

With minutes to go in my dry time, I trimmed down eight wood forks to size.  Hmm, but I couldn’t leave them wood-pick-colored.  Black Sharpie to the rescue.  With the newly-black forks in place, other bare wood parts called out for attention.  The solution?  Yellow craft paint.  I think it may be the same color as the Petersik front door.

The mod podge had now dried enough, so that I could add the first top coat.  I covered the pages on all sides with light, even coats.  I let them dry again and repeated this step twice.  Eventually I will also mod podge the book roof of the bird house.  For now, however, it is just resting on top of the bird house.

I inserted the spoon and called the result my prototype.  I wish the walls were a little taller, so that they were in better proportion to the book roof.  Maybe I will give the bird house some height by adding another wood box to the bottom.  I’m also not crazy about the blank part of the cookbook pages showing on the overhang.  I wonder if I should turn the book around, so that the graphic details of the page headers can be seen?  I think the spoon will also look a little less LARGE, if I add some height.

Now folks, this is how I recommend NOT to complete a project.  I should have done all my painting (and thinking and planning for that matter), before I started waving the mod podge brush around.  But sometimes projects evolve on their own…or at least they do for me.  In these instances, I let go of my fear and consider it an adventure.  Or at least a learning experience.  Do you do this too?

Oh, and share the love by visting Sherry’s, Katie’s, Megan’s, and Michelle’s challenge posts.

Antique Mall Inspiration: For You and For Me

This weekend I did some antique mall shopping with my mom and my aunt.  I found some items that I could not live without.  Look for those in future blog posts. There was also inspiration for future projects to be found, like the above painted advertising screen.  I had been playing with the idea of embroidering our back screen door, but now I’m thinking of how I can use paint instead.

When I saw this chair and ottoman, the first thought that popped into my head was “W.W.E.D.? (What would Emily do?)  She would reupholster those babies!”  I’m thinking a navy velvet.  There was a matching couch too.  I know, right?

This snapshot does not capture how mysteriously smoky the mirrors are on this chest.  Someone please go buy this now and give it a sleek new paint job to show off those mirrors to best advantage!  All three of the items can be found at Vic’s Antiques & Uniques.  Yes, I was able to leave them behind, but not without longing for what could have been.

This vintage tole chandelier is also still hanging in all her glory at Exit 76 Antique Mall.  She is perfect just as she is, though those bulbs are questionable.  I sobbed a little as I walked away from her.

And then there was this candy dish at Gilley’s Antique Mall.  Not my style at all.  The flowers painted on the milk glass are just too sweet, not that there’s anything wrong with that (name that TV sitcom).  But seeing it did give me a super awesome idea for some milk glass passed down to me from my grandmother.  I’ll give you a hint.  Other influences are Catherine Holm and vintage Pyrex patterns.  Oh, I can’t wait to try it out, so that I can show you guys what I have done!

Quick Pickles: {Snow} Peas and Carrots

I have the best intentions.  Weekly I order a bin of fresh, beautiful produce from Green Bean Delivery with plans to up my daily intake of fruits and vegetables.  Then life gets in the way, I eat carryout on the couch a couple of times, and I am left with task of making room in the fridge for my next weekly delivery.

This week, I found myself staring down some snow peas and pre-cut carrots languishing in the crisper drawer.  (The pre-cut carrots were not purchased from Green Bean, but were instead left over from a quick hummus run.  The bunch carrots in the shot above, however, are GB lovelies.)  With the refrigerator door wide-open, it occurred to me that I needed more pickles in my life.  A quick survey of the pickle shelf — yes, you read that correctly, an entire shelf — revealed jars of pickled cucumbers, peppers, olives, ginger, limes (my favorite Indian condiment), and tomatoes.  Not enough, I decided.

If you follow me on Pinterest, then you may know that I have already tried my hand at quick-pickled onions, beets, broccoli stems, and sugar snap peas.  With these recipes as inspiration, I prepped the snow peas and carrots for pickling.  In other words, I washed the snow peas and drained the pre-cut carrots.

Then my obsessive nature kicked in, and I removed all the tiny little stems from the snow peas.

To make both sets of pickles, I followed this basic recipe.  For the snow peas, I used rice wine vinegar, ginger root, shallots, fresh mint, and red pepper flakes.  The carrots were made with cider vinegar, fresh thyme, whole garlic cloves, and whole peppercorns.  I encourage you to play around with ingredients to use what you have on hand and what pleases your palate.

