» September 2011 «

Flower Pumpkin Workshop

Tuesday evening was the night you’ve all been waiting for…the pumpkin workshop. I think I say this every time but, this workshop just might be my absolute favorite. The pumpkin workshop brings a little sophistication to the traditional idea of carving pumpkins for the fall.

I went straight to the workshop from class so these photos are courtesy of Linda. Thank you Linda!

The pumpkin below was the demo pumpkin I made for the group.

Would you like to make your very own flower pumpkin? Here’s what you need and a few pointers to get you started:


1 pumpkin (any size)
1 plastic cup (like the coca cola ones from McDonalds, the height depends on how big your pumpkin is)
1 block of oasis

1. Soak a block of oasis in water.
2. Trace the rim of your cup on top of the pumpkin. Cut along the traced line.
3. Hollow out the inside of your pumpkin.
4. Cut oasis edges so it fits snugly into your plastic cup, leave the oasis slightly higher than the cup’s rim.
5. Insert cup into the pumpkin and add water to the cup.
6. Insert flower stems into the oasis as you shape your arrangement.

(Below: Kristin’s Pumpkin)

Now comes the fun part, the flowers! Don’t let a lack of flowers deter you from attempting this project. You can use pretty much anything to fill your pumpkin, leaves, grasses, bushes, dried flowers, fresh flowers, weeds, etc.

Start with a plant that will drape the top of your pumpkin, so the rim of the cup and oasis do not show. I chose peppers and weeds with berries because they are heavy enough to drape down over the pumpkin.

Next, choose 1 or 2 fillers to give some weight to the base of the arrangement and fill in the larger spaces. I used bunches of goldenrod and a few branches of leaves with a different texture than the leaves towards the bottom of the pumpkin.

Now, choose a few staple flowers to draw the eye. You want your main flowers to stay fairly low to the pumpkin, anchoring the arrangement (notice the height of my pink dahlia and Kristin’s red dahlia).

After that, I basically just add extra ornamentals of varying heights for finishing touches. There are blue berry-like pods (castor bean), cattails, and some longer stems of goldenrod for height.

And, just to prove that you can put together a spectacular looking pumpkin with a variety of plants, here are just a few of the pumpkins from Tuesday’s crew.

They were all so wonderful but I can only fit so many pictures into my post. Be sure to let the ladies know how wonderful their pumpkins look and if you put together a pumpkin of your own, send us a picture!

September Daring Baker Challenge

I had the privilege of participating in my first ever “Daring Baker” challenge. What is Daring Baker? Daring Baker comes from The Daring Kitchen a website that challenges both bloggers and non-bloggers to a different baking or cooking challenge each month. The bloggers attempt a difficult recipe, then blog about it on the same day each month, revealing to their readers what the secret challenge was. I joined in August and was ready for my first challenge this month, and what a time to start!

The Daring Bakers go retro this month! Thanks to one of our very talented non-blogging members, Sarah, the Daring Bakers were challenged to make Croissants using a recipe from the Queen of French Cooking, none other than Julia Child!

Lucky for me, croissants are a baking challenge I’d been dying to try ever since watching “It’s Complicated”-with their bakery scene making pain au chocolat (chocolate croissants).

Now, I don’t know how many of you realize how truly involved the process of baking croissants can be (I didn’t). Perhaps you have a never-fail family recipe that you can whip up and serve hot, fluffy croissants in a jiff…

This is not one of those recipes.

My dough sat overnight twice, if that gives you an idea of the time investment. It is possible to make these in one day, if you have one FULL day to spend on croissant making (it takes 12 hours). I, however, did not. So there, you are warned.

I was surprisingly happy with how my croissants turned out, that is until I went to our secret forum to see the other blogger’s results. Some of them were out of this world fantastic. I’m jealous.

However, to be a good sport (and show you that croissants can be well-worth the effort), I am posting links to some of the croissant-bakers blogs that seemed to really outdo themselves. Be sure to visit and show them some love.

cuisine a 4 mains
la galletika
Tart to Heart

I think I’ve decided my issue was the second dough rise. I’m not exactly sure what went wrong (I followed the instructions to a T), perhaps the Tennessee humidity was my downfall. Hmmm…

I also wanted them to be a bit darker than the result. I did a double egg wash, coating the dough in a generous amount of egg/milk mix, and then again right before placing into the oven. Others did the same process with a much different result.

