Sunday, April 20, 2014

Pie Sunday: Greg's Custard Pie

Every few weeks, my friends and I go to an event called Drink and Draw. Local artists from my area invade either the Lava Lounge on the third Thursday of every month, or Great Lakes Brewing on the first Wednesday of every month. Over beers and sketchbooks at the Great Lakes Brewing D&D this month, my friend, Greg, mentioned he loves custard pie. I told him he was more than welcome to buy one from me. He quickly agreed.

Custard pie is one of those magical recipes that can be whipped up from basic pantry ingredients. It's mostly eggs, milk, and sugar. Once baked, the filling becomes a soft, velvety texture. Despite it's humble ingredients, chilled custard pie is a classic yet luxurious dessert.

You need:

1 recipe pie dough
3/4 c granulated sugar
3 T cornstarch
3 eggs, room temperature
3 c scalded whole milk
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla
2 T butter melted and cooled
ground cinnamon

Roll the pie dough into a 1/8" thick round. Lay the round in a 9" pie pan. Crimp the edges and dock the bottom and sides by poking holes with a fork. Chill the crust in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 425ºF. Line the crust with  parchment and weigh down with pie weights (dry beans work fine.) Bake the crust for 10 minutes. Remove and set it aside. Remove the parchment and weights. Lower the oven temperature to 375ºF.

While the crust cooks, whisk the sugar, cornstarch, eggs, milk, salt, vanilla, and butter in a large bowl until fully combined. Pour the filling into the still hot pie crust. Bake the pie for 40 minutes or until the center is jiggly and not wavy when shaken, or when a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Turn off the oven and leave the door ajar to allow the pie to cool slowly for 1 hour. Sprinkle with cinnamon to taste. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours before serving.

Friday, April 18, 2014

"Like What You Like"; Tales of a Man with Not-So-Manly Interests

Hi all!
Mark here. Today I wanted to talk about my experiences as a man with less than masculine interests, and why "liking what you like" regardless of who you are is always the best policy.

For those who don't know, I am a 28 year old nerd.  (See above photo)  I am super into plush toys, obsessed with cute things, and love to cook and sew.  I'm an illustrator, and the artwork I produce is mostly cute, happy characters.  I'm also sensitive, gentle, a sentimental romantic, and I don't much care for sports.  Based on that description alone, there are many people who would assume I am a woman.

As I mentioned earlier, I'm an artist, and I make a living producing artwork for children's products.  My entire career has revolved around the concept of "cute" characters, which is honestly what I naturally tend to create any way.  Regardless, most of my peers in the "cute character" field are women.  Popular artists like Tasty Peach StudiosHip Hop Candy!, and Sugar Bunny Shop are all female.  There simply aren't as many men who do work in this genre, but they do exist (myself included).

The idea that only women do "cute art" even affects other artists.  I met a female artist on an online art community, and she and I conversed a little, complimenting each other's portfolios.  It wasn't until I uploaded a profile picture of myself in real life, that she said she had thought I was a woman.  I don't take offense to this (I view men and women as equals), but it was still surprising to see this woman's reaction to my gender.

Shirt Design I Created For: Agape Gallery

For a while it was difficult for me to accept myself as I am.  I would get self-conscious showing my artwork to other men, or I'd feel funny standing in line at Jo-Ann Fabrics as they cut my fabric.  In college, one man implied I was gay after I left the room at a small get-together; this was after he learned earlier that evening that I liked sewing and was romantic.  Some people have a hard time accepting anything other than traditional gender roles.  To these people, men like sports and women like to sew (not the other way around), and everything is evenly divided into "masculine" and "feminine".

Squishable Hermit Crab Doll I designed for: Squishable

It wasn't until a few years ago that I really embraced myself, and all the parts of who I am.  What does it matter if I like making cute artwork or that my idea of a fun Friday night is baking myself into adult-onset diabetes?  What does it matter if I actually like a good rom-com instead of an action flick?  No matter what chromosome you have, the only way to keep your sanity in this world is to let yourself enjoy what you enjoy.  There's a certain positive energy that comes from doing what you love and what you want to do, and if you are an artist, this energy will manifest itself in your artwork and your overall attitude.

So like what you like, love what you love, and do what you want to do-- regardless of who (or what) you are.  Your life will be better for it.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Ricotta Cheese Easter Cookies

Happy SPRING, (finally) everyone! It feels like we waited an eternity for this one. This weekend, the weather finally turned. It was nice enough to open the windows which was a welcome relief from the stale, closed up air I've been sitting in all winter. Despite the brief cold snap and snow on Tuesday, I'm in full spring mode. I needed to make something bright and fun to celebrate.

These ricotta cheese cookies are just the ticket. They are light and fluffy, bordering on a little cake more than a cookie. I love the texture. Before you get skeeved out, they don't taste cheesy. They are subtle and sweet. A little dollop of frosting on top and some cute sprinkles sweeten them just enough.

They are one of my favorite cookies. My mom got the recipe from her coworker years ago. The recipe is easy enough, but we quickly learned it is best to use an electric mixer. The dough needs to be very well mixed. Otherwise the cookies will ooze when baked and look a little more like amoebas than cute cookies.

Ahhh! Clare without makeup! Run for your lives!

