Monday, February 13, 2012

Crayon art! Turning crayons into a scene from "The Lorax"

Recently I joined Pinterest. I knew it would be a big mistake, and it has been. But, a very good one! I worried I would spend too many hours on Pinterest, but that is not exactly what has happened. I spend a few minutes a day on Pinterest, and hours on the projects I am inspired to do. Overall, that's not a bad thing! Except on days like today when I really need to be cleaning, or cooking, or something. Surely there is something else I should be doing, right?

The latest craze on Pinterest is melted crayon rainbow art. I'm sure you've seen it, but in case you haven't, it looks like this:

Very cool idea! Very colorful, and simple execution. Plus, who doesn't like melting crayons? It is fun, and you can get kids involved in the creation of art to hang around your house.

I love it, but I wanted to do something different. I googled "melted crayon dot art" because I had an idea in my head. And I found someone else who had tried it! This blog has a great photo tutorial for making your own dot art (or crayon pointillism if you want to sound super knowledgable and artistic):

My husband and I have recently started working to turn a strange little space at the top of our stairs into an art area for the kids. I decided I wanted the space to feel like a scene right out of my oldest's favorite book "The Lorax" by Dr. Seuss.'s what happened.

I went to Hobby Lobby and got a 2-pack of 11x15 canvases for only $5.99. Then I located the tremendously enormous box of crayons that no one uses anymore. Many are broken, misshapen, etc. But that doesn't matter for this. Keep in mind that you will need a LOT of certain colors if your picture has large spaces that are all the same color.  Then I chose a two-page spread from "The Lorax."

I decided to leave off the text, the Once-ler and his wagon, and the swans. I might add them somewhere else in the art nook a bit later.

Then I took a pencil and lightly sketched the main elements of the pages

Then it was time to start melting! I melted my crayons over burning candles. Be very careful if kids are going to be around while you do this. I would not recommend trying this with young children who want to help you. Each color melts at a different rate. Be careful because some colors burn if held too close to the flame. It was helpful for me to have a sheet of paper towel on hand in case I need to wipe burned wax off of my crayon.

By accident I made the sky too dark. Some colors melt a lot darker than you might think. But, I ended up making a two-tone sky, and it added a lot of depth. Here's the original sky color.

A close up of the texture on one of the canvases.

I don't consider myself an artist at all. My drawing skills are very limited. But crayon art is perfect for me! It is very imperfect by nature. All you need to be able to do is draw a basic picture, and then stamp the crayon into the right spot on your canvas. Very time consuming, but deeply gratifying.

Here's the finished diptych.

The art space is definitely not finished yet, but here's what my pictures look like on the wall.

If you decide to try this project for yourself, I'd love to see what you come up with!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Crochet Wristwarmers

Most of what I post on my blog has to do with gluten-free cooking and baking. Occasionally I've shared some of my writing. Today I'd like to share something I recently crocheted.

She looks like such a big girl reading her magazine (an Oriental Trading catalog - haha!) while wearing these little purple wristwarmers.

I was pretty pleased with myself that I whipped this pair out with no pattern. Hard to believe just a couple of years ago I was afraid to make hats!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

GF Soft Pretzels and Pretzels Dogs

We make soft pretzels all.the.time at my house. My preschooler thinks they are some kind of manna - necessary for life. At first, we made them all in the standard pretzel shape, but we've since grown more inventive. These can be shaped like letters, numbers, or even cut out with cookie cutters. My preschooler's current favorite are "Christmas pretzels." They are his favorite snack - even in late January!

This recipe is so easy, I had to share. I use my Gluten Free Flour Recipe #1 and it does not have xanthan gum added. If your flour includes xanthan gum, do not add more. If you do not need to eat gluten-free, you may use all-purpose (gluten) flour and omit the xanthan gum.

***Soft Pretzels
1 cup warm water
2 Tbsp. yeast
2 tsp. honey
2 2/3 cup flour mix (possibly more if dough gets sticky)
1 tsp. xanthan gum (if not included in your flour mix)

1 egg for brushing over the top (or melted butter or oil)
Kosher salt

Preheat oven to 425. Lightly grease cookie sheet. In large bowl, dissolve yeast in 1 cup warm water (NOT hot). Add honey, flour and xanthan gum (if needed) to yeast mixture. Blend into dough. Knead until well mixed. If necessary, add more water if dough is too dry to work with, or flour if dough is too sticky. Form dough into snake shapes (I do small pretzels, but any size will work), and shape as desired.  Beat egg in a bowl. Brush pretzels with egg (or oil or melted butter) and sprinkle with salt. The egg will cause the pretzels to brown, so spread it as thoroughly across the pretzels as you can. My picture above shows what happens if you don't get it over the whole pretzel!

Bake 8-12 minutes, or until pretzels begin to brown on top.

Super easy!

With the Super Bowl coming up, I've begun planning a "snacky foods" day for my little family. I thought pretzel dogs would be good, but I wanted to test them out before game day to make sure it turned out. I learned some tips along the way, and by the end, I was a pretzel-dog-rolling pro.

You need wax paper for this project in addition to hot dogs and all the ingredients for the pretzel recipe above.

I think they are worth the work. My two-year-old ate two whole pretzel dogs, and she normally eats like a little bird.

