Thursday, May 31, 2012

Homemade Pop Tarts

Nickolas - This one is for you!

A few weekends ago, we had a work weekend here at Willow Cottage.
Everyone had a job to do.
Kids put the dock into the water.
I planted the garden.
Hubby was trimming, weeding and putting mulch down.
 I was so excited that the kids are old enough to do the dock on their own this year.
I was also so excited about getting all this work done.

I always say that I feed my workers.
So before I went to put the garden in, I thought it would be good to whip up a little treat.

I made homemade pop tarts.
I hate pop tarts with a passion.
But homemade ones are really good eats.
Of course you can use store bought pie crust, but I made my own.

The board of ingredients:
  • Extra flour for rolling out the pie dough
  • Jelly 
  • Powdered Sugar Glaze
  • Pie Crust
- I am using the pie crust recipe from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything

The trick to a successful pie crust experience is using plenty of flour.

Once you get the crust rolled out, cut the dough.
You could certainly use a pizza cutter and make square or rectangular tarts.
I thought I would go really fancy and make round tarts.

Lay out the bottom layer of dough on the cookie sheets.
Don't over crowd the cookie sheet.

Spread a dollop of jelly around the middle of the tart.
I used a heaping teaspoon for a four inch circle.
If you add too much jelly it will just run out of the tart and onto the cookie sheet during baking.

This is how I added the top layer.

I know you can't see this, but I dipped my finger in water and rubbed the outer edge of pie dough.

Add another layer of dough.
Try not to capture a bunch of air in between the two layers.

Press the edges down with a fork.

Add a little slit to the top with a sharp knife.

Bake the pop tarts for roughly twenty minutes or until they begin to get golden brown around the edges.

Now it's time to spread a nice thick glaze over the top of the hot tarts.

I just added a little dab of glaze to the top and let it melt down the edges.
You could get fancier if you wanted to with a piping bag.
Some colored sugar would also add a bit of fun color.

Start piling them up because I promise everyone will love these guys.

Homemade Pop Tarts


Jelly of choice
Pie Crust
1 Cup Powdered Sugar
1/4 Teaspoon Vanilla
Super Tiny Pinch of Salt
Drizzle of Milk


1.  Preheat oven to 350° F.
2. Dust cutting board or counter with flour.  Roll out the pie crust until very thin.  Cut dough into uniform shapes of your choice and lay on cookie sheet.
3.  Add one teaspoon jelly to center of crust.
4.  Run a wet finger around the outer edge of the dough.
5.  Lay the second shape over the bottom crust with jelly.
6.  Crimp edges together with a fork.
7.  Cut a tiny slit in the center of the top crust.
8.  Bake for fifteen to twenty minutes or until golden brown.
9. Meanwhile, add powdered sugar, salt and vanilla to a small bowl.  Add a few drops of milk and stir.  Keep adding a couple drops of milk until you get a very stiff glaze.  The glaze should be so stiff you can barely stir it.
10.  When the tarts come out of the oven, spread glaze on the top and let the glaze melt onto the tart.
11.  Enjoy!  Serving sizes vary according to size of the tarts you make.

I am linking to Foody Friday at Rattlebridge Farm and On The Menu Monday at Stone Gable.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Making Candles

One of the funniest stories my mom tells is about the time she stayed up until midnight canning cherries when the power went out.
It's a hilarious me.
Not to her.
Anyway, she looses her power rather often in the summer.

Today we are making candles at my mom's house.
This was a really fun project.
Next time the summer storms hit, Mom will be all set. 
Instead of buying candles for her outages, we made candles.  
What an easy thing to do.
Who knew?

First we gathered a bunch of supplies.
  • A large double boiler
  • An old plastic measuring cup
  • Old spoon
  • Glass jars...chipped canning jars, or any clean empty jar will work
  • pencils
  • hot glue gun
  • soy wax flakes
  • old towel
  • something to protect your counters like a clearance table cloth or newspapers
  • cotton wicks

Start by adding a few inches of water to the pot.

Heat the water up on a higher temp.
When the water begins to simmer and then turn it down to low.
You want to melt wax low and slow.

Then stuff the double boiler with a bunch of soy wax flakes.
Seven quarts of firmly packed flakes melted down to two and a half quarts of wax.

Put the double boiler over the pot of simmering water and let the wax do it's thing.

The melting process took less than a half an hour.

While the wax was melting, we glued the wick tabs to the bottom of the jar.
Just add a dab of glue to the bottom of tab and then push it down into the jar with a pencil.

My mom chose cotton wicks because they supposedly smoke less than other wicks.
The wicks are coated in wax so when you wrap them around the pencil, they stay put.
The reason you do this is so that you can center the wick after you pour the wax.

Here we set up a little assembly line. 
Melted wax on the left and a measuring cup to pour wax into jars in the middle.
We put the empty jars on a tray when we poured the wax into the jars so the dripping wax did not soak into the towel.  
Wax drips that harden on the tray can be scrapped up and reused.
Wax drips on the towel are wasted.

Here is our tray of jars all ready for wax.

We poured the wax into the measuring cup to avoid drips.
This worked the best for us.

This method did not work as well.
It was very drippy.

Our candles dried from the bottom up.

