PictureLittle Boy Blond, "hiding" in my fabric bin!
Hi there! Mama here. 

Well, it's the last day of January so I suppose a "Happy New Year!" is in order. Are you ready?

Happy New Year!

Things are just rolling along over here at the Sweet Home kitchen. Since December 31st, we:
-had a NYE party
-organized the crud out of our closets and storage areas
-made a lot of food
-had a lot of company
and
-watched my baby bump grow bigger and bigger! 

Our plans for 2013 include:
-welcoming baby#2 and adjusting to being a family of four
-blogging more often (maybe twice a month?)
and
-sewing more (as you can see in the photo above, Little Boy Blond thinks my fabric bin is great fun!)

2012 was a loooong year and we had a lot of adventures, what with bringing our baking business dreams to reality and all. ;) But in truth it was also extremely stressful, and in many ways we kind of dove right in before thinking about where the path would lead. As in: "We need to make how many batches of biscotti this week?!"

I'm really glad we went through all we did to start Sweet Home à la Mama because now the most tedious and confusing parts of starting up are behind us, and we have time to rest a bit and catch our breath before deciding whether to go back to the market again this year. It will mostly depend on how I'm feeling post-baby and whether I can reasonably haul the goods to market with 2 kiddos in tow. If not, we'll just stick to our home sales for a while until we're good and ready to hit the market! :)

So that's where we're at. Over the next few months I may not be updating much with the new baby coming soon, but be sure to check back this summer and see what we're up to!

-Mama


What things have you done so far to start the new year right? 
 
Picturewhite lights + 2 goofballs = photo fun!
Hi there! Mama here.

Well, the first snowfall has arrived here in Michigan and some people aren't thrilled, but I can't help but feel excited. The frost in the air and the snow on the roof just make me smile because I know it means the holidays are coming... and I don't know about you, but frost and snow and cold weather all add up to winter-time goodies for me! 

Some of my fondest holiday memories involve the familiar scents and tastes of holiday goodies: Going to my grandma and grandpa's house on Christmas Eve and excitedly dumping out stockings filled with our favorite Christmas candies, my other grandpa carrying those little peppermint Christmas tree nougats in his pockets, getting a box of chocolate bells every year after the church Christmas program, chocolate oranges from my dad, and the scent of my mom's Christmas cookies and breads filling the house with heavenly smells. When I look back on it all and remember how I enjoyed the food more than almost anything else about the season, I wonder...is it really any surprise I've ended up doing this? ;)

So last night Papa and I watched The Green Hornet (way better than the Green Lantern movie, just in case you were wondering) while we savored a couple steaming mugs of hot cocoa (Raspberry for him and French Vanilla with peppermint extract for me). If you don't feel up to making your own from scratch, I highly recommend Land O Lakes brand because, well, it's the best store-bought hot cocoa I've ever tasted. I always make sure to keep at least a dozen of their individual packets around in various flavors during the holidays for guests to enjoy, and trust me--they DO enjoy it!

Aside from just the goodies, holiday crafts are super fun, too. I was looking for one to do with Little Boy Blond and came across one Christmas-time creation that would be just perfect. We use a lot of glass jars here in the Sweet Home kitchen and there are always at least four or five of them just sitting around waiting to be filled with Sweet Home Granola or other goodies. So when I came across Martha Stewart's DIY snow globes, I knew I'd found a winner! Just take any old (clean and dry) glass jar with a lid and a tight seal, and voìla: instant snow globe success! You don't even have to use a Christmas theme for these to be fun; Papa and Little Boy made some with footballs and airplanes and they turned out super cute! (Cotton balls for clouds? Papa is so creative.)

What else? Well, we decided to do a family photo shoot to get some (hopefully) good pictures for a photo card this year (since Mama never actually got around to sending out cards last year...oops), and we had a ball! I was inspired by two Christmas light themed photos I saw on Pinterest: one of three kids and one of a newly engaged couple. I kind of took the lights idea and ran with it, and one of the final results is the picture in this post. We wanted something funny, so I thought up the idea that Little Boy had wrapped Papa in Christmas lights and left him hanging--they both loved it!

