Homemade gift: Sriracha party nuts

Ouy, holiday cheer hangover, huh? Did you all have a nice holiday? I sure did. Vegetable casseroles & Swiss Colony petit fours & presents & homemade cinnamon bread & winter sangria & Big Moose Ale & family time. Just lovely.

The holidays aren't quite over yet because I want to tell you about the tasty holiday treats we made for gift-giving. Yes, in addition to the hundreds of Christmas cookies, we made a few savory and boozy edibles.

First up, these Sriracha Party Nuts. A few food swaps ago, I got the tastiest batch of sriracha spiced nuts ever from Jenna. With that as my inspiration, I searched high and low for a similar recipe. We found this video showcasing a recipe from The Sriracha Cookbook by Randy Clemens and decided to go with it. We made a double batch for Thanksgiving and was encouraged enough by their popularity to make a bunch of them for Christmas gifts.

Yeah, I never actually got a photo of them. Here are the delicious flaky sriracha-sugar crumbs that were left. Trust, these nuts were that good. They are only a little bit spicy (we'd like to kick them up more next time) with a sugary coating. In other words, they are incredibly addicting and awesome.

For those of you that would like the recipe written out instead of watching the video, here it is:

Sriracha Party Nuts

Ingredients

  • 1 lb mixed nuts, lightly salted

  • 1 egg white

  • 1-2 tbsp sriracha

  • 1/2 cup white sugar

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar

  • 1 tsp fresh rosemary

Directions

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg white, water & sriracha. Add the mixed nuts and mix until evenly coated.

In a small bowl, mix together the sugars and rosemary. Pour over the nuts and combine until they are all coated with a gooey, spicy, sweet mixture.

Spread the nuts out into a singly layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 1 hour, stirring every fifteen minutes and tasting as necessary :) Let cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

More treats coming up this week. Basically, I turned circles in my kitchen, clutching the From Scratch Holidays eBook, trying to make every recipe in there. It's that good, people. So anyhow, check back in to hear about my foray into making my own lotion & lip balm along with a post on the merits of infused liquor and a love note to homemade mustard.

a wedding quilt


Just in time to celebrate their first anniversary AND the purchase of their house! This is the wedding quilt that I made for my sister and her husband and yes, I did start it almost a year ago. You know how these things go. It was such a daunting project and, once pieced together, such a physically big project that it required taking over full rooms in our apartment (entryway, living room, office) just to work on. I couldn't even tell you all about my sewing adventures because while it wasn't an actual surprise, I still wanted to keep some of the allure and mystery.

I hoped to give it to them the first time I visited their new house, which I thought would be Tuesday night, but then they invited me over for dinner on Monday night and GAH! what is a girl to do when she's crouched over a not-secret-but-maybe-forgotten-about wedding quilt in a 90 degree apartment and the married couple invites her over for BBQ & beers? She picks up a 12-pack and goes, that's what she does.

It was my first quilt so I tried to keep it as simple as I could by using a basic square pattern, a cheerful bundle of fabric (fat quarters, in quilter-speak) from Joel Dewberry's Modern Meadow Collection Sunny Day palette, solid brown cotton backing, pre-made quilt binding and a midweight blend batting inside. I quickly learned that quilting is a really precise art, full of math and spatial reasoning. Those aren't my strongest suits, but I mustered everything I had to pull this thing together. It's not perfect, but it was made with love for a loving couple. And I didn't even cry or throw things while making it, so by all measures this is a success for me.

I embroidered the quilt with their wedding date and two interlocking hearts, using the same font and motif from their wedding invitations and paperie. I'll admit to having practiced this entire design a good three or four times before actually starting the real one. It paid off though, because I think the embroidery looks really awesome. If I may be so bold as to say so. Big thanks to Chris who wisely suggested that practicing might help me (us) avoid a major quilting meltdown. Good call.

Another good call was my choice to finish the quilt using the tying method, rather than machine- or hand-quilting it. For my fellow non-quilters, the basics steps of making a quilt are: 1) cutting your squares (or other shapes), 2) piecing them together into the patchwork quilt top, 3) making the quilt sandwich (top, batting, back), 4) quilting (what you do to keep all of the pieces together and to keep them from shifting around) and 5) attaching the binding. The tying method is really just making little knots with yarn every so often instead of stitching straight or curved lines all over the quilt. It was pretty stress-free, although I did have to use a pair of pliers to pull the needle of yarn through the quilt each time.

And here is the happy couple with their wedding quilt in their new house! Hurrah! Since I'm no expert on quilting and I'm not sure when/if I'll even make another one, I'll just show you were I found some helpful tips, in case you are interested.