I read a few tips that may help those who prefer a dark shell:

1. use a pan that has low edges/rim so it doesn’t block heat from gliding across the croissants
2. space out your croissants placing only 6 on a pan (I put all 12 on one pan) in order to allow more circulation of heat

Audax Artifex has some great tips to getting beautiful croissants.

I ended up making a few plain croissants, pain au cholocat, and apples and cinnamon.

And without further ado, for the brave at heart, Julia Child’s Recipe (Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. 2). I have grouped the steps into manageable segments.


¼ oz (7 gm) of fresh yeast, or 1¼ teaspoon (6¼ ml/4 gm) of dry-active yeast (about ½ sachet)
3 tablespoons (45 ml) warm water (less than 100°F/38°C)
1 teaspoon (5 ml/4½ gm) sugar
1 3/4 cups (225 gm/½ lb) of strong plain flour (I used Polish all-purpose flour, which is 13% protein)
2 teaspoons (10 ml/9 gm) sugar
1½ teaspoon (7½ ml/9 gm) salt
½ cup (120 ml/¼ pint) milk (I am not sure if the fat content matters. I used 2%)
2 tablespoons (30 ml) tasteless oil (I used generic vegetable oil)
½ cup (120 ml/1 stick/115 gm/¼ lb) chilled, unsalted butter
1 egg, for egg wash


1. Mix the yeast, warm water, and first teaspoon of sugar in a small bowl. Allow the yeast and sugar to dissolve and the yeast to foam slightly.
2. Measure out the other ingredients and heat the milk until tepid, dissolve in the salt and remaining sugar.
3. Scoop flour into a large bowl. Add oil, yeast mixture, and milk. Mix with a rubber spatula, don’t over mix.
4. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, and let it rest while you wash out the bowl.
5. Knead the dough eight to ten times. Check out this video from Julia Child.
6. Place the dough back in the bowl, and place the entire bowl in a plastic bag.
7. Leave the bowl at approximately 75°F/24°C for three hours, or until the dough has tripled in size.

8. After the dough has tripled in size, remove it gently from the bowl, pulling it away from the sides of the bowl with your fingertips.
9. Place the dough on a lightly floured board or countertop, and use your hands to press it out into a rectangle, about 8 X 12 inches (20cm X 30cm).
10. Fold the dough rectangle in three, like a letter (fold the top third down, and then the bottom third up).
11. Place the dough letter back in the bowl, and the bowl back in the plastic bag. Leave the dough to rise for another 1.5 hours, or until it has doubled in size. This second rise can be done overnight in the fridge.

12. Place the double-risen dough onto a plate and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Place the plate in the fridge while you prepare the butter.
13. Once the dough has doubled, it’s time to incorporate the butter. Place the block of chilled butter on a chopping board.
14. Using the rolling pin, beat the butter down a little, till it is quite flat. Use the heel of your hand to continue to spread the butter until it is smooth. You want the butter to stay cool, but spread easily.
15.Remove the dough from the fridge and place it on a lightly floured board or counter. Let it rest for a minute or two.
16. Spread the dough using your hands into a rectangle about 14 X 8 inches (35 cm bX 20 cm).
17. Remove the butter from the board, and place it on the top half of the dough rectangle.
18. Spread the butter all across the top two-thirds of the dough rectangle, but keep it ¼ inch (6 mm) across from all the edges.
19.. Fold the top third of the dough down, and the bottom third of the dough up. Turn the dough package 90 degrees, so that the top flap is to your right (like a book).
20. Roll out the dough package (gently, so you don’t push the butter out of the dough) until it is again about 14 X 8 inches (35 cm bX 20 cm). Again, fold the top third down and the bottom third up.
21. Wrap the dough package in plastic wrap, and place it in the fridge for 2 hours.

22. After two hours have passed, take the dough out of the fridge and place it again on the lightly floured board or counter.
23. Tap the dough with the rolling pin, to deflate it a little. Let the dough rest for 8 to 10 minutes.
24. Roll the dough package out till it is 14 X 8 inches (35 cm X 20 cm). Fold in three, as before.
25. Turn 90 degrees, and roll out again to 14 X 8 inches (35 cm X 20 cm). Fold in three for the last time, wrap in plastic, and return the dough package to the fridge for two more hours (or overnight, with something heavy on top to stop it from rising).