Anyway, I hope you're enjoying the season and taking some time out to spend with the ones you love, because--snow or no snow--that's what really makes it feel like Christmas!

Sweet Home à la Mama


What kinds of goodies or crafts are you enjoying this holiday season? Leave a comment and share!
 
PicturePapa Blond's simple pot-cleaning tutorial
Hi there! Mama here. 

I've got a special treat for y'all today! As a result of a particularly messy camping trip, Papa created an awesome photo tutorial after successfully turning our poor campfire-scorched teapot into a shiny new creation! 

I've included his personal comments along with the photos he took during the process. I hope it's as helpful for you as it was for me!

How to Clean a Burned Pot Using Sand

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Here's a before and after.

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I think it's the combination of smoke and burning sap that gives it that lustrous and tarry black...

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The bottom was also sticky and gross-looking.

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Mama thought we might have to throw it out since it reeked of smoke and this is what it looked like after a spirited brillo-pad encounter.

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Never fear! A cup of wet sand is here!

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After you've procured a cup of wet sand, scoop some of it out. Yes, it looks like poo in this picture, but I assure you, it is play sand I bought at Home Depot. (Don't do this with anything painted or that you wouldn't want scratched--our tea kettle was a $2 find at a thrift store, so no biggie if this whole process ruins it!)

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Proceed to rub the sand onto the tea kettle. You'll want to layer the sand and then "wipe" with the sand really hard between the kettle and your finger.

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Voila! (Don't let your wife see this stuff on your kitchen floor!)

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Tada! Bright and shiny!

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Here's the other side!

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And here's the bottom. I wish I could make an infomercial and charge $19.99 a bottle for this stuff. I could call it a "Silicon Dioxide Solution."

Did this work for you? Leave a comment and let me know or share a simple cleaning secret of your own!
 
PictureLittle Boy Blond and the Great Pumpkin!
Hi there! Mama here...and to my great joy, autumn is here, too!

As for news, we've recently moved (thus the lack of recent posts--sorry!) and we are recently expecting a new little one as well! It's so much nicer being pregnant in the cold months...let's just say I prefer to pull on a sweater over my bump instead of trying to attempt shorts and a tank top with a belly band, lol. Little Boy Blond is going to be a big brother (I have to call him "Little Boy" now, as there's going to be a new "Baby" around soon!), and we couldn't be happier. :)

With the move comes excitement as well as a minor disappointment: our living space has doubled, but the Sweet Home Kitchen is now about half the size as it used to be! I was bummed at first, but as I've purged unused cookware, a thrice-used cake-decorating kit, and a few random doodads that I can't remember ever using (A melon baller? What was I thinking?), I've found that the space is quite sufficient for everything I need

I'm also glad that this move was in the fall. Our last move was in the worst humid heat of August, and it was a real doozie. Not only did the cooler weather this time of year make moving easier, but it's really nice to settle into our new home with hot things like bread and roasts baking in the oven to share around our family table. For those of you who've never had the pleasure of autumn in Michigan, allow me a moment to digress...

There is nothing like autumn in Michigan. The weather changes so quickly that it catches us all off-guard...the dog days of summer melt into the glory days of fall, and all of a sudden the green, lake-lined edges of the mitten state are transformed into a sea of gold and rose as leaves begin to turn and fall. Ah, fall.

Along with the changes in color come the cool, biting winds that are as tangible as the crisp red apples you eat at the orchard as you search for the perfect pumpkin: not too big, not too small, and nicely rounded and presentable on at least three sides (because at least one side will be facing the wall, of course). Once you've got your pumpkin and pet a few farm animals, you can hop on the hay wagon and ride through a corn maze before heading back to the mill for cider and doughnuts that taste that much better because they're so fresh that the edges of the doughnuts are still crunchy and warm from the oil. Mmm. Fall.

Sadly, the apple crop on this side of the state wasn't too hot this year and many of the mills had to order apples from the western side, hiking up the prices from last year. While I've avoided the fresh made cider at $10.50 a gallon (yikes...guess I'll be buying it at the grocery store this year), I'll admit I did indulge in a few fresh doughnuts, just for the sake of tradition. ;)

But anyway, this post was supposed to say something about granola!

