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Los Rios Rancho is open year round, check ‘em out!

It’s the weekend after Labor Day. And when you live in Los Angeles, that’s how you know it’s fall!  “Apple Picking” has been something that I’ve tried to do the last three years and for one reason or another did not go.  Not this year though. In late July I googled ‘best apple picking near Los Angeles’ and began planning.  Los Rios Rancho was the spot for me.  Great apple selection, seemingly the closest to LA, and there was a country mart.

Saturday morning I picked up my SoCal loved ones and drove us an hour and 45 minutes east on the 10 freeway to Oak Glen, CA.  The clouds were fluffier, the houses had bigger yards, we saw buffalo, and there was no traffic!  At the farm $15 would get you a small sack to fill with apples.  There were only two options to pick that day were Spartan and Red Delicious.  There were areas of the grove roped off for these two sections of trees and you were closely watched by the farm employees to not venture into other areas.  One guy had a shotgun!  Which he claimed was for wildlife that came too close, but you never know it could be to scare off city slickers.

Slow Cooker Apple Sauce

As you can imagine, I had big plans for my apple harvest.  I thought I’d make pies and turnovers and dessert type things, but my boyfriend requested healthier options.  So instead, I made slow cooker apple sauce and Ellie Krieger’s apple muffins.  I started with the apple sauce, since the apple muffins required apple sauce in the recipe.

I never thought I’d be a person who makes her own apple sauce, but it was extremely easy.  Check out the link above from Skinny Taste for the details.  But the recipe only calls for apples, cinnamon, a lemon, and brown sugar.  Then, you toss it all in your slow cooker on low for 6 hours.  You’ll want to use your food processor or immersion blender to turn those apples into the ‘sauce’.  The flavor on the homemade apple sauce has turned me into a believer.  I have a feeling this won’t be my last batch this fall.

From there I made some breakfast apple muffins.  Ellie Krieger always has amazing healthy recipes, so I figured she’d have some apple recipes that I could pull from.

Breakfast Apple Muffins

Breakfast Apple Muffins

 

There is no butter in the recipe or sugar, but there is heavy cream and canola oil.  Long story short, I don’t know how many calories these suckers pack, but they came out so fluffy and delicious.  When I make them again, I will cut my apple chunks into smaller pieces.  Also, the boyfriend asked for me to leave out the chopped nuts so I topped off the muffins with ‘Caramel Cinnamon Sprinkles’ from Tastefully Simple.  You definitely want a crunch for the top of these treats.

Recap of apple picking:
Total Drive Time – 3 hours 30 minutes
Total Apple Picking Time – 56 minutes
Total Country Mart Shopping Time – 40 minutes
Total Apple Recipes Made – 2
Total Leftover Apples – 0

Would I go through this ever again?  Hmm, maybe just once a year…

 

 

For the last year or so I have been accumulating the items needed to make candy. So it was the candy thermometer at Christmas, the wax paper twisting wrappers, a double broiler around my birthday. And then what really tied it together was a candy cookbook for an anniversary present. The Liddabit Sweets Candy Cookbook.  Liddabit is a Brooklyn candy company started by these two really rad chicks, Liz Gutman and Jen King.  You can learn more about them here.  The cookbook really does a fantastic job at breaking everything about candy making down to a simpler form.  It’s probably the first and last book on candy making that I will ever need.

That being said I dove into my first attempt, the salted chocolate caramels on page 125.  I was on high alert to not burn the caramel so I really nurtured these candies through to the end with constant stirring.  I had burnt chocolate before and I was not going to let that happen again now that I had I was a real candy maker (because now I had all the tools I needed)!

The salted chocolate caramels really were a simple recipe, just a few ingredients and not much to actually do.  But it took me a long time to get my pot up to the required temperatures.   I hesitated turning up the stove until I had been stirring the pot for over an hour.

Turning up the stove did the trick.  Once I got the pot to the right temperatures, everything moved fast and then I was done.  You pour the contents of your pot onto your largest baking sheet and let it sit for three hours, or by this time of day it had to be overnight.  I was too tired from stirring and trying not to burn the batch.

