The Great Crock Pot Adventure

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What is your least favorite part of the day?

Mine is 7:02 am when my husband leaves for work.  He laughs at me because I’m only half-awake, and I become fairly emotional and try to get him to stay…which has led to a certain habit.  As soon as he goes,  I pile a bunch of pillows on his side of the bed before going back to sleep.  For some reason, as cliche as I’ve always thought this is, it does make me feel like he is still in bed…

This does all lead to the crock pot, I promise.

So, the weather has been getting colder, and as my unemployment continues to stretch on, I’ve found myself really enjoying being at home all day and getting ambitious in projects.  Before we got married, I was determined to become proficient in crock pot cooking, especially as winter approaches.  I was feeling pretty sluggish after Drew left and pouty about not having a job…God has a lot to teach my heart about patience and trust.  So I decided to invest my energy into breaking out my new crock pot.  It seemed like the housewifely thing to do on a chilly September morning.

Not to mention, it seems that the worst best way to be a domestic goddess is to have valuable slow-cooking skills.  Everyone I know and admire (my Mom….my sister Megan…) can whip out their crock pot with ease and make the whole family go crazy.

So now it’s my turn to carry on that family tradition.

Apparently, the crock pot can take on anything.  I mean people absolutely idolize this little contraption.  Countless people told me before we got married, “Just throw a bunch of things in the crock pot, and let it go!” I am still learning how to plan meals in advance, and thus I ended up throwing four very frozen chicken breasts in the crock pot with somewhat of a sneer in this little guy’s direction…

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The idea was to make pulled chicken….I made a fabulous mixture of soy, garlic, brown sugar, vinegar, and oil…

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And into the crock pot it goes…for six hours….You use the juices to make a pan sauce later by thickening it with a little cornstarch (not too much, I promise!).

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Results? Pulled chicken sandwiches that Drew really loved! Success!

As he came marching through the door, tired and hungry from a full day of work, he stopped and smelled the air.  I watched, expectantly waiting for his question…

“It smells so good in here.  What are you making?”

My response? “Come and see: I am a domestic goddess!”

So for dinner we go to have pulled chicken sandwiches (sorry for the mid-meal pic- I still forget to take pretty pre-eating shots!).  In my mind, the crock pot is still a formidable opponent, so any suggestions on slow cooking would be much appreciated!

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Ps. I took the recipe from “The Cutest Blog on the Block”.  My only suggestion would be to use non-frozen breasts and cut way down on the cooking time.

Hello, Michigan!

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Well, after a two month break, I’m back at the blog.   It was my honest intention to keep blogging right up to the day of my wedding, but that never happened.  For all of you who are getting married, a word to the wise: don’t put unrealistic expectations on yourself.

My two big life changes that happened during my absence from LoveAndBasil are:

1.  I got married to Drew! Finally! (compliments of AlexaMarie Photography!)

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2. We moved to Southern Michigan!

We now live in the beautiful little town of Hillsdale, Michigan, where both Drew and I went to college.   Our little apartment is downtown above a store.  It’s so much fun to walk outside and be in the heart of the city.  Three doors down is Drew’s favorite breakfast cafe, the beautiful post office is next door, and four doors down is a little grocery market.

I wanted to give you a few little snapshots of Hillsdale.

When you walk out of our apartment, you see this to the left

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And this to the right,

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The post office is the building off to the far right.

I love our apartment.  My favorite things about it are:

1.  The butcher block Drew made out of an old filing cabinet for our kitchen! We don’t have much counter space, so this little guy comes in handy.  It was super easy to do- an idea we found off Pintrest of course!

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2.  The old wooden trunk is our coffee table.  It’s made out of barn siding, and we found it in an antique store in Delaware, Ohio.

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3. Probably my absolute favorite part of the apartment is our comfy bed!  Drew made the headboard himself! We picked out a mattress from Ikea, and it is sooo comfortable!

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Hopefully there will be more pictures to come!  Drew and I decided on our honeymoon that we re officially “foodies.”  We ate our way through two weeks of bliss (and probably gained 10 pounds!).  Since being married, cooking has been our favorite hobby together.  It’s been a little crazy since we got back, so I don’t have any recipes to post now, but stayed tuned!  They are on the way! I promise to eat and tell 😉 

Goodwill Treasure Hunting

I am a firm believer in shopping at Goodwill.  Just the name makes me shiver in excitement.  Remember those hot summer days in childhood when you would pretend to be a pirate and dig for buried treasure?  Somehow that excitement of treasure hunting has never left me.  When I was eight, I was convinced I was an archeologist.  I would spend hours in a small ditch near our house finding bits and pieces of broken glass and old china, especially after a rainfall.