26. It’s now time to cut the dough and shape the croissants.First, lightly butter your baking sheet.
27. Take the dough out of the fridge and let it rest for ten minutes on the lightly floured board or counter. Roll the dough out into a 20 X 5 inch rectangle (51 cm X 12½ cm).
28. Cut the dough into two rectangles (each 10 X 5 inches (25½ cm X 12½ cm). Place one of the rectangles in the fridge, to keep the butter cold.
29. Roll the second rectangle out until it is 15 X 5 inches (38 cm X 12½ cm).
30. Cut the rectangle into three squares (each 5 X 5 inches (12½ cm X 12½ cm). Place two of the squares in the fridge
31. The remaining square may have shrunk up a little bit in the meantime. Roll it out again till it is nearly square. Cut the square diagonally into two triangles.
32. Stretch the triangle out a little, so it is not a right-angle triangle, but more of an isosceles.
33. Starting at the wide end, roll the triangle up towards the point, and curve into a crescent shape.
34. Place the unbaked croissant on the baking sheet
35. Repeat the process with the remaining squares of dough, creating 12 croissants in total.
36. Leave the tray of croissants, covered lightly with plastic wrap, to rise for 1 hour.

37. Preheat the oven to very hot 475°F/240°C/gas mark 9.
38. Mix the egg with a teaspoon of water (or milk). Spread the egg wash across the tops of the croissants.
39. Put the croissants in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, until the tops are browned nicely.
40. Take the croissants out of the oven, and place them on a rack to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

If you give these a try I would love to see the result so be sure to take pictures and send them my way. I’m hoping to give them another try soon. Best of luck and I look forward to sharing next month’s Daring Baker challenge with you all.

Fall is in the Air

This past week I found myself welcoming Fall with open arms, hazelnut coffee, and sweaters! Oh the sweaters. My poor husband has heard little else this past week other than, I need more sweaters (need being a bit of an exaggeration). The point is, I love sweaters. Moving on.

[![](jekyll_uploads/2011/09/chocolate-pie-quesadilla-bruschetta-lake-013-575x381.jpg "Sunflower, Pink Dahlia")](http://www.sweetpeonies.com/2011/09/fall-is-in-the-air/chocolate-pie-quesadilla-bruschetta-lake-013/) Sunflower, Pink Dahlia

The only disappointing part of fall is when I walk out onto my porch to find all of my flowers fading away. I love flowers, just about as much as I love my sweaters, so it is always unfortunate to realize I won’t be seeing their beautiful petals for 3-6 months (depending on location).

[![](jekyll_uploads/2011/09/chocolate-pie-quesadilla-bruschetta-lake-018-575x381.jpg "Delphinium, Mountain Mint, Sedum")](http://www.sweetpeonies.com/2011/09/fall-is-in-the-air/chocolate-pie-quesadilla-bruschetta-lake-018/) Delphinium, Mountain Mint, Sedum

On that note…I decided to share a few pictures of the last Saturday Market bouquets I helped make (just in case you are missing your flowers too). These bouquets were from 3 or 4 weeks ago.

I hope these bouquets bring a little bit of joy to your day. Stay tuned for a very exciting, 3 day baking project I recently completed for the Daring Baker challenge. Big reveal on the 27th!

Happy Fall!

[![](jekyll_uploads/2011/09/chocolate-pie-quesadilla-bruschetta-lake-020-575x381.jpg "Tuberose, Shasta Daisies, Limelight Hydrangea, Gladiola, Goldenrod ")](http://www.sweetpeonies.com/2011/09/fall-is-in-the-air/chocolate-pie-quesadilla-bruschetta-lake-020/) Tuberose, Shasta Daisies, Limelight Hydrangea, Gladiola, Goldenrod

Multi-purpose pesto recipes

There are so many ways to use those last few batches of basil in your summer garden. Here are a few we’ve enjoyed throughout the summer. Remember you can also hang basil to dry and then crush it up to use for seasoning all winter long, or you can pulse it in your food processor and make pesto ice cubes ready to be melted into pasta dishes, dips or spreads.


15-20 basil leaves
2 tbsp sunflower seeds (the insides)
1 tbsp olive oil
pepper/salt to taste
2 tsp garlic or 1 clove of garlic
1/4 c. butter
1 wood cutting board

Butter Pesto


Pull out butter so it can warm to room temperature.

Chop your basil leaves into very very tiny pieces. You should sharpen your knife, if possible, before chopping the leaves, you want to be able to cut through the leaf without the edges turning black (which happens with a dull knife). Once you have minced the leaves, pour a handful of sunflower seeds (no shell) over the top of the basil and mince finely. You will continue to chop, scrape, and gather the mixture.