***Pretzel Dogs

Prepared pretzel dough (see recipe above)
8 hot dogs (make sure they are GF)
Lots of wax paper and a rolling pin

Mix pretzel dough. On clean work surface, spread out wax paper. Place dough on wax paper. Top with second sheet of wax paper. Roll dough out until it is about 1/4 inch thick. Trim edges of dough to form neat rectangle or square shape. If you are using standard length hot dogs, cut dough into 4 inch by 4 inch squares. With knife, gently go under dough to release it from wax paper. Place square away from the rest of the dough. Put hot dog on the dough, just like this picture below.

Here's where it gets a little tricky. GF dough is notoriously brittle. What worked for me was lifting the wax paper as I rolled. Roll slowly and patiently. If dough starts to stick, gently encourage it with your fingers or a knife to release from the paper. If it starts to break, press it back together with your fingers. It will hold together, you just have to be patient.

Once the dog is rolled up in the dough, place it (seam down) on a lightly greased baking sheet. Repeat until all hot dogs are wrapped. Brush hots dogs with egg and sprinkle with salt. I use kosher salt because the crystals are larger.

Bake at 425 for about 15 minutes. The tops won't brown a lot, but they will brown some. Bake until the bottoms are a nice golden color.

The pretzel dog closest to you in this picture is the last one I rolled. As you can see, I got better as I went along. They tasted great, and we look forward to having them for the big game!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Peanut Butter Granola Clusters

I can't take any credit for this recipe, but it makes a hearty, tasty, relatively-good-for-you treat, and I wanted to pass it along! I found this recipe in the Relish magazine insert that comes in my weekly newspaper. You can find the recipe on their website using this link:

Peanut Butter Granola Clusters Recipe

I used honey rather than brown rice syrup, and I was short on dried cranberries so I just added in some raisins to make up the difference. As long as your oats are certified GF, there shouldn't be any  substitutions needed.

These clusters do get pretty crispy, and they are a little on the fragile side while they are cooling. Let them cool almost all the way before removing from the parchment paper. Because of the protein in the peanut butter and the hearty oats mixed in, these clusters stuck with me for quite a while. Hope you enjoy these as much as we did at my house!

Friday, December 30, 2011

A perfect way to close out the year: So many firsts!

I didn't intend to spend so much time away from my blog. The holidays are a time of confusion, worry and fear for newly diagnosed gluten intolerant folks, and so I had intended to share my favorite holiday recipes with you. And, then I had a family emergency.

My grandpa was not well, and we rushed to be at his bedside. Unfortunately, we got stuck in the first (and practically only) snow to track through the central United States. We did not make it in time to be with him, but we made it in time to support my family and to lean on them as we all grieved. After that, I've been in a funk. I haven't been able to get myself into the mood for much of anything. Christmas was something we tried to muddle through even though we never really felt like buying gifts or doing anything festive.

But we did it.

We got our annual Christmas letter out on-time, albeit very pared down from previous years. I think pretty much everyone got a gift from us. I'm behind on my thank-you notes, but I've done what I could to this point. The last item on my holiday checklist is my Three Kings Cake. I make one every January 6, hide a baby Jesus in it, and we make a game out of seeing who can find the hidden baby in a slice of cake. I have made a different style of King Cake every year, and I was searching through some of my favorite blogs to see what I could make this year.

One of my favorite bloggers is Gluten Free Girl, but she has started making all of her recipes by weight, which left me only able to enjoy her recipes visually. I felt unable to bake by weight, but her writing and culinary creations still inspired me.  As curious happenstance would have it, my dear best friend bought me a kitchen scale for Christmas. Only a week later I happened upon this gem of a recipe for Cardamom Fruit Bread on Gluten Free Girl's blog. I decided this bread would be a perfect challenge for me. My Grandpa had an uneaten fruitcake in his refrigerator before he went into the hospital. For whatever reason, I could not stop thinking about that fruitcake. I had never had fruitcake before, and had never really thought of trying it. I believed Johnny Carson that only one fruitcake was in existence and was re-gifted throughout history. But, there had been one in Grandpa's refrigerator, and this fruit bread on GFG's website looked like something I wanted to try. Besides, I had a kitchen scale now and had no excuse not to make it.

The only things I didn't have on hand were candied fruit and cardamom. Cardamom was easy to get, but I could not find any candied fruit without high fructose corn syrup. So, I bought golden raisins, dark raisins, chopped dates, green and red maraschino cherries (Yeah, I know, not healthy at all), and an orange. I chopped the cherries and the orange zest and then followed this recipe for candying fruits. Super simple! You should give it a try! I blanched the orange peel twice and then followed the syrup recipe. Once I made the simple syrup, I poured in some rum and then brought all of the dried fruit and orange peel to a simmer for 30 minutes.

I didn't have a bundt cake pan, but I did have an angel food cake pan. The end result was beautiful!

Lots of color throughout. My favorite part was the candied orange zest. Yum!

We worked on the bread for a couple of days, and then I decided to make french toast with the rest of it. I sliced up the leftover bread and used my recipe for Almond French Toast. I topped mine with a sprinkle of powdered sugar.

And so, my hope for you is that your new year will be filled with newness. Try a new recipe. Bake by weight, if the fancy strikes you. Go out and accomplish that goal you've always dreamed of but were too afraid to try. Candy some fruit. It really isn't that hard. Whatever it is that you do, do it to the best of your ability. But, above all else - love. Have a very happy, love-filled (and fruit-bread-filled) new year!