The result was amazing though.  My bungalow smelled like chocolate for the next day or so and I had these little rich and delicious candies to cut, package and share.

It won’t be very long before my next candy making attempt.  For next time I know to not be so hesitant of turning up my stove to get to the heat I need and I should’ve bought more bakers chocolate so that I was stocked up for attempt #2.

 

 

It seems like every time I write a post I want to start it of with “It’s been a while since I posted”.  Apparently, I’m not very consistent in my crafts. I think the problem is really I’m not very consistent at taking pictures of my crafts or cooking and what fun is a post without pictures?!? Time to change that!

We’ll ease into it with a quick craft I did to continue sprucing up our kitchen. I’m going for a yellow and grey decor and it’s slowly coming together. Here’s the final product!

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It started with this nice little painting and frame I found at goodwill for $7!

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A little craft paint, hot glue and some of my old mismatched silverware and I have a crafty new wall hanging for above my stove! Thanks to the Mom for my new grown up matching set of silver to make this all possible.

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Inconsistent crafter out. Katie.

Let’s start this post by stating that my kitchen was in dire need of some updates. It’s not that we didn’t love our plain white laminate counters that stained as soon as you dripped coffee or red wine on them, but it was time for some changes. After 3 years of living in our apartment, we finally found the courage to ask for some fixes and changes. (disclaimer in case our managers are reading this, sorry for the laundry list of asks!)

One of our big asks was to update the kitchen. My very handy father had told me about the Rust-Oleum Countertop Transformations kit and of course I immediately wanted to do it. I put together my sales pitch (luckily I had lots of practice from my day job), walked next door to our managers, and then continued to ramble out an ongoing list of things I wanted done.  The big argument was “I’ll do the labor for free if you cover the costs!” I mean, who doesn’t trust a girl they don’t know to update a rental unit of theirs? Should be an automatic yes.

Of our asks we were able to get, at no cost to ourselves, professional carpet cleaning, new stove, new faucet (suprise bonus) and new countertops! I guess this is where the “I’m free labor!” argument kicks in. Well, bring on the transformation!

Before and After

Before and After

The new stove really adds something to the above picture. HALLELUJAH!!

The sink Before and After

The sink Before and After

And one more of just the after because it’s far superior to the before.

After

 

Now I’m hoping at this point you are saying “Holy Mackerel, that looks good!” If not, when you see me in person just pretend to like it. If this is inspiring you to ask your landlord to foot the bill for some updates here’s the 4-1-1 on how to make this happen.

LET'S DO THIS!!

LET’S DO THIS!!

How to update your crappy countertops and get a good workout in. (be prepared to see some AWESOME pictures of yours truly during this process)

Supplies:

  • Rust-Oleum Transformations Kit in your choose of color; most supplies are in the box
  • Drop Cloths or Plastic Sheeting (definitely not overrated as you’ll see in my pics)
  • Painter’s Tape – so kindly named after our Family
  • Xacto Knife or Razor
  • Paint rollers and brushes; the kit will tell you the specific ones you will need
  • Paint tray
  • VACUUM with hose attachment. Trust me.
  • Plastic gloves, also optional but I would suggest them and I never like gloves.
  • Crappy clothes if you are messy like me

Step 1: To start you’ll have to make sure your countertops are clean and grease free. Any grease on them can cause the paint not to adhere.

Step 2: Get ready to work up sweat #1 as you sand the crap out of your countertops to prep them for the paint. Work in circles and be sure there are tiny scratches on the entire surface. It should feel slightly rough to touch.

Apparently this is the only picture I have of this step. I'm not even sanding! slacker.

Apparently this is the only picture I have of this step. I’m not even sanding! slacker.

Step 3: Wipe off all dust from sanding the counters. Put Painter’s tape on all edges including sink and walls. I used an Xacto knife to keep a clean line around the sink. Also tape your plastic sheeting to cover the drains and all the cabinets or walls below. TIP: A wider line of Painter’s tape is more forgiving to sloppiness when you have to paint quickly in the next step.