Quick Pickles
1 lb. produce of your choice, sliced into 1- or 2-bite-sized pieces if needed
2 c. vinegar of your choice (rice wine, cider, white wine, plain ol’ white…)
4 T. raw honey
1/4 t. ground or 1/2 t. whole dried pepper of your choice (peppercorns, red pepper…)
4 t. kosher salt
4 sprigs fresh, or 1 t. dried, herbs of your choice (dill, thyme, mint, oregano…)
aromatics of your choice, peeled and sliced (garlic cloves, sliced ginger root, sliced shallots…)

For firmer produce, like carrots or onions, blanch them in boiling water for 60 seconds, drain, and run under cold water to cool.

Place prepared produce in a quart canning jar, adding herbs and aromatics as you go.  Pack the produce as tightly as you can.  If you have some left over, it’s okay.  You will be able to fit it in later.

In a small saucepan, combine vinegar, honey, pepper, and kosher salt.  Heat this mixture until it begins to boil, then remove from heat.  Pour the hot vinegar mixture over the packed produce in the canning jar.  If you had any produce that wouldn’t fit before, you can probably fit it in now.  Place the lid on the jar and close.  Allow to cool to room temperature, then place in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours before eating.

Quick pickles will keep in the refrigerator for about a month.

Just a little under 24 hours, I cracked these babies open.  Sometimes I have trouble following directions.

As I said at the beginning of this post, I have the best of intentions.  I had an hour between appointments today, and I convinced myself that it was enough time to come home, love on my dogs, take a couple shots for this post, and eat before driving the 30 minutes to my destination.  Ha!  Within minutes of taking the picture above, I was running out of the house with plate in hand.  I took bites at stoplights…and a few in-between.  This was made more challenging, since the Vegenaise and Organic Ville BBQ sauce were a little drippy on my Smoking Goose roasted turkey and swiss sandwich.  If you’ve ever had Rudi’s gluten-free bread, you know that there were also plenty of little holes from which the saucy goodness could escape.

Texting while driving is illegal in Indiana, as it is in many states.  I mention this, because eating this sandwich while driving probably wasn’t the smartest thing either.  But (dear husband, close your eyes for this part), I only almost hit one car, and that was while I licked my fingers…not while balancing the plate with my steering hand.

I might have also taken this shot while the car was in motion, but I waited until the next stoplight to write my comment and post to Instagram.  Law enforcement officers, please do not arrest me.  I won’t do it again.

Not Every Idea Works

This evening I started craving a burger.  But not only a burger; I wanted a burger topped with cottage cheese.  I mean, why not cottage cheese instead of Cheddar or Swiss?  The more I thought about it, the better the idea sounded.

But what do I eat with this burger?  Oooh!  I have some crimini mushrooms that I need to cook soon, and there are some grape tomatoes that should be used too.  Why not roast these and serve them over the cottage-cheese-topped-burger?

So I roasted the mushrooms and tomatoes, fried up some bison burgers, put it all together with a side of pickles, and took my first bite.  Hmm.  Another bite.  Nothing like I had imagined it would be.  The cottage cheese was too bland, the mushrooms too tough…and the whole thing just didn’t work together like it did in my mind.  It was about as blah as my food photography skills.  (Still working toward that goal.)

So why waste your time and mine with a post about a failed meal attempt?  Because if I didn’t try new things, then life would be stale.  If I didn’t try, I wouldn’t know what works and what doesn’t.  Since I was a little kid experimenting with the spices in my mama’s cabinet, I have played with food.  And when something new works, IT’S AWESOME!  So much more rewarding than the same-old-same.  And when it doesn’t work, I move on with the knowledge that next time will be better.

So what life experiment have you tried lately?

A Fox, A Squirrel, and A Bluebird Walk in to a Bar

Recently I posted about a gift that my husband and I bought for ourselves.  But we didn’t stop there.  On a warmer than usual December Saturday, we decided to wander down Mass Ave. in Indianapolis to do some more “Christmas shopping”.  One of the shops on our shop-local-hit-list was The Inventorialist.  We had done some window shopping on a previous evening, and I swear the inside of that store is what my dreams look like, so we had to go back.  I’m so happy we did, because the inventory a The Inventorialist exceeded my expectations.  We bought SO MANY things, but these prints from Aesthetic Apparatus are among my favorites.

