Creamiest Rice Pudding

After a recent grocery trip in which I bought two gallons of milk (usually necessary), I came home to discover that I already had an almost-full gallon in the refrigerator, which meant I definitely had more than we needed for the week. What to do with the extra milk? Luckily, there are a ton of recipes that are perfect for just such a situation, and one of them is rice pudding.

Not just any rice pudding– many of them use only 3-4 cups of milk per cup of rice, which hardly seems worth it– but a rice pudding that purported to be the creamiest rice pudding out there. This recipe uses a whopping 6 cups of milk to a mere (heaping) half-cup of rice, and all it takes is time. A lot of time. But hey, it was the weekend and I’d already done my grocery shopping, so I had plenty of it, right?

I was a little leery of the milk-to-rice ratio, but as directed, I brought my milk (with sugar and salt) to a boil and stirred in my rice, then dropped it to a simmer and stirred it occasionally. I did cheat a bit– after about 30 minutes the rice was tender but the milk was still liquid rather than creamy, so I didn’t see the point in gently simmering it any longer. Instead, I cranked up the heat and let it boil for the next 15 minutes, slowly thickening into a nice, creamy mixture. Once off-heat, I stirred in my flavorings, then set it out to cool.

Since I was in a bit of a hurry I poured it onto a silicone-lined baking sheet on the counter to cool faster, then once it was merely warm I put it in the refrigerator to cool even more quickly. The finished texture was perfectly creamy– not liquid-y as I’d feared– and I added some toasted coconut and chopped pistachios on top for contrast.

I think this recipe could be the base of a bunch of different variations. Cardamom and orange zest. Cinnamon and nutmeg. Lemon zest and honey. Or with coconut milk substituted for some of the milk, and maybe some crushed pineapple– the possibilities are endless!

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Strawberry Shortcake Cupcakes

I was inspired to make these cupcakes by an episode of Nadiya Bakes, starring one of the winners of the Great British Baking Show, Nadiya Hussain. I enjoyed watching her on the original show, but I’m actually more impressed by her current work! In any event, I didn’t use her actual recipe, but I did use it as a jumping-off point for my own version, which turned out reasonably well. Honestly, I thought they had room for improvement, but multiple people have told me they were great as-is, so I guess you’ll have to decide!

The concept is that you take a golden Oreo and put it in the bottom of a cupcake liner, topped with a single whole strawberry. Then you pour vanilla cake batter over it and bake the cupcakes that way. Topped with a strawberry buttercream flavored with freeze-dried strawberries, the fruity flavor really comes through! That being said, I found that the Oreo got very hard after being baked, which was not to my taste– I did overbake the cupcakes a bit, which may have contributed to the issue, but don’t be surprised if your Oreo toasts up and gets extremely crunchy!

I will note that this cake batter must be essentially foolproof, because despite my putting the ingredients together in completely the wrong order, messing up the amount of liquid, and over-baking the batter because I forgot to set a timer, it still turned out well! As for the frosting, it was fabulous and I will add it to my permanent recipe file– it’s that good!

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Cornmeal Lime Cookies

I was first introduced to these cookies by my lovely neighbor, who brought over a batch when we first moved in to welcome my family to the neighborhood. She mentioned that she’d used the Flour bakery recipe (I knew right then that we’d get along great), so when I had some extra lime zest after making my signature “healthy” lime pie one day, I knew just where I could find a cookie recipe to take advantage of it!

These cookies are soft and just a bit cakey, with slightly crisp edges and a little crunch from the cornmeal. The zingy lime glaze on top really brightens them up into something special.

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Coconut Cream Pie

Coconut is one of those flavors that I didn’t come to appreciate until I was an adult– I hated macaroons as a kid, along with Almond Joy and Mounds candy bars, and so coconut cream pie never appealed to me. Now, of course, I enjoy coconut on occasion (though it’s still not in my top 5)– and who can resist a pudding pie? Not me.