Channel your inner Dexter. Also you can kind of see the roughness on the tall counter from sanding in the previous step.

Channel your inner Dexter. Also you can kind of see the roughness on the tall counter from sanding in the previous step.

Step 4: Prepare base coat and color chips. Then, moving quickly, apply a thick layer of the adhesive base coat to your countertops. It’s best to work in sections so the paint does not dry. If you are a slow Painter (much like my sisters…oh, burn) then have no fear, there is a wetting agent to quickly spray before the next step.

That's the look of determination!

That’s the look of determination!

I have a gun and I'm not afraid to use it! Or I'm just going to lightly wet you down counters.

I have a gun and I’m not afraid to use it! Or I’m just going to lightly mist the countertops. (real guns scare me)

Step 5: Apply a heavy coating of the color chips using the fertilizer like sprayer. When that becomes frustrating just resort to throwing them at the counter like I did. Don’t be afraid to have piles of these sitting on your countertops. I had a whole bag extra at the end.

Not going to lie the sprayer is annoying and flings chips everywhere.

Not going to lie the sprayer is annoying and flings chips everywhere.

Step 6: Awkwardly inspect a job well done while the camera flashes pictures. You may not find this step in the official Countertop Transformations Kit Guide. When staring is complete repeat this process on the rest of your countertop.

Yup, looks good to me.

Yup, looks good to me.

Step 7: Make sure the counter is heavily coated with color chips and allow to sit for 12-24 hours. This is a great time to order pizza since cooking may be slightly difficult.

I am not the tidiest of crafters, but this we know.

I am not the tidiest of crafters, but this we know.

Piles of color chips on the counter will give you the best look. Speaking of best look, what an awesome looking spice rack!

Piles of color chips on the counter will give you the best look. Speaking of best look, what an awesome looking spice rack!

Step 8: Time to work up sweat #2, worst than the first. Start by vacuuming up any loose color chips from the counter. Using the scraper provided, scrape any loose edges. For those of you on the east coast this is similar to scraping your cars on snowy mornings. Unfortunately I now live only in sunshine, so had to go off memory.

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Step 9: Since you’re probably thinking “I’m not sweaty at all yet” then its time to bust out the sanders supplied in your kit. Once again, sand the crap out of your counters until they are a smoothness you are happy with. This will be the final texture of your counters. If you’re like me you’ll sand, vacuum, sand, vacuum, debate, probably sand some more and then finally wipe them all clean to prep for the final step. As you’ll see below this step isn’t always pretty and I’m pretty sure I was dripping sweat at this point.

No wine glasses were harmed in the making of these countertops.

No wine glasses were harmed in the making of these countertops.

Step 10: After all dust has been removed prep your Top Coat and get to work on sealing your countertops!! Use a brush for the edges and a foam roller for everything else.

I seem like such a dainty painter. Get your head in the game, Painter!

I seem like such a dainty painter. Get your head in the game, Painter!

Step 11: After drying at least 6 hrs, score your painters tape before removing for the cleanest lines.

Didn't quite get it all in the first try.

Didn’t quite get it all in the first try.

Step 12: Admire your work while you wait 48 hours for anything to touch the counters and 7 days for full heavy use of counters. Hopefully it’s a job well done!! I’d do it again, but only in a house I own.

The Final Product!!

The Final Product!!

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New hardware on all the cabinets too! (suprisingly, that was harder than updating the countertops)

New hardware on all the cabinets too! (suprisingly, that was harder than updating the countertops)

If you’re still reading this lengthy post, I hope this insires you to try your luck at renovating yours!

Professional countertop transformer, out. Katie

And so begins the kitchen renovations of 2013! Before we get into the super fun updates I’m going to make you read the small ones first…

If you’ve ever been to our apartment you know that we have very little storage space. I also happen to have a ton of cooking equipment and spices that don’t fit any which way in our cupboards (I half blame this on myself and half on my mother’s gifting tendencies). It was time to find a solution.