For the home (not for the shop), I've been working on mimicking a favorite product of mine: Nature's Path Pumpkin Flax Granola. This time of year I can't help but long for anything pumpkin (Have you tried the Better Homes and Gardens recipe for Melt-in-Your-Mouth Pumpkin Cookies? I have and um, yeah, amazing), and since I'm kind of a granola fanatic, pumpkin granola in autumn is a must. 

The first time I tried, I added way too much molasses to my recipe, which made it very, shall we say, robust. Not quite the light, airy texture of the Nature's Path version. Also, my puffed rice bits were larger than theirs (since I was experimenting, I went cheap and bought the massive, off-brand kind on the bottom shelf...big mistake), so it was kind of a weird mix altogether and not very pleasant.

Since I didn't feel like testing another batch (moving has been kind of overwhelming, to say the least) and really just wanted that delicious pumpkin seed flavor, I've resolved to dump a handful of pumpkin seeds in with my regular granola mix and call it a day. It's not quite the same as the Nature's Path version, but it makes for a great fall-flavored granola and nips that pumpkin fix! Now hopefully my chestnut craving will hold off until after Thanksgiving...

So here's to a new beginning, and to the holidays ahead! Be sure to watch the blog for more seasonally-inspired goodies!

Until next time,

Sweet Home à la Mama


What are your favorite fall recipes and/or pumpkin variations? Do share!
 
PictureDolsot bibimbap--yum!
Hi there! Mama here.

So in case you didn't know, we here at the Sweet Home kitchen absolutely, positively, LOVE Korean food. Yes, Korean food. How, you ask, did we get to know and love this perhaps (undeservedly) lesser-known of foreign foods here in the Midwest? Well, let me tell you.

Before Papa and I were, well, a mama and a papa, we did a year-long English teaching stint in Daegu, South Korea, or The Land of the Morning Calm (so named for its "spellbinding natural beauty of picturesque high mountains and clear waters and its splendid tranquillity, particularly in the morning"). The description is quite accurate; Korea is a breathtaking country and we thoroughly enjoyed our time there.

But again, I digress. This post is supposed to be about delicious Korean FOOD! So you see that picture up there? That's a dish called "bibimbap" and it's one of my favorites. It literally means "mixed rice," but really it means, "mixed rice and vegetables with beef, chili pepper paste, and a fried egg on top." It's one of the first meals you'll have if you visit Korea, whether it's served on the plane ride there (thank you, Korean Air!) or at one of the gazillion Korean restaurants that serve it as part of their regular menu. It's a popular, easy-to-handle dish for both natives and foreigners, and can be wonderfully customized for carnivores, vegetarians, and vegans alike!

My favorite version includes shitake mushrooms, zucchini, bean sprouts, spinach, and carrots (all sauteed separately), ground beef, and a sunny-side-up egg, all mixed in a sizzling stone pot (like you can see in the picture above). This version is called "dolsot bibimbap" which means "bibimbap in a sizzling stone bowl." The great thing about dolsot bibimbap is that the bowl is so hot when you serve it that once you put the egg on top and start mixing, the rest of the egg actually fries inside the pot and the rice gets all crispy crunchy on the bottom. Delicious!

Because they had just opened up Shin's Korean Restaurant in our home town of Mount Pleasant, Michigan literally within months of us coming home--weird, we didn't really have a need to learn to cook Korean food ourselves for a couple of years. Here in Grand Blanc, though, sadly there is no Korean restaurant in sight. There is, however, a great little Korean grocer less than ten miles from our home and an AWESOME Korean cooking website with all of the recipes we know and love!

After first trying her recipe for japchae and having wild success, I returned to Maangchi's Korean cooking website in search of her bibimbap recipe. To make sure you're able to properly cook authentic and delicious Korean dishes, Maangchi posts detailed ingredient lists, clear instructions, great photos, and short videos with each recipe to make sure your meals turn out just as great as hers. Once I found the recipe I was looking for, I set out for Seoul Oriental Market in Flint to gather the ingredients.