I had an extra refrigerated pie crust that I needed to use up, and when I saw the can of Coco Lopez in my pantry I knew that I’d hit on an idea for dessert. That being said, for some reason I really dislike making custards that require extra egg yolks (probably because then I’d have extra whites to use up), so all of the custard-based pie recipes were out. Instead I was able to find a recipe that called for instant pudding mix that was whipped up using cream of coconut instead of milk– sounded perfect!

The original recipe had a homemade crust made with coconut and coconut-flavored rum, but since the whole point was to use up a refrigerated crust I skipped that part. I ended up adding some extra coconut extract to make up for the resulting reduction in coconut flavor, and the finished pie was creamy, fluffy, decadently rich, and of course delicious.

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Gooey Cinnamon Rolls

Is there anything more decadent in the morning than a warm, gooey cinnamon roll? With a soft, plushy crumb, spicy-sweet interior, and layer of cream cheese frosting slowly melting over it all, cinnamon rolls are the ultimate breakfast luxury. And let me just say that these are the best cinnamon rolls I’ve ever made. To be fair, I’ve only made cinnamon rolls a few times in general, but these were so good that I’m not only going to stop looking for other recipes, but I’m going to start making these more often. You can’t get a better endorsement than that!

I always start making these the night before, so that the next morning all I have to do is let them sit on the counter for a while before putting them in the oven to bake. They make the kitchen smell amazing, which is an added bonus. I will note that the thing that sets these apart from other cinnamon rolls is the extra heavy cream– you pour it over the risen rolls just before baking, and it mingles with the cinnamon and sugar to make this incredible gooey finish that takes the recipe over the top.

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Edwardian Caftan Conversion, Part III: Construction

Because of the way the dress was put together, I had to add most of the fussy details before actually constructing the dress (hence my “details” post coming first). Once I had the buttonholes and piping in, it was time to actually sew everything together.

The bodice is a basic kimono-sleeve, which I generally cut out in the same way as my pale peach Edwardian afternoon dress. When stitching it together, I left one side seam open for later insertion of the invisible zipper.

Above is a picture of the bodice piece before I attached the lower section of the back with the piped seam and buttonholes. I will note that while the waist is cut straight across here, after several tries I ended up curving it upwards at the sides so I could cut the back shorter and avoid excess blousing in the back. I added a 1″ waistband to the bodice, just in case I ever wanted to wear the dress without the belt. Due to the fabric layout I had to make the waistband out of two strips of fabric joined in the middle, and annoyingly (as you’ll see in the closeup below), I realized later that I’d cut the waistband so that the stripes were offset by one when you compared the front half to the back half. A tiny error, but I noticed.

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Rolled Honey Florentines

Originally this post was going to be about honey macarons filled with honey buttercream, but once I made them I realized that while the buttercream was incredible, the macaron recipe needed more tweaking, so stay tuned for that later. In the meantime, I had leftover honey buttercream (so good!) and had to figure out what to do with it– I knew I wanted something else with honey, and nuts of some kind– and it had to be crispy to give some good texture contrast. Florentines seemed to fit the bill perfectly, so away I went!

Florentines are basically made of caramel with some nuts and maybe a bit of flour folded in for better texture– you cook the butter and sugar together (in this case, adding honey), add the dry ingredients, then bake teeny-tiny spoonfuls of batter until they spread, bubble, and get all nice and lacy. The finished cookies, when warm, can be molded into shapes that crisp up as they cool. I used walnuts in my cookies, but you could use almonds, pecans, hazelnuts, sesame seeds, or even nothing at all– the lacy cookies will still be delicious.