We have an awkward amount of space between our kitchen cabinets and the end of the wall. After some staring, chin rubbing and use of a tape measure I realized this would be a great space for some spice shelves.

Weird leftover wallspace...

Boring all white kitchen and the weird wallspace

I drove myself to Home Depot and scanned the miles worth of store for some wood with pre-drilled holes, no luck. Being a girl I wanted to prove I could do it by myself so I refused to ask anybody to guide me to the right lumber. Lesson learned. After 3 trips back to Home Depot I finally had the correct lumber, cut to the correct sizes, and the correct pegs to hold up the shelves. Add to that a sparkly new drill bit set and I was really in business! Who needs Home Depot professionals who actually know what they’re talking about?!? Not this girl.

With all my correct supplies in hand and failed first attempts under my belt I quickly made a beautiful frame for my shelf…

So almost perfectly square!

So almost perfectly square!

I then gave it and the shelves a good coating of spray paint (sorry to the shrubs outside that are now temporarily white) and mounted it to the wall. Awesome! Time to drill some holes to hold up the shelves. Oh wait, you mean to say my drill is to big to fit in the shelf and drill holes? Well screw that (pun intended) I’ll find a way!

Fast forward to two days later and you’ll find me dismounting the shelf from the wall so that I can successfully drill holes for the pegs. Defeat.  Sigh. It didn’t stop me for long though. I remounted the shelf, threw the pegs into the holes and placed my shelves inside. I then loaded it up with oils and spices! VICTORY!

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My cooking will taste that much better now!

Can you believe that I still have a full cabinet of spices that didn’t fit in this new shelf? Oh, you know me and that’s not a shocker? Shoot. Time to get some cooking done I guess!

As a final note, if you ever want to build a shelf ask people at Home Depot for help. Or you can ask me because I have a TON of “lessons learned” from this project.

Shelf Building 101 Recap

  1. Measure your WxHxD for the shelf. Don’t forget to subtract the width of the wood frame, like I did, when figuring out your shelf length.
  2. Purchase your lumber and don’t be too proud to ask for help! I ended up using Poplar.
  3. Screw and Glue your frame together after squaring up the joints. A dab of carpenter’s glue is all you need.
  4. Sand the frame to even out any corners that aren’t flush and give you a smooth base before painting.
  5. Paint the frame and shelves
  6. Drill holes for your shelf pegs. Mine were about 1/2 inch from each edge of the frame. You will need 4 pegs per shelf.
  7. Mount your shelf on the wall. I used the side of the cabinet already in place to act as the backing to my shelf.
  8. Assemble your shelf and load it up with your favorite things!

Someone with mad respect for real carpenters out. Katie.

Custom Wine Stoppers

If for some unknown reason you did not finish all of your New Year’s champagne, weekend wine, or maybe you just lost the cap to your olive oil, then this DIY project will be right up your alley. Homemade wine stoppers will not only be WAY cooler than store bought ones, but you’ll also be drinking the freshest wine days after you open it! (yes, my 9-5 is sales)

The main piece for this craft is unique drawer pulls. I think the best place to find fun ones is the Anthropologie Clearance section. I got all of mine for about $4 each. Hardware stores are also a great place to explore.

Remember to always serve your whites chilled!

Remember to always serve your whites chilled!

Supplies:

  • Fun drawer pulls with bolt attached
  • Hack Saw (optional)
  • Tapered corks, Craft or Kitchen supply stores usually have these in stock
  • Drill
  • Drill Bit (varies depending on bolt size on pull)
  • Glue; the best you happen to have on hand
  • Tape
Drill not picture in case you were wondering...

Drill not pictured in case you were wondering…

Step 1: If your bolts are larger than your corks, use your hacksaw to cut them slightly shorter than the cork. This will prevent them from putting holes into the bottom of your cork. Placing the knob in a vice is the best way to cut threw the rod. Oh, and some arm strength. I hope you’ve been working out.

