Saturday, September 13, 2014

Shortbread Toffee Bars



Here's another recipe that I have been drooling over on Pinterest. I actually bought a bag of the Heath Bar pieces over the summer to make them, but I confess that I ended up nibbling straight out of the bag and never made the bars. I finally bought another bag and made them on Thursday night. If you happened to be hanging around the teacher's lounge yesterday, you might have gotten a sample of these yummy bars because I brought a few extras to share. Seems they were a hit, so I promised to post the recipe!

These were very easy to make, although you have to bake 3 individual layers, so you can't simply mix them and pop them in the oven. The only issue I had was that my milk chocolate chips did not spread smoothly after they were melted. I think the bag had been sitting around in the pantry for a while.  I simply sprinkled the toffee pieces on top and stuck the pan back in the oven for a couple minutes, then pressed the pieces into the chocolate with a spoon.


Shortbread Toffee Bars

Shortbread Crust  Layer

3/4 cup softened butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cup flour

Blend together with a mixer until combined into crumbly pieces. Press the crumbs into a 9 x 13 inch pan lined with foil and sprayed lightly with non-stick spray. (I actually skipped the foil and buttered the pan with the butter wrappers.)  Bake for 15 minutes, until lightly brown. Cool slightly (about 10 minutes).

Filling Layer

1 can sweetened condensed milk (I used the low fat version)
2 tablespoons butter

While the shortbread is baking, prepare the filling.  In a saucepan, melt the butter. Combine with the sweetened condensed milk and heat slightly, whisk together until smooth.  Pour over the cooled shortbread base and smooth. Bake for 12 -15 minutes, until golden and bubbling. Do not over bake.

Topping Layer

One package milk chocolate chips
One package Heath milk chocolate bits (You could also use crunched up Heath bars.)

Immediately sprinkle the milk chocolate chips over the hot filling. Return to the oven for 2 minutes, until the chips are softened. Use a knife or spatula to spread the chocolate over the bars, then sprinkle with the Heath bits. Press the pieces into the chocolate. (If needed, return the bars to the oven for a minute to melt the chocolate enough to press the pieces in.)

Cool completely before cutting.  Store and serve at room temperature.

Original Recipe at Cookies and Cups


Friday, August 29, 2014

Lynktec Rechargeable Apex Fine Point Active Stylus - Review




I recently purchased a Linktec Apex Fine Point Stylus and I think my search for a great stylus that gives me fine point control for writing and drawing has finally come to an end.  I have had my Apex for about 3 weeks and I must say that I love it! 

The Apex is a comfortable length, width, and weight in my hand as I draw or write. To use it, you press the button on the handle for a few seconds and a blue light comes on at the tip. It will work in any application - you do not have to sync it within an app or use Bluetooth.  I have been using it with ease with the Flipink, Procreate, and Paper53 apps and also writing notes in Penultimate.  

The stylus automatically turns off after about 30 minutes, so you do not have to worry about running down the battery.  My first charge has lasted for 3 weeks and I still have not needed to recharge.


The 2.3mm tip is slightly thicker than a large paper clip. It is rigid and provides excellent control - it will write/draw where it touches. I have not had issues with it skipping (like I have had with my Adonit Jot Pro Stylus).  It doesn't not have that annoying easy-to-lose plastic disk like the JotPro does. It writes quietly and moves easily on the surface of the iPad. I love the control! However, if I am looking for a bit more "flow" to what I am drawing, I probably would reach my my Pencil or Sensu Brush.


One important thing to note is that since it does not sync with apps, you will not have any pressure sensitivity when iOS8 is released. The Pencil stylus will be able to take advantage of surface pressure, but I do not think my Apex will be able to use these new features.  I'm ok with that - this is perfect for precise control.


The Apex comes with a lithium ion battery installed and a charging cord. Simply unscrew the cap and plug it into your computer USB port to charge. The cap also stores a replacement nib tip which comes with the stylus. Handy and convenient.

The Linktec Apex Fine Point Stylus currently is listed at Amazon at $69.99 US.  A bit pricey, but I am finding I love it for writing, taking sketchnotes, and drawing. It has been worth the splurge for me!

(Note: I receive a very small percentage of any purchases made through my link to Amazon. Moneys received help me purchase technology that will help my students and me in the classroom.)

My Sketchnote Resources: listing of apps, equipment, examples

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Best Grilled Chicken Shawarma


Those of us living in the Detroit area are blessed to have an abundance of Middle Eastern restaurants.   One of the best sandwiches to pick up is chicken shawarma  - savory chicken wrapped in a pita and slathered with garlic sauce.  (It also usually contains a pickle, which I remove - not a pickle fan!)  Over the years, I have tried a number of chicken recipes to try to duplicate that flavor, but none that really captured it. Until now. Thank you Detroit Free Press Test Kitchen for this recipe!

Ok, you will want to bookmark, pin, save this recipe! Trust me! This is the best recipe I have ever found for grilled chicken. It is the perfect mix of savory and tangy and the yogurt helps to keep the chicken moist.  The chicken is awesome wrapped in a pita, but also works great in salads, pastas, or on its own.

Grilled Chicken Shawarma

Marinade:

¼ cup lemon juice (use fresh, about 2 lemons)
¼ cup canola oil (a light flavored olive oil would also work)
1 teaspoon dried oregano or thyme, crumbled
1 teaspoon paprika 
1 teaspoon cumin 
4 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt (I used Fage non-fat Greek yogurt)
3 tablespoons white vinegar 
4 crushed garlic cloves (ok, I confess, I used 4 teaspoons of that chopped garlic from a jar, worked fine!)
1 teaspoon salt (you might want a tad less, but I liked the slight salty flavor)

Put all ingredients in a bowl and blend together with a whisk.  

