Friday, September 28, 2012

Mint Chocolate Cookies

My kids are HUGE fans of mint chocolate ice cream. It would be a rarity if we didn't have any in our freezer.  My sister has even gone to great lengths to find mint chocolate ice cream sandwiches for them.  Therefore, when she came over to our house last weekend to create Mint Chocolate Cookies for the kiddos, they were all ecstatic.

Here's her yummy creation:

Mint Chocolate Cookies
2 3/4 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter (at room temperature)
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp mint extract
15-20 drops green food coloring
1 bag of Andes Mints (chopped) or Andes Baking Chips

Preheat oven 375 degrees.  Sift the dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt) together and set aside.  Solicit your kids to unwrap the Andes Mints.  A. was more than happy to unwrap them (knowing full well, he would be sneaking some).

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in egg and mint extract. Gradually blend in the dry ingredients. Add green food coloring and mix until even colored.  Last, but not least, fold in the chopped Andes mints.  Doesn't it look just like the ice cream?

Roll rounded teaspoonfuls of dough into balls (you may need to shape with your hands), flatten, and place onto ungreased cookie sheets. 

Bake for 8-10 minutes.  Let stand on cookie sheet for 2 minutes before moving them to wire racks to cool. 

I have to say these cookies taste EXACTLY like Mint Chocolate ice cream so if you like that flavor, this is the perfect treat for you.  What's even better than the ice cream is that it doesn't melt!

Thanks sis for creating such a delicious cookie.  This recipe will be definitely added to my favorite recipe cookbook this year.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Lemon Cookies

My sister comes over a lot, so much so that my kids will normally ask where she is when she isn't around.  If she's not hanging around the kids, she's baking in my kitchen.  Last month, she decided to try out this Lemon Cookie recipe. It's a super easy recipe that makes a chewy lemony cookie.  I thought the cookie went perfectly with a cup of tea.

Lemon Cookies

1 (18.25 ounce) package lemon cake mix
2 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1/3 cup confectioners' sugar for

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Pour cake mix into a large bowl. Stir in eggs, oil, and lemon extract until well blended. Drop teaspoonfuls of dough into a bowl of confectioners' sugar. Roll them around until they're lightly covered. Once sugared, put them on an ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake for 6 to 9 minutes in the preheated oven. The bottoms will be light brown, and the insides chewy.


Monday, September 24, 2012

Snickerdoodle Cupcakes

I'm a big fan of snickerdoodle cookies.  I've made them many times in the past.  You can check out the recipe here.  When I saw this snickerdoodle cupcake recipe, I was so excited, I thought I would give it a try. 

It turned out supermoist and resembled more of a muffin, making it the perfect breakfast delight.

Snickerdoodle Cupcakes
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups cake flour (not self- rising), sifted
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon, plus 1/2 teaspoon for dusting
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar, plus 2 tablespoons for dusting
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Sift together both flours, baking powder, salt, and 1 tablespoon cinnamon.

With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in vanilla. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of milk, and beating until combined after each.

Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely before removing cupcakes. Cupcakes can be stored up to 2 days at room temperature, or frozen up to 2 months, in airtight containers.

To finish, combine remaining 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 2 tablespoons sugar. Using a pastry bag fitted with a large plain tip (Wilton No. 1A), pipe frosting on each cupcake: Hold bag over cupcake with tip just above top, and squeeze to create a dome of frosting, then release pressure and pull up to form a peak. Using a small, fine sieve, dust peaks with cinnamon-sugar. Cupcakes are best eaten the day they are frosted; keep at room temperature until ready to serve.
Seven Minute frosting
1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2/3 cup water
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
6 large egg whites, room temperature

Combine 1 1/2 cups sugar with the water and corn syrup in a small saucepan; clip a candy thermometer to side of pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves. Continue boiling, without stirring, until syrup reaches 230 degrees.

Meanwhile, in the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk egg whites on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. With mixer running, add remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, beating to combine.

As soon as sugar syrup reaches 230 degrees, remove from heat. With mixer on medium-low speed, pour syrup down side of bowl in a slow, steady stream. Raise speed to medium-high; whisk until mixture is completely cool (test by touching the bottom of the bowl) and stiff (but not dry) peaks form, about 7 minutes. Use immediately.

I tried the seven minute frosting and to my disappointment, it didn't remain fluffy to give it the height and puff its supposed to be.  Sometimes things just don't work out for me and this so happens to be one of those times.  It's a good thing, I don't normally eat frosting ;)  I'll be eating my snickerdoodle cupcake, bare, just the way I like most cupcakes.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Kitchen Renovations - New Countertops

I snuck into my sister's house one day to check out her new countertops.  Aren't they beautiful?  She decided to go with the classic granite countertops.  The color is absolute black.  It's black with tiny little silvery specks.  The kitchen is slowly coming along and the new countertops makes a huge difference in this renovation.

If you don't remember what it looked like before, here's a pic.   The formica counter that was there before was neutral and functional, but too traditional in color for her tastes.
She decided to extend her island to house a wine rack on the end.  The rack hasn't been built yet (hence, the temporary 1x2 holding up the end), but the extension makes the island more grand and ideal in this kitchen, not that she needs any more counter space.  She's got plenty.

With the new countertops, the new dishwasher can be installed.  I love her selection.

It goes perfectly with her new range.

Do you see the tiny specks in the granite?

For a truly unique faucet, she chose this. 