  • This Instructables on quilt construction has great pictures and step-by-step help.
  • An article on how to make a large quilt backing from standard 44/45" fabric.
  • Super helpful post on basting your quilt layers together. (She also makes really amazing quilts, the likes of which I can't even aspire to make.)
  • I also YouTubed a lot of videos for various stages, like this one on tying a quilt.

This short week has thrown me off, especially since Sister & I are heading to Connecticut tomorrow for an NKOTBSB show. You read that correctly, we are seeing New Kids on the Block and Backstreet Boys. I'm so excited that I'm not even ashamed to tell you all about it. I really wish we had kept our NKOTB t-shirts and earrings from back in the day. Or the Joey McIntyre doll. Or our NKOTB board game. Actually, I have quite a haul of BSB things to drag up from middle school, as long as we're confessing our boy band pasts.

one little egg's journey


In New York, pre-trip.

In case you were wondering, yes you can send a plastic Easter egg through the mail with no packaging. It's true. I did it. Apparently you can send lots of weird things through the mail. You know, as long as they're safe. Like this cute little plastic egg.


In Oregon, after its wild ride through the USPS.

I used up some old 37-centers and a few postcard stamps too. This egg was filled mostly with jelly beans, plus a flash drive full of music, and weighed a little less than 4 oz so it needed $1.88 worth of postage according to the USPS website section on packages. And to those of you thinking that it was really risky to send a flash drive inside of an egg, because WHAT IF THE EXPERIMENT DIDN'T WORK AND YOU LOST THE FLASH DRIVE?!, I say to you that no one ever became supercool by not taking lame, harmless and perfectly legal risks. 

The very creative Amberlee of Giverslog posted a tutorial for this shenanigan on her blog, which I found though Marta Writes, and it was obvious to me that this was the perfect little package to send across the country. So I stuffed the egg full of treats, wrote out a miniature address label, taped it up and covered it with stamps. When I dropped it in the blue mailbox outside my office I giggled out loud. Imagine how ridiculous it must have been for all of the mailmen and mailwomen that handled this little Easter package. And then to picture it rolling around in my penpal's mailbox is just too much. 

Speaking of my penpal, he's home from Portland for the first time in almost a year! I was trying to plan out some fun things to do, but so far I've only come up with margaritas. We'll probably head outside to Tulip Fest if the weather's nice, considering the festival is right across the street from my place. I am going to keep pestering him to write a guest post about a crazy pancake recipe he seems to always be making, but I can't make any promises.

chai tea concentrate

One of the gifts I made this year was homemade chai tea concentrate.  The recipe is from here and I found it a long time ago at Angry Chicken and have been waiting to use it ever since.  I patted myself on the back for compulsively saving glass jars, cleaned them out and got started.  These jars formerly held peanut butter, sauces, granola and jam.

Homemade Chai Tea Concentrate
Makes one jar and each jar has about 10-12 servings.
  • 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Mix all of the ingredients together in a jar.  Given the slow-going of pouring out the sweetened condensed milk, I strongly suggest that you spool up a movie or at least have some music playing while you are doing this.  That is, if you are making these mixes in mass quantity as I did.  We paired this with my sister's delicious honey pistachio biscotti and a few bags of black tea.

Directions for Use
Add two heaping teaspoons to a strong cup of black tea, such as Assam, or more to taste.  Stir well and enjoy.  Refrigerate concentrate for up to six months.

So good and creamy and sweet-- if you'd like a less sweet cup of chai, just use less concentrate.  I'm still avoiding added sugar and dairy for at least a few more days, but you better believe that I'll be drinking some of this next week.

PS- One of my posts has been featured on Whole Living's homepage since last Wednesday because people love a green, slimy-looking smoothie.  Little do they know I'm dreaming about delectably indulgent chai tea.

djembe drum bag



How have I forgotten to post this little Christmas present project?

Well here it is, a djembe drum bag with shoulder straps & a drawstring! No forthcoming tutorial (unless you bribe me) because it was a custom job that mainly involved wrapping up the above drum in fabric until I found a fit that worked and then pinning and re-pinning the shoulder straps on until I felt comfortable that they would fit a broader set of shoulders than my own. Made with sturdy cotton canvas and given with a lifetime warranty :) Seeing as I've never made a drum bag before I didn't even have an image in mind or ideas for useful features, but was told that shoulder straps were a must. So part of the lifetime warranty includes an open call for design suggestions and edits to make it more user-friendly and pleasing to the drummer!