You should be able to find most of the ingredients at a regular grocery store (I was able to get the rice, eggs, zucchini, garlic, ground beef, shitake mushrooms, bean sprouts, spinach, sesame oil, and soy sauce at our local Meijer), but some of them, like the gochujang (red hot pepper paste) and kim (seaweed), might be tough to find in some areas. I would recommend visiting a Korean grocery store simply because a) there are a ton of great things you can buy there (Korean rice cakes, plum juice drinks, and sweet red bean pastries for starters) and b) Koreans are great to talk to! (I'm not trying to generalize...it's just that I've honestly never had a bad experience in the hundreds of Koreans I've spoken to.)

In any case, I followed Maangchi's recipe and the bibimbap was a huge success! It was definitely a lot of work (if I could chop veggies half as quickly as Maangchi I'd have finished a lot sooner), but it was well worth it once I tasted the results and saw the satisfied look on Papa Blond's face. Score!

So if you're feeling adventurous and want to give Korean cooking a try, I suggest you check out Maangchi.com and give it a whirl!

Until next time,

Sweet Home à la Mama


Have you tried Korean food? If so, what's your favorite? Have you made it at home? Feel free to leave a comment and share your story if you've successfully (or unsuccessfully!) tried any Korean dishes yourself--I'd love to hear about your experience!
 
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Hi there! Mama here.

Okay, so I've recently finished a mammoth project to revitalize our home-cooking agenda. Before, I would spend hours trying to come up with new and exciting meals to make each week, feeling very much like I was reinventing the wheel each time. What I've done recently has made that a whole lot easier.

Instead of racking my brain for seven distinct meals to prepare at the start of each week, I've now identified seven distinct types of meals that we serve here in the Sweet Home kitchen, and I've assigned each day of the week one of said meal categories in the hopes of easing the task of weekly meal planning.

To make the process even easier, for each type of weekly meal I listed, I made a spreadsheet with a list of all the specific recipes I currently know how to cook in that category, along with some I'd like to learn and test out. Sound too good to be true? It's not. I did it and now meal planning has become so much simpler!

Here's a sneak peak at my meal plan for this week. Feel free to re-create one for yourself, or if you don't have even the teensiest desire to do that, I have personalized templates available for a $5 instant download at my etsy shop. ;)

I hope this helps some of you in your own home kitchens as much as it's helping me, and happy planning!

Until next time,

Sweet Home à la Mama


What do you do to organize your weekly meals? Have any great ideas that help you out? Feel free to leave a comment and share!
 
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Hi there! Mama here.

Okay, so it turns out I've got a new obsession...well, it's not so much the obsession itself (good home cooking) that's new as it is the most recent inspiration--it's sort of like adding fuel to a well-stoked fire. You all know by now that I love to cook, but if I find a new means by which to do so or a particularly talented chef from whom to amass a broader collection of oh-so-mouth-watering recipes, well, expect nothing else from the kitchen that week but an onslaught of drool-worthy goodies! (Okay, so maybe Baby is the only one actually drooling...)

In any case, I headed over to smittenkitchen.com after a Google search for homemade Goldfish crackers, and boy, oh, boy did I hit the jackpot! It's run by Deb Perelman, a home cook who believes that cooking should be pleasant and simple. This website has some of the most delectable-looking homemade goodies I've found anywhere on the web (and trust me, that's saying A LOT), and I'm all but ready to chain myself to the kitchen counter until I've tried every last appetizing one.

Last night I tried the Smitten Kitchen recipe for whole wheat goldfish crackers and had incredible results. Not only are they the perfect size for Baby's nimble fingers (or Mama's, or Papa's, for that matter!), but the whole wheat flour gives them this hearty texture that tastes just like homemade should.

The only changes I made to Deb's recipe were out of sheer convenience. I couldn’t wait until our next shopping trip to make these babies with the recommended "loud" orange block of cheddar, so I used our leftover shredded Mexican blend from tortillas the night before and BAM! Delish.