It does carry a hefty price tag, but since her hubby demoed the kitchen himself, saving quite a bit, this splurge was definitely worth it.  You can read about the demo on her site, here

The kitchen is slowly coming along.  All appliances except for the microwave are in place.  The cabinets are almost ready.  Wait for the reveal.  What's left are the backsplash and the floors.  I can't wait to see the finished look.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Kitchen Renovations - Prepping for new backsplash

The last we left off of my sister's kitchen renovations, she installed a new sink and new cooktop,

The backsplash, while nice for this traditional kitchen, wouldn't do in her new kitchen.
She wants the classic white subway tiles, but to get those babies on, the old backsplash must come down.  Let's first start with one tile.

Hmm...although pretty as that was, trying to remove all the tile would prove to be a little more messy.  The original tile sat on top of the drywall.  That's a no-no in my book.

Therefore, it must come down.  Also, coming down is the microwave.

 That's much better.

After clearing out all the dry wall, the studs are clearly visible.

Next up, is attaching the hardiebacker.   Hardiebacker is moisture and mildew resistant which drywall is certainly not.  Therefore, it is a much better solution for the backsplash.

Before the demolition:

After the clean-up:

The walls are now prepped for the tiles, but up next are the counter tops.  There are more pictures on my sister's site here

Monday, September 17, 2012

From dresser to Tool Cabinet

Its no secret that I love tools of any kind, whether it being kitchen tools or wood shop tools.  What I also love is refurbishing.  I like to turn unwanted items into something.  A project I have been working on is this old dresser.  I've always disliked this dresser and have even tried to sell it at a garage sale.  Despite being able to sell EVERY other piece of furniture that I placed on my lawn, this piece just sat there.  I had great plans for it, as I spoke about working on it here and  here, but simply never got around to it.

Over a year later, with a beautiful weekend, I was able to turn that dresser into my very own tool cabinet on wheels.  Its nearly done and I am SUPER excited about that.

Here's our journey.  A lot of prep work to get it looking a little, well, more plain.  I removed the curvy front legs.  It was a little ornate for my tool chest if I do say so myself.


That left me with no sturdy bottom for my wheels.

I added a 2x4 between the sides in the front and back of the dresser to make the bottom nice, flat and level.

It's a great place to attach my wheels I already had on hand.

Total cost so far is zilch.  I already had both the wood and wheels. 

Now, its time to beautify the thing.  I scraped off the paint on the sides of the dresser and sanded it down.  The paint on the drawers didn't come off so easily so I sanded them with my sander instead of scraping them off entirely.

I applied a de-glosser to the dresser to get rid of any oil or glossy finish to the dresser.  Since it was originally stained, I wanted to be sure that my coat of paint would last by removing any surface grease.  I knew I definitely wanted to change the hardware so I filled in all existing holes with wood putty.

In hindsight, now would also be the perfect opportunity to pre-drill holes for your handles.  Of course, I didn't think of that, but all is not lost.  It is nicer to not have to worry about messing up your finish though.

In the midst of it, I removed the curvy molding underneath the lip of the dresser and sanded the surface down.  So here is what it looked like after all of that.

Its still pretty rough looking.  Next, I applied two coats of primer which makes it look a tad bit better now.

For the final finish, I used this foam roller since I was told it would give it a smoother finish.  In my opinion, my regular small roller did the same job.  Had I known that, I could have saved myself the $4.87.  Live and learn. 

What also could have saved me time was not having to prime.  My go to paint, the Olympic no-VOC paint didn't have the color I wanted and they couldn't match it supposedly because the can didn't have enough room to add the accent colors.  I had to go with this instead which had primer already in it.

I wasn't liking the fact that I spent time priming my dresser for nothing.  I also wasn't loving the no odor I was used to from Olympic or the price difference, but what I did love was the color.  I'll gladly pay extra for it.

When I bought the spray paint I used for my yellow tray in this post, I saw this teal color and loved it.  I didn't want to buy several cans of spray paint for this dresser so I was intended to color match it, but low and behold, valspar had it in their paint department.  It's called exotic sea.

It took a coat of paint with some light touch ups.  I only used a fourth of a quart of paint.

What's next after the paint dried?  Now comes the hardware.

I love the Lansa cabinet handles from Ikea so I looked online to see if there were any available.  There were 19 available.  I was super happy so I made my trip out there to find there were only 2 packs and I needed 3.  There were 100's of all the other sizes I didn't need.  I'm talking boxes and boxes of 100's of the 9 inch, the 23 inch, the 33 inch, but there were only 2 of the 17 inch I needed.  I was so disappointed.  I searched every inch of that store and despite their website still indicating there are 19, I was able to only come home with 4 out of the 6 handles that I needed.

What's a girl to do?  I'll have to wait until they have more in stock.  I guess that is a popular size?  I debated whether or not I should postpone this post, but in this day in age of great technology, I figured, you can use your imagination on what it would look like with 6 handles or I can use some photo shopping and show you what it will look like when I get my hands on another 2 handles.

I love love how it turned out.  Aside from the 2 missing handles, I plan on lining the drawers, adding another handle to the side so that I can pull the tool cabinet around the garage a little easier.  I also want to make drawer dividers for all the little tools that I have.  I can't wait.  

I hadn't been in my garage building anything lately because of the heat and what I realized this past weekend as saw dust sprinkled everywhere, I miss it.  When I'm out in my garage, I will be doing my happy dance (secretively since I don't want any of my neighbors thinking I'm crazier than I already am), that I have something pretty to pull my tools out of!

The total cost run down is $10.47 for my quart of paint (I had a 20% off coupon),  $26.97 (for 6 handles), and $4.87 for the roller (could have done without).  That's $42.31 for this make-over.  That's not too shabby for my tool cabinet on wheels if I do say so myself.  I'll be wheel-ing with excitement for sometime with this addition to my garage.

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