There are only two tough parts, and both have to do with timing: first, you need to watch the cookies in the oven like a hawk, because they can go from toasty gold brown to burned in seconds. And second, if you’re shaping the cookies you need to get them off the sheet at just the right moment and mold them for just long enough that they hold their shape– I’m pretty good, but at six cookies per baking sheet, two sheets at a time it’s tough to mold them all before they start to get too stiff. I’ve found that both of these problems can be addressed by staggering the batches– total bake time is 8-10 minutes per sheet, so you put in one sheet, wait five minutes, then put in the other. While you’re cooling and molding the cookies on the first sheet, the second sheet is still baking, and ought to come out just as you finish the first set.

The crispy rolled cookies are then piped full of a creamy honey filling, which I made by taking my caramelized honey buttercream from my macaron attempt, and whipping in some heavy cream to lighten it up a bit. The contrast between the crunchy outside and light and creamy inside is heavenly, and the flavor divine.

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Edwardian Caftan Conversion, Part II: Details

While putting together this dress, I had a lot of fun putting in small, fiddly details that I think make it look more authentic. Many of them had to be planned and inserted before the dress was actually constructed, so I figured I’d post about them first.

For example, I added piping to the seams between the striped and blue fabrics– I made it out of the extra fabric I cut out of the sides, and because I’m insane I cut it on the bias, requiring me to piece together a few dozen short sections of fabric to get a long enough strip to make piping. (yes, I know it’s normal to make bias piping, but since this piping was only used in straight lines it really wasn’t necessary)

I also added a wholly unnecessary seam across the back of the bodice, which I piped before adding a row of fabric-covered buttons (size 36, if you’re curious) to it, just for fun. I stitched buttonholes, too, which are barely visible under the sewn-on buttons but which add to the illusion of a complicated Edwardian closure. I’m probably going to have to improve my posture now to avoid leaning back in a chair and hurting my back on those shank-back buttons…

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Clipped Art Frames

My house is full of art, most of it drawn by my 9-year-old (and featuring cats), and almost all of it is currently sitting in a large basket that we periodically go through to make albums of things we want to save long-term. In the meantime, though, she’s had nowhere to display her creations, so it was time for a change.

Her room has a conveniently empty wall that’s just crying out for decoration, so I thought I’d frame some of her work– however, with her rate of production it was clear that changing out the displayed pieces would be a ton of hassle if done on a regular basis, so I decided to make a more versatile display. I picked up a bunch of inexpensive picture frames on Amazon (I bought two sets of five) along with some metal clips, and pulled out some sheets of scrapbooking paper from my stash of art supplies. The procedure is simple:

First I cut my scrapbooking paper (12×12″) down to fit the picture frames. I bought 9×12″ frames, which were the perfect size to display 8.5×11″ drawings, so all I had to do was slice a 3″ strip off of each sheet.

Then I removed the backings from the frames (peeling the plastic film off the plexiglass) and inserted my decorative papers into them. This was to add color and keep things looking nice even when there’s no art currently in the frame.

Finally, I got out my hot glue gun and glued a clip to the top of each frame– on the frame part, not on the plexiglass. I’ve seen other people use Gorilla Glue or E6000, but hot glue worked fine for me and it was really easy to work with.

And that was it! Instant art display frames! They look great, are easy to change up with new art, and can double as art storage since the clips hold a whole bunch of sheets at once.

Edwardian Caftan Conversion, Part I: Inspiration

A year or two ago I happened across a post from someone who had found a vintage embroidered caftan at a secondhand store, and transformed it into a fabulous Edwardian-style dress! (Sadly, I can no longer find the post, but it was amazing) I think she basically just added a sash, and wore a lace guimpe under it– those two elements really changed the entire look, and I immediately started looking for a vintage caftan of my own to steal her idea.

Unfortunately, most of the vintage caftans I found were too tropical in style, and the embroidery was placed awkwardly for the look I was going for. Eventually, however, I found this new caftan— it’s got a vaguely nautical feel to it with the blue and white stripes, and the embroidery (while a bit modern in style) was still restrained enough to pass muster for what would be a pretty basic Edwardian-ish ensemble.

National Embroidered Caftan
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