A few days ago, I found myself down at Goodwill, looking for potential treasure.  Drew and I have slowly been making a list of furniture for our home, and yesterday was a banner day!  We realized we have almost everything we need.  I’ll post later about the awesome projects Drew has been working on (I never knew I was marrying the world’s best handyman!), but for now I want to show off my Goodwill find.

Picture this:  A wide-open room filled with a maze of furniture, clothes, and old VCR tapes.  You wind your way through it all, hoping to find something you can re-do and post on your blog (ah vanity…).  Your taste begins to disintegrate as you wander through the store, and you question your judgment.  Then you see it.  A pair of brass lamps.

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I have to acknowledge that I was a little unsure at first.  I typically scorn these lamps as being 80s castoffs.  However, the price tag won me over.  Two perfectly good lamps. $50$20.  Nope, $10 dollars.  That’s right.  Five minutes later I was the proud owner of two lamps.  Home we go.  Some tender polishing and a little white spray paint and….

VOILA!

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Here’s to Goodwill and spray paint!!  This short little blog post is really nothing more than an encouragement to go to Goodwill and see what you can find.  Over and over, my Mom and I look at each other as we pick something up and say, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure…”  May the same hold true for you, fellow DIYers! Now we just have to find some shades….

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Wedding Crafts In the Works

Hooray!!! After four hours of hard work, we have 11 tissue paper flowers and 22 sheet music wheels!

(Note: We are only about half way on the sheet music and a third on the flowers, but who cares!!!)

I’m getting married in a barn on an organic farm- Jorgensen Farms.  It is so beautiful.   I cannot wait.  Drew will be there.  That is what matters most.

But, just to feed that crazy, lovable, DIY/craft-loving girl in me…here are a few things we did today…

Mom (right) and Cynthia- best friends and great crafters!

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Hooray for tissue paper and sheet music!

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The fundamental components of our DIY Barn Wedding:

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Martha Stewart has a great tutorial on making tissue paper flowers.  It is SO much cheaper to buy tissue paper in bulk (I got mine here from a site called Nashville Wraps) and do them yourself rather than buy the Martha Stewart or David Tutera packets. Youtube a video tutorial…we had to watch one a few times…

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The sheet music wheels came along nicely…I found giant stacks of sheet music in an antique store, and I used one sheet to make one wheel (halve the sheet to make)…

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Pause for some iced tea and more yummy snacks (this time a quick antipasti platter…)

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Mom and Cynthia did the flowers, I did the wheels.

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Ta-da!!! 1/2 of 1/3 of the centerpieces is finished 🙂

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Raspberry Shortbread, Nutella, and DIY Wedding Crafts

Mom and I have locked ourselves in the house today….for wedding planning….

It can’t be avoided.  It has to get done.  Something DIY post-brides should tell other DIY pre-brides is that DIY really means…DIY.  You do it all yourself.  Every last bit.  And it’s a lot of work.

The last three months of college, when Drew was still out of the country studying, I told Mom we were going to stop until all planning until May.  It’s now May 31, 2013.  Sixty-five days to go.  So much work to do.  All for one day.  One beautiful, blessed, glorious, God-given day.  I cannot wait for that day 🙂

The nice thing about Mom is that she is so in to DIY. And she’s good at it.  And she has great friends.  One of them, Cynthia, is coming over today to help.  The agenda?  54 tissue paper flowers, 40 sheet music wheels for centerpieces, if we’re lucky.  I’ll post pics if we actually make our goal.

It’s such a blessing to have Mom and Cynthia wanting to help out, especially when that means sitting for hours at our dining room table getting calloused fingers from tissue paper, tulle, and wire.  Not to mention burying ourselves in the inevitable twine and burlap that is parading boldly in this year’s wedding styles.

To thank them, I put together a little treat, using the homemade Nutella I made the other night and the new shortbread recipe I’ve been practicing.  Mom threw in some delicious lemon-mint iced tea to boot!

Shortbread is actually quite easy to make and fun to play with.  It’s basically flour, baking powder, butter, eggs, heavy whipping cream, sugar, and vanilla.

Here are your wet ingredients.  Keep them fairly cold.  The butter should be soft enough to cream with the sugar.

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And of course the dry ingredients…very unpretentious.

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Cream together the butter and sugar first.  The most delicious combination in baking history.