Step 2: Place a piece of tape on your drill to match the length of your bolt. This is so you know when to stop drilling into your cork and will also prevent you from putting a hole into the bottom of it. Your drill bit should be one size smaller than the bolt on your knob. This can be easily measured with a gauge.

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Step 3: Place your cork in a vice and drill through the center until you’ve reached the tape mark.

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Apologies for the bad picture, this was the first day I owned my new camera!

Step 4: Place glue on the bolt and hand screw it into your pre-drilled cork. I used Gorilla Glue which activates with water and expands as it dries. This has one of the strongest holds but if you use it make sure you wipe the top a few times as it foams. I think tacky or carpenter’s glue would work fine.

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Step 5: Cork your bottles and enjoy your wine!

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Special shout out to the Pops for letting me steal his tools while he was trying to use them (his much cooler project coming in a future post)! I’m currently devising a plan to move his workroom out to California one tool at a time…

Corker out. Katie.

As a New Year’s resolution, I’ve decided I will actually post the things I create. I have pictures filling up my camera from the past year and half finished crafts taking over my apartment, so gosh darn it, there will be posts!

I also decided the cookbooks I own will be used and food will be eaten. Since the weekend homework of my fellow Stranded Islander was to defeat germs, what better opportunity was there to make a delicious soup from one of these cookbooks? I did, however, forget how steep the 2 block hill between our apartments was and quickly regretted my decision to deliver said soup.

Five-Onion Soup with Scallion and Gruyere Croutons from The Panera Bread Cookbook.

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Ingredients: (I halved the recipe below since I don’t own large pots. Wish list for a bigger apartment!)

  • 3 yellow onions, halved and sliced (pole to pole)
  • 3 red onions, halved and sliced
  • 6 shallots, halved and sliced
  • 3 leeks, white parts only, halved lengthwise and sliced crosswise
  • 3 cups scallions, greens reserved for croutons, sliced
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced (I would maybe use 2)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 750ml bottle red wine (I went with a cheap dry Chianti, but a cheap Pinot Noir would also work nicely)
  • 1 small bunch thyme (12 sprigs), destemmed
  • 6 quarts low sodium Beef Stock
  • 1 baguette, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 cup Gruyere cheese, grated

Step 1: Slice all of your onions and try to look as cool as me doing it.

These tears better be worth it!

These tears better be worth it! This wasn’t even the worst of it.

Step 2: Place all the onions, shallots, leeks, and scallion whites into your pot with 2 Tbsp Olive Oil and a heavy pinch of salt until they begin to caramelize. Saute on medium heat and stir frequently to allow them to cook evenly without burning.

I hate you onions, but you taste so good!

I hate you onions, but you taste so good!

Step 3: De-glaze the caramelized onions with the Red Wine. Not going to lie, I googled what de-glazing meant. Pretty much it’s pouring a cold liquid onto your hot pan to get all the tasty brown goodness that has stuck to the pan. The wine will evaporate and this can be repeated a few times if needed as they continue to caramelize.

De-glazing my carmelized onions

De-glazing my caramelized onions

Step 4: Remember to stay hydrated if you decide you don’t need the whole bottle of wine. Cooking can be very rigorous.

"I love to cook with wine, sometimes I even put a little in the food"

“I love to cook with wine, sometimes I even put a little in the food”

Step 5: Add the thyme and stock to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for at least 1 hour. Adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper, or even a little garlic powder (it felt right).

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I should have done it all in one pan, but I like to wash as many dishes as possible when I cook…

Step 6: Turn your oven on to broil. While the soup simmers, toss the sliced bread with remaining 2 Tbsp Olive Oil, scallion greens (you won’t use them all), and Gruyere cheese. Lay flat on a foil lined baking sheet and bake for 3 minutes and then transfer to the broiler to lightly brown the tops.

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Step 7: Ladle yourself a bowl, toss in some croutons, and of course top with some of the cheese. Enjoy!

Roommate approved!

Roommate approved!

Crybaby out. Katie.

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