Once the candle was dry, you need to do two more things.
First trim the wick.
We left a long wick on the candle as we were trimming, we'll cut them down a bit more later on.
A short wick means a longer burning candle.
A long wick means a shorter burning candle.

 Don't freak out if you see this when your candles dry.  
It happens.
Wax shrinks as it cools.
But all you have to do is go back and add a bit more wax to the top of the candle.

You can see the little topper of melted wax that we added after the candles had dried.
You get a perfectly finished candle after you top it with a bit more wax.

To finish these guys off, we added a book of matches and the lid.
My mom spread the candles throughout her house.
They are attractive and ready to go.

Adding a sent or color to the candles would have been super simple.
I am thinking of making my own batch to give as gifts.
Look for soy wax flakes and cotton wicks on the internet if you cannot find it locally.
My mom just placed an order and had everything delivered to her house.

Break down:
Roughly a pound of wax made three half pint candles which should burn for roughly 40 hours each.
Candle wicks should be trimmed to 1/4 of an inch long.
Candles should be burned for at least 4 hours to get the maximum burning time.
Any sort of jar with a lid can be used.
We used Ragu jars, baby food jars, maraschino cherries jar and canning jars.
Since our jars were free, an eight ounce candle cost less than a dollar to make.
Scented, colored candles of the same size were going for over $13.00 on the internet.
I know that is not comparing apples to apples, but it gives you an idea of how much you can save by making your own.

I am linking to Thrifty Things Friday at The Thrifty Groove.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Pink Tablescape

Today we are setting the table for a tea party.
A tea party is the perfect pre-teen gathering according to my daughter, the expert.
She has invited three of her friends over and I am setting their table.
This would also be a great table for a Mother's Day brunch.
I am starting with this pink table cloth.
{I apologize for the terrible picture below.}

I am praying that my daughter's terribly sophisticated pre-teen friends will treat my treasured milk glass with extreme care.

I am the third generation to have these beautiful luncheon sets.
I really love them.

My mother made these cute little napkins just for the occasion.
They are smaller than a traditional 19 X 19 napkin.

I am also borrowing a few pieces of my mother's beautiful silver.
I thought the salad fork and the teaspoon was the cutest and daintiest.
I wanted to do something a little different with the silverware.
I found some sheer pink ribbon and grabbed a few leftover carnations.

I crossed the silver and tied it together.

 A sweet little bow is perfect.

A single carnation flower finished off the place setting.

A milk glass plate goes in the middle for the centerpiece.

The centerpiece is pretty simple.
I soaked Oasis in water and then added carnations and baby's breath.
I cut the stems down to a few inches to make them workable.

I am linking to Tablescape Thursday at Between Naps on the Porch and Let's Dish at Cuisine Kathleen.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Sloppy Joes To Go

We spent a few days tucked away in an adorable little cabin enjoying nature.

As usual, meals were planned at home so we could spend our vacation enjoying the sights while sticking to our budget.
I made a batch of Sloppy Joes at home and froze it for our vacation.
All we had to do was let it thaw and heat it up.
Couldn't be easier!

Jello seems to have become a vacation favorite.
We added Sun Chips and an orange to the plate.
We cured hunger for a few more hours and the clean up was a snap.

So, let's get cooking!

The board of ingredients for these sloppy joes is pretty simple stuff.
I am using a quart of my own canned tomatoes, 
but of course any store bought tomato product works just fine.
  • Diced Onion
  • Diced Celery
  • Mustard
  • Ketchup
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Hot Sauce
  • Sugar
  • Canned Tomatoes
  • Olive Oil
  • Ground Beef

Start with some olive oil in the bottom of your dutch oven...or any big pot.

In go the celery and onions.

Give them a pinch of salt and pepper and let them cook until they are soft.

Like this.

Add the ground beef and break it up a bit.
Don't stir the heck out of this while it is cooking.
Leave some larger chunks of beef so your fella has something to bit into.
Fellas like that.
Also, add a pinch of salt and pepper to the beef.

Now that the beef is completely cooked, it's time to start adding flavor.

Add the rest of the ingredients to the beef.

Stir everything together and let it simmer on the stove.

The sauce will thicken up and beef will absorb the flavor.

The joes are ready to eat now.
If you are making them for the freezer they need to be packaged up.
Stick them in the fridge until the meat is cool.
I like to freeze vacation food in a labeled, gallon sized zip lock bag.
I freeze the sloppy joe mix on a cookie sheet.

Sloppy Joes


1 Cup Diced Onion
1 Cup Diced Celery
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
2 Pounds Ground Beef {90/10}
3/4 Cup Ketchup
1/4 Cup Mustard
3/4 Cup Sugar
Hot Sauce
2 14.5oz Cans of Tomatoes - Diced, Stewed, Whole...Whatever you have will work.


1. Add a drizzle of olive oil to a large pot over medium high heat.  Add the onion, celery, salt and pepper and cook stirring occasionally until the veggies are softened.
2.  Add the ground beef to the pot and season with salt and pepper.  Break up the beef, but leave some chunks in the pot.
3. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir.
4.  Bring mixture to a simmer over medium low heat for twenty - forty minutes, uncovered, stirring occasionally.
5. Enjoy! 

For a printer friendly version of this recipe click here.