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Oooooh…..I just thought the action in this picture was so cool.  Wish I could be this excited about sports action shots…

Add your other wet ingredients.  It will look something like this:

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Dry ingredients next!!! I usually pour them in thirds, a little at a time:

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Now this next part is kind of my own….I wanted to see what the cookies would look like with raspberry in them, and I liked the idea of raspberry and Nutella together (the topping I’ll use).  I mashed some beautiful raspberries and poured them into the dough and mixed. Then I wrapped it in plastic wrap to chill. Not super attractive.  But I could see chunks of butter inside the dough.  That is a good sign 🙂

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Now let me clue you in about shortbread.  There is a giant debate over it.  Some people say chill for an hour or overnight.  That “or” seems pretty crucial to me…I mean we’re talking like a twelve hour chill-difference here.  So I did both.  And I can confidently say that the overnight ones are WAY better.  Another crushing defeat for my immediate gratification of a sweet tooth.  Oh well.

So, today…I baked 🙂 I love cookie cutters.  They are so classic.

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Put them on a cookie sheet with parchment paper, bake ten minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

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Wait till you see how beautiful they turn out. Especially when paired with homemade Nutella!  Hopefully this sugar high will help us swim through the sea of tissue paper to crafting success!

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Lemon-Mint Iced Tea, Homemade Nutella, and Raspberry Shortbread Cookies, and Good Friends!

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Recipe

3 1/2 cups flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 cup sugar

1 1/2 cup butter (softened)

1 egg (room temp)

3 tbsp heavy whipping cream

1 1/2 tsp vanilla

*Most shortbread recipes are pretty standard.  I got mine from Fraiche Ideas For Living– I love their blog!

Homemade Nutella

So, my fiance Drew loves Nutella.  I mean he loves it.  When we would study together in college, his favorite late-night snack was Nutella and peanut butter on white bread.  That boy…

Anyhow, who doesn’t love Nutella? It’s creamy and yummy and chocolately…melt-in-your-mouth goodness.  Times ten.  It comes in mini packs, it comes in giant packs.  It even comes in little packs with graham crackers.

Somewhere in me, there is a faint sense of competition with Nutella.  I mean, Drew loves it so much, and it is delicious.  But, last week I woke up one morning and said, “What would Drew think if I could make my own Nutella?  From scratch?”  I thought of various responses…Tiffany’s jewelry, Graeter’s ice cream, adoration as a domestic goddess…These potentials were pure motivation.

But at the bottom of it all, if I can make Nutella for Drew, it will almost definitely make him happy. Game on.

So, after thorough researching, it seems pretty easy.  Good hazelnuts are the key, toasted to perfection.

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Hazelnuts, after being toasted and processed, release a lovely oil.  Toast them at 390 F for about ten minutes, but watch them carefully.  They burn easily. They will turn a deep brown color and begin to smell toasted.  Take them out when this happens.  Rub them down with a towel and the skins will flake off.  It’s ok if they have a little skin on them.

 

Pour them in a food processor and grind away.  As you grind them, it makes a peanut butter-looking substance.  But here’s the trick-keep grinding.  Grind for a long time. You don’t want any grit.

Then you add cocoa powder, powdered sugar, chopped up dark chocolate (or milk chocolate if you prefer), vanilla, heavy whipping cream, and canola oil (or coconut oil).  Keep processing all of it.

At first it make look grainy like this:

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If this happens, add a little more oil.  Keep going.  It will eventually look like this:

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At this point, I had to stop and try a little….

It’s amazing…the hazelnut flavor is so much stronger and delicious.  I don’t think I can go back to store-bought Nutella.  It’s creamy and light and chocolately, just like it should be. And so easy to make!

Drew comes up this weekend, and my little Nutella jar is all ready to go! Stay tuned! I’m going to make shortbread cookies to go with it!

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Recipe

1 1/2 cups of hazelnuts

1 cup of powdered sugar (I like my Nutella a little sweeter, but if you want more hazelnut flavor, lessen the powdered sugar)

1/4 cup cocoa powder

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 tablespoons of Canola oil (more if needed- some used coconut oil instead)

7 ounces dark chocolate, chopped (I used Hershey’s but you can use whatever you like!)

Toast the hazelnuts for ten minutes at 390F.  Rub them down with a towel to remove the skin.  Process until smooth.  Add powdered sugar, cocoa powder, dark chocolate, oil, and vanilla.  Continue to process until smooth.  More oil may be necessary. Store in a jar and refrigerate.  It will harden as it refrigerates.