Chicken: use 2 pounds of boneless chicken breast, cut into strips. I did only 8 strips of chicken and wish I had done more because there was plenty of marinade. 

Marinate chicken for 4 - 6 hours in the refrigerator, turning several times.  (I put it all in a covered glass dish, but putting it all in a zip lock bag would work, too.)




The marinade is this wonderful amber color!

Grill over medium heat.  If you don't feel like heating up the grill outside, use a Foreman grill. I'm sure it would work to brown in a non-stick pan on your stove in a bit of olive oil.


Serve wrapped in pita if you wish, or however you want!


The Free Press link above also has a recipe for garlic yogurt sauce, which is another recipe that I have been trying to perfect for years with no success.  I tried it, found it was too salty and the garlic had too much bite.  I am trying some variations and some hints to eliminate the bit from the garlic (removing the green core is one hint I found).  I love a good garlic sauce, so will let you know if I figure it out.  If you have the secret, let me know!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Gypsy Leftovers Bracelet and Necklace



One of the best parts about the start of summer vacation is that I can channel my creative energies into some personal projects, rather than just always thinking about school. So the past few days I have been having fun making some new jewelry from my stash of beads.


When I came across this bracelet on Pinterest, forgive me, I had to be a bit of a copycat. (I am not selling my jewelry, so I hope it is ok to take inspiration from another work.)


I knew I already had a lot of leftover beads that were in this color family that would be perfect to mix together.  And I had the memory wire - so this was totally made from leftovers, save a couple silver beads I had recently picked up at Joann Fabrics.  The bracelet winds in about 5 layers when on my wrist - a bit over the top, but would be fun with a plain white t-shirt and jeans.


Once the bracelet was done, I still had a few of those flowery blue lampwork beads left, so I decided I needed a matching necklace. I used some waxed linen cord because it could hold the heavy beads but still would have a bit of flow.  I decided not to do a clasp because the necklace was long enough to put around my neck - just tied both ends of it to a silver rose charm.

So Clever Karen is back in action!  I have many projects and ideas saved up and in process, so hopefully I can be a better blogger this summer.  I've already completed a few more jewelry projects, so check back!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Door Knob and Oil Can Picture Holders


My sofa shelf, post Christmas.  Lots of faux mercury glass candles.


My new postcard holders, complete with vintage postcards from Venice.  This one is made from an old glass doorknob.  It was easy to bend the wire and stick it into the hole at the top.  Blinged it up by clipping on a vintage earring.  Lots of inspiration from Pinterest to make these, especially from the Petite Michelle Louise blog.


And this one, done with an old oil can.  Easy to make and as cute as can be!  Just stick a twist of wire into the tip.


The doorknob was a bit wobbly, so I balanced it on a old tin mold! Works perfectly as a stand!

And that concludes my clever craft inspiration, brought to you by this below zero snow day!



Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Vintage Golden Remix Jewelry

Over the past few months, I have played around with remixing a variety of vintage jewelry bits.
Old watch - turned into a "locket" removed the insides, added a bit of a dictionary and a rhinestone.
I think this might have been a clear glass drawer pull. Added other beads to bling it up.
Large pin turned into a pendant. Added another vintage bead and charm on one side of the chain as an accent.
Long chain made up from all the leftover bits of gold chains from other projects, all joined together.
All kinds of gold chains and mixed and twisted together.
Flower pin turned into pendant. Clipped onto on other mixture of gold chains.
I often play with all these bits off and on until I find a perfect combo. Enjoyed having a few snow days to finish up the projects.

 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Caramel Apple Muffins

Have you discovered these Kraft Caramel Bits yet?  I hate unwrapping caramels for recipes, so these are simply genius! The only bad thing about them is that since they are unwrapped, it is just too easy to keep popping them in your mouth.


I was looking for a new twist on apple muffins for Thanksgiving, so I did a Pinterest search for caramel apple muffins.  I came up with quite a few matches, and decided to use this recipe from My Recipes as my base, but instead of dipping the muffins in caramel after they were cooled, I just added some of the caramel bits into the batter.

The sour cream made these muffins moist and tender and that little bit of melted caramel inside adds just a touch of extra goodness.  You could definitely make them without the caramel bits and they would still be amazing.  I think next time I may play around with the topping - it may have needed a bit more flour.  The topping got a bit sticky and toffee-like, not sure if that was a good thing or a dare to lose a filling!



Caramel Apple Muffins

Topping:


1/3 cup light brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (next time I will try 2 tablespoons)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 softened tablespoons butter

In a small bowl, stir together the brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon.  Cut the butter in with a fork or pastry blender into small bits.  Set aside.


Muffins:


1 cup sour cream (8 ounces) - I used low fat
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups peeled and diced apples - I used Gala apples
3/4 cup Kraft Caramel Bits

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. In a large bowl, beat sour cream. sugar, eggs, and vanilla for about a half minute or until blended.

3. In another bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Slowly add into the wet mixture and beat until just blended. Stir in the chopped apples and the caramel bits.

4. Spoon 3/4 full into a muffin pan that has been greased with cooking spray.  (I was able to get a dozen full sized muffins and a dozen mini muffins out of this recipe.)  Sprinkle with the topping.  Bake for about 20 minutes for the full sized and 15 minutes for the minis, or until golden and a toothpick stuck in the center comes out clean.  (I usually check them every 5 minutes once they start to brown to be sure!)

5. Remove immediately from the pan (the caramel can cause them to stick once cooled) and let cool on a baking rack.





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