If you hang around for very long, you will learn that I am obsessed with birds.  And squirrels.  And foxes.  And basically an entire cast of wild creatures.  My dogs are also obsessed with birds, squirrels, and an entire cast of wild creatures.  Though, I’m not sure how they would handle an encounter with a fox.  Recently we stumbled onto a hawk on our morning walk, and Buddy immediately dropped to the ground while Greta quietly scooted herself behind my husband’s legs for protection.

By the way, why is the plural of fox foxes, when the plural of ox is oxen?  Maybe I will start saying foxen.

Anyway.  When we were buying the prints, Kris mentioned that they would fit perfectly in an album cover frame.  Score!  Because we were looking for a clean-line frame at a budget-friendly price.  Remember, we had done quite a bit of “gift” shopping at this point.

Coupons in hand, I recently headed to the craft store to buy album cover frames.  As i was pouting about browsing the single option available at that store, my eyes wandered to these t-shirt frames.  Though the look and quality were about the same as the album frames, they were deeper.  Wouldn’t this give the prints more presence on the wall, I thought?  And when we are ready to replace the frames with something a little more quality, I may have more options for re-using the t-shirt frames than three lonely album cover frames.  (Yes, I am already dreaming up new crafty ideas.)

I placed the prints in the frames, and began a series of measurements.

  • I measured the width of the frames (13″).  I know the measurement is listed on the paper insert of the frame, but I wanted to know the width from one outside edge to the other.
  • I measured the center of the frames to double-check that I had replaced the hanging hardware in the correct position.
  • I measured the height of the frames (13″).  Yes, I know these are square.  So this measurement should be the same as the width, but I wanted to make sure.
  • I played around with the spacing between the three frames until I it looked just about right, and then I measured the distance between the frames (1 1/2″).  Then I measured the total height of the three frames as they would hang in a vertical arrangement on the wall (42″).

Next, I took my measurements to the wall.

  • I measured width of the wall where I wanted to hang the prints.  Well, really my husband did this.  Then he measured the center of that width.
  • He measured the total height of the three frames, so that the center of the arrangement was at approximate eye level.
  • He held a frame up against the wall, so that I could envision how the frames would look in relationship to the adjacent curtains, built-in bench, and furniture.  Do you all do this with your hanging partners?  Well, then you know that some discussion ensued.
  • We adjusted the measurements to take into account the curtains, bench, and discussion.
  • He measured up the distance of the frame height (13″) from the bottom of the total height (42″) and hammered in the first nail
  • He measured the distance of the fram height plus the spacing (14 1/2″) and hammered in the second nail.  He repeated this step for top nail.

Before hanging the prints, we played around with the order in which we wanted to hang them.  As you can see in the shot above, each print has a different colored circle.  I’ve been calling it a ball.  The black ball in the bluebird print ties it to the black squirrel, and the red-orange ball in the squirrel print ties it to the orange fox.  After deciding that this the way to go, I hung framed prints on the wall.

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49/365 Aesthetic Apparatus prints #365project

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Finished, I immediately wondered if I should have hung the prints with the fox on top, the bluebird in the center, and the squirrel on the bottom.  I am really liking how the colors in the prints also pull from red-orange framed chess board with the turquoise and ivory marble chess pieces on the table below.  What do you think?  Leave them as they are?

Historic Fixture

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gas pipe light #upcycle

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Sometimes the best gifts are the ones you buy yourself.  Or at least that is what my husband and I kept telling ourselves this Christmas.  As we shopped for others, we ALSO kept finding the perfect gifts for us.  We tried to resist, but in the case of this Peared Creation Classic American Brewery Lamp that we found at Homespun, our attempts were futile.  “To resist it is useless; it is useless to resist it….”

Umm, sorry!  (But can anyone name the artist and song?)  Seriously though, this light fixture had everything we love:

vintage ♥
upcycled ♥
industrial ♥
local ♥
handmade ♥
beer ♥

Beer, you ask?  Yes.  This lamp uses a vintage beer bottle from Indianapolis Brewing Company.  (To learn more about IBC, check out this post on Historic Indianapolis.)

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Indianapolis Brewing Company

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Add to this the fact that the light switch is a vintage faucet handle, and…well, who can blame us for eagerly finding a place in our budget to possess her?  Just look at her when she’s turned on.

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Indianapolis Brewing Co.

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What gift have you given yourself lately?