Also, since we didn’t have any cookie cutters that small (and since I ran out of patience after hand-carving just two of the fishy shapes with a paring knife), I used a good old-fashioned apple corer to make sun-shaped crackers instead. The finishing touch was a few pokes with a 3-tined wooden fork to make air holes in each cracker, and voilà! About a hundred tasty little crackers as cute as buttons that everybody seems to love. They turned out great and I'm thinking that next I'll try a parm-and herb version...since it seems likely I'll be making these buggers weekly from here on out. ;)

Since I'm now super pumped to try as many Smitten Kitchen recipes as possible, I'm planning to pre-order Deb's cookbook, due out at the end of October. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Deb Perelman, for sharing your recipes, pictures, and talents online and now in print!

Until next time,

Sweet Home à la Mama


Have you tried any Smitten Kitchen recipes? Leave a comment and let me know which ones you've tried!
 
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Hi there! Mama here.

For most people, the thought of black beans in a brownie would be an instant deal-breaker, but consider this: One serving of black beans provides 42g of protein (that's 84% of your daily need!), as well as over 100% of your daily need for folate, thiamin, and manganese! Plus...they're super good.

With that in mind, I took a cue from a friend and added a pound of black beans to my usual go-to brownie recipe: a rich blend of dark cocoa powder and sweet chunky walnuts that makes a perfect combination of moist and fudgy but also soft and cakey brownies. When the black bean addition yielded rich, tasty results (seriously, you would have no idea those beans were in there!), I decided to take things one step further in an effort to intensify the heathful-ness of these chocolatey goodies.

Okay, so our other secret brownie ingredient is perhaps even more surprising than the first. *Hint* It's green, but it's probably not what you're thinking! ;) It's actually...are you ready for this? Zucchini! Sounds weird, right? It's actually not as strange as you might believe.

Think about zucchini bread. In theory, vegetables baked into bread doesn't sound super appetizing (well, to some of us health nuts it might sound pretty exciting), but once you taste it you realize it can add a surprisingly sweet quality. Same deal here. Not only that, but zucchini is an excellent source of many essential vitamins and minerals, most notably Potassium and Vitamins A and C, all important parts of a balanced diet.     

So if you're in the mood for something rich (and cholesterol-free and vegan, might we add!), give our new cakey, fudgey, quarter-pound Beany Zucchini Brownies a try!

Until next time,

Sweet Home à la Mama

 
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Hi there! Mama here.

So things are busy as usual here at Sweet Home à la Mama. Baby is more mobile than ever, and loves to hang out in the kitchen while Mama and Papa make the goods (usually with his own little pot and pan collection to play with). He's taken an extreme liking to our NEW mini muffins and even asks for them at snack time. You know, he's really more of a toddler now than a baby...maybe we should refer to him here as Little Boy? In any case, you know who I'm talking about...the little guy with sandy hair that runs around the market collecting pebbles and playing with sticks!

Speaking of those muffins... Are you looking for a healthy snack or a fresh addition to your usual breakfast?  Well we've got some exciting news for y'all...there's a new product fresh from the Sweet Home Kitchen that's just waiting to be devoured! It's Mama's FAB (Flax Apple Bran) Mini Muffins, made with the obvious title ingredients along with dried fruits, nuts, and even shredded carrots. These muffins won't only satisfy your taste buds, but they'll help keep you regular, too! They were a big hit at the market last week, so make sure to come early if you want to get some. Contact us to find out more, or stop by the Grand Blanc Farmers Market and pick up a bag!

Anyway, we hope you're having a great week and that you'll drop in at the market some time to say hi, or even leave a comment below!

Until next time,

Sweet Home à la Mama

 
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Hi there! Mama here.

So we've got two weeks off from the Farmers Market, due to the Grand Blanc Family Fun Fest this week and then the Fourth of July next week. If you can make it out to the Fun Fest, I highly recommend it! There'll be carnival rides, an expo and activity tent, a classic car show, a pie-eating contest, a talent show, a beautiful baby contest, and more!

While we're sad not to be able to go to Market for a while, we're looking forward to the Fun Fest and also to...expanding our product line! Even as we speak, Papa is perfecting a new treat that we're super excited to share with you when the Grand Blanc Farmers Market re-opens July 11th!

Other than that, we're enjoying the time off and trying to make the most of it as we prepare for market and get some much-needed R&R.

Until next time,  

Sweet Home à la Mama