Add 1 tbsp of olive oil (right onto the cutting board), 1 tsp. at a time (for a total of 3 tsp/1tbsp). Continue to mix and chop, mix and chop. Add pepper, salt, and garlic to mix (mince cloves before adding to the mixture). Once you are satisified with the consistency dump the pesto into a bowl with the butter. Use a fork to combine ingredients. And voila, pesto butter. Sometimes I add a dash or two of lemon to the mix as well.

Jack and I use the pesto butter on our corn instead of plain ol’ butter. It is SO delicious and definitely worth trying out at least once.

Pesto Bread Dip

For those of you who, like us, fancy going out to eat just so you can chow down on warm bread with oil & balsamic vinegar dip, you can use the ingredients above to make your very own dipping mixture. Simply, use the recipe below in a dish of olive oil with 2 tsp. of balsamic vinegar. This is quick and easy to throw together. Of course, you may have to try your hand at homemade baguettes to truly enjoy.


Same as above, minus butter
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. balsamic vinegar

(Adjust to fit your individual tastes. We like lots of vinegar!)

Traditional Pesto

If you prefer traditional pesto, the steps are the same as pesto butter but with more of each ingredient and obviously, no butter.


2 c. basil leaves
Adjust seasoning to fit your tastes (a good batch needs about 3 cloves of garlic)
1/4 c. olive oil for decent consistency (don’t add onto cutting board as with pesto butter, mix i n bowl)
Roughly 1/3 c. shredded Parmigiano Reggiano

Of course you can make both pesto butter and pesto more quickly with a food processor, but there are pros to chopping by hand. I’ll be honest, I only started making pesto by hand because I do not own a food processor. (Gasp) Although it takes more time, chopping your pesto mix by hand is well worth the effort. Hand chopping gives the pesto a coarse texture that has bold pops of flavor in every bite.

Hope this post inspires you to make the most of that last bit of garden basil. As always, leave a comment or shoot me an email if you need any clarification. Enjoy!

An Altogether Terrible Blog Post

This was the day. The day that I said, it can wait no more. This was the day I thought, “I must write an absolutely outstanding blog post for my readers today.”

It is now 8 p.m. and after 6 hours of mixing, rolling, stamping (yep, cookie stamps), and packaging 250 cookies for the Milligan College advancement office, I have decided that this is not the day.

Jack decided to document me after 6 straight hours of standing, mixing, etc. This is what I look like right now…

Here is me with 120 of my lovely cookies.

Here is me baking the last batch of cookies and imitating someone. I’m not really as mad as I look, I just get a little cranky when I’ve been standing this long.

Me, wondering how much longer Jack is going to snap photos.

And, of course, the cookies. The “M” is for MILLIGAN!

I have mentioned this recipe multiple times, but just in case you haven’t tried it yet here are my super yummy & simple shortbread cookies.

I am off to cram in a few hours of studying for my MedSurg test. Sorry I couldn’t roll out the blogging magic today folks. I promise I’ll make it up to you.

Thanks for stopping by!

10-Minute Pillowcase Tutorial

Are you ready for the easiest pillowcase-making tutorial ever?! I know I’ve mentioned it before, but I like my projects to look fabulous and take a grand total of 10 minutes. It’s not that I’m impatient (I am) and it’s not that I get bored easily (I do), the problem is I have too many things to do and not enough time to do them (right). Whatever the reasoning, these pillowcases satisfy my need to craft along with my A.D.D. lifestyle.

First, cut a strip of fabric that will wrap once + 8 in. around the pillow (meaning the fabric should fold around the pillow snugly and overlap itself by 8 in.). This fabric should also be 2 inches wider than the pillow. You want the pillowcase to look full so don’t worry about cutting the sides of your fabric too small.

Next, hem in one end (not side) of the fabric, 1/2 in, nothing fancy, just a simple fold over and hem.

After hemming, place fabric right side up with the unhemmed side closest to you. Fold about 1/3 of the fabric on the hemmed side down (toward you), so right sides touch. This edge will end up being on the outside of the pillow.

Next, fold up (away from you) the unhemmed side and overlap the hemmed edge by 8 inches. (see picture). Your folds might not split the fabric exactly into thirds, the main point is that when you fold the unhemmed side back over the hemmed side, it MUST overlap by at least 8 inches.

Pin in place. Sew a 1 in. strip down the two open sides. Flip pillowcase inside out.

Insert pillow and enjoy your fabulous handiwork!

I’ll be honest I’m not great at writing out tutorials so if you have questions or need more pictures of the process let me know. I’ll try to get a few more pics up to clarify the steps. Good luck and happy sewing!

Guest Post: Mint milk with chocolate ice cubes

Our guest post this week comes from Meredith of Garden in the South. Meredith is a talented cook, wife, and mother of two adorable children. She is our College Archivist and Information Resources Librarian. Jack and Meredith work together at the library and I’m so grateful they do because I have had the pleasure of getting to know her these past 2 years and she is fabulous! She cans, cooks, bakes amazing baklava and so much more. Please be sure to head over to her blog and show her a bit of love today.

First of all, I’d like to thank Tiffany for asking me to guest post! I blog (such as it is) at Garden in the South, but not nearly as often, or with as much focus as I’d like. C’est la vie, for now. But I love The Kitchen Curtains, and everything Tiffany posts I think, “Oooh! I want to try that!” So this is an honor.

The other day, my friend Sarah sent me a link to this [Vanilla Milk with Chocolate Ice Cubes](http://translate.google.com/translate?client=tmpg&hl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fsandrakavital.blogspot.com%2F2008%2F08%2Fchocolat-det-frais-et-gourmand.html&langpair=fr en “Le Petrin”) at Le Pétrin (Google translates this as “Trouble.” That seems an apt title, given the deliciousness of this recipe, and how much of it I want to drink.) I had to make it immediately, but first I had to go to the store for some chocolate (because all of mine was old and chalky looking) and instant coffee powder (which I generally do without, but often wish I had). I considered Via, because it’s better, but went with Maxwell House, because I think it’ll mix in more completely, being that it’s freeze-dried. Via, which I’ll drink in a pinch, is super-finely ground, and so doesn’t dissolve well. Also, it’s crazy expensive. So $2 jar of Maxwell House it is.

I also did not have a vanilla bean. Sarah used one for her Vanilla Milk, and I suspect it’s essential. In something this simple, extract might be a bit harsh. I also live far from my spice purveyor of choice, and definitely couldn’t wait for shipping. But I do have a beautiful pot of fresh mint, and very fond memories of a Fresh Mint-Chocolate Truffle Tart I’ve made a few times. Mint is refreshing, of course, and perfect for summer, but the herbal quality of the fresh mint steeped in the cream is a little unexpected and wonderful. So I decided to go with Mint Milk, instead. And I’m so very glad I did. I’m sure the Vanilla Milk is wonderful, but the Mint . . . Seriously. This might become a staple in my refrigerator. The Chocolate Ice is nice – it melts into the milk, and I think it’d be good in all sorts of drinks. But it was all my husband and I could do not to drink the milk right up, and make more immediately.

So here’s the recipe. I was going to be all helpful and do the metric-American conversion, but then I realized my handy 2-cup Pyrex has mls on the other side, and I’ll bet yours does, too.

For the Chocolate Ice:

200 ml milk

50 ml water

1 T instant coffee

1 T unsweetened cocoa powder

1 t sugar

70 g dark chocolate, 66% (I used a combination of 82% and 60%, because I forgot to write down what I needed before I went to the store, and was thinking I was looking for 77%. It worked out ok.)

Whisk the coffee, cocoa powder, and sugar together in a small saucepan. Whisk in the milk & water, and bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking often. Meanwhile, finely chop the chocolate, and put into heatproof, pourable vessel (I used the aforementioned 2-cup Pyrex.) Pour hot liquid over chocolate. Let stand a few minutes, and whisk smooth. (The original suggests a wooden spoon, but I’m pretty excited about my new 4-inch whisk, so I used it.) Pour into ice cube tray, and freeze. This made 12 cubes for me.

For the Mint Milk:

600 ml milk (I used 500 ml 1%, which is what I had, with 100 ml 1/2 & 1/2 for richness. I think I’d just use the 1% next time – I’m not sure the creaminess added that much.)

60 g sugar (about 1/4 cup)

8-10 sprigs fresh mint

Heat the milk & sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently. When milk is very hot and sugar dissolved, remove from heat, toss in mint sprigs, and cover. Let steep half an hour or so (I forgot to look at the clock when I started, which, of course, I didn’t realize until some time later.) Remove mint, and chill. I poured it through a strainer into a Mason jar, but there wasn’t really anything to strain out.

To Serve:

Place 2-3 cubes chocolate in glasses, and pour milk over. This recipe makes 4 servings (at three cubes each, and milk divided 4 ways.) I think next time, I’ll double the milk, and use 2 cubes per serving. We had a hard time sipping slowly enough to let the chocolate melt in, and ended up topping off with regular milk (and a splash of Bailey’s) just so we’ll have more Mint Milk left for tonight. But, seriously, the Mint Milk? You must try it.