This frosting recipe is a little different from my usual because I know a lot of people who are put off by buttercream frosting. If done poorly, it feels like eating chapstick. Noooooo, thank you, ma'am! This is lighter for all your buttercream haters. Who needs heavy sweets in the spring anyway?

This makes a lot of cookies. Like 5 dozen a lot, but they are great for parties. Why not try them at a family party? Easter is this Sunday! Just be sure to save a couple for yourself. I promise you, they will be gone if you bring all of them.

Makes about 5 dozen cookies

You need:

For Cookies:
1lb butter, softened
2 c sugar
3 eggs
1 lb ricotta cheese
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp salt
4 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda

For Frosting:
1/2 c butter, softened
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 T milk
2 c powdered sugar
2 T flour
pink, green, and yellow food coloring

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Cream the butter and sugar together in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Mix in the eggs, ricotta, vanilla, and salt. Add the flour and baking soda and mix until combined.  
Drop spoonfuls of dough onto a baking sheet 2"-3" apart. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until bottoms are
light brown but the tops are still light. Cool the cookies completely on a rack.

To make the frosting, beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and milk. Slowly mix in the powdered sugar 1/2 c at a time. Divide the frosting evenly between 3 bowls. Mix food coloring into each bowl until each is the desired color. Frost, decorate with sprinkles and serve. Store in an airtight container.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Tattoosday Two!

Last Friday was my second session with Natalie at Voodoo Monkey Tattoo. She is starting to add in the colors on my backpiece. I'm really happy with it so far and can't wait to have my next session. If you want to see my tattoo journey from the beginning, check out my first post about the experience.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Pie Sunday: Naked Onion Quiche

Today's recipe is for a special occasion of sorts. It is the first official meeting of the new Darling Apartment blog team! We are all very excited to work together and today is the first time we really get to sit down and work out a game plan. With 5 bloggers there will be fresh ideas and more content! I can't wait to get started. There will be more news on our meeting coming soon.

The weather took a turn for the better (shocking,) so I wanted to make something a little lighter than my usual sugary fare. This quiche is deliciously fluffy and easy to make. I personally find crust on a quiche a little disappointing. It tends to get soft from all of the eggs, and I usually end up picking it off. Naked quiche is a much tastier option and healthier if we are being completely honest. Crust? We don't need no stinkin' crust! (Today that is.)

You need:

1/4 c butter
1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced
10 large eggs
1 c whole milk
salt and pepper
4 oz sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions. Turn the onions occasionally until golden and caramelized. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350. Whisk the eggs and milk in a large bowl until combined. Stir in the cheese, caramelized onions, and salt and pepper to taste. Pour into a greased 9" pie pan. Bake 45 minutes or until the center is done. Cool slightly before serving. Refrigerate to store.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Ready-To-Go Oatmeal Flavor Mixes

I have always talked about how a bowl of rolled oats will start your day on the right foot. Oatmeal is packed with fiber to keep you full and nourished until lunch time. Days when I (regretfully) don't have oatmeal, my stomach will be growling by 10:30. There is nothing wrong with having a mid-morning snack, but I would rather not have my empty belly treat my coworkers to the song of it's people in the first place.

With a little preparation, a bit of oatmeal can be simple to make in the morning. Keep containers of flavoring ready so you can scoop a spoonful into your plain oatmeal in the morning. Prepare a bowl of old fashioned oat like usual and stir in a spoonful or two of flavor mix. Enjoy the healthy satisfaction. I made mixes for my dad, and he recently sent the containers back asking for more.

Classic Raisin Spice Mix:

1/2 c dark brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon, ground
1/2 tsp ginger, ground
1/2 tsp nutmeg, ground
1/2 tsp cloves, ground
1/2 c raisins

Mix dark brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves together. Toss in the raisins. Add one spoonful at a time until oatmeal is the desired flavor. Store in an airtight container.

"Hot Cocoa" Mix:

3/4 c granulated sugar
1/4 c dark cocoa powder
1/4 c nonfat dry milk
1/2 tsp salt

Mix granulated sugar, cocoa powder, dry milk, and salt. Add one spoonful at a time until oatmeal is the desired flavor. Store in an airtight container.

Blueberry Muffin Mix:

1/2 c vanilla sugar
1/4 c nonfat dry milk
1 tsp cinnamon, ground
1/2 tsp ginger, ground
1/2 c dried blueberries

Mix the vanilla sugar, dry milk, cinnamon, and ginger. Toss in the dried blueberries. Add one spoonful at a time until oatmeal is the desired flavor. Store in an airtight container.

Peanut Butter Cup Mix:

3/4 c granulated sugar
1/2 c powdered peanut butter
2 T nonfat dry milk
2 T dark cocoa powder

Mix the granulated sugar, peanut butter, dry milk and cocoa powder. Add one spoonful at a time until oatmeal is the desired flavor. Store in an airtight container.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Ultimate Sugar Cookies -- Nintendo Edition!

Hi all!
Mark here, and today's post combines two things I love: video games & cookies.
I grew up playing Nintendo games with my siblings, so the Mario Brothers series has a particular soft spot in my heart.  One night while searching for unique cookie cutters, I came across the nerd jackpot:
WarpZone Prints

WarpZone Prints is a custom shop run by a very talented woman who designs cookie cutters digitally, and then 3D prints them out of food-safe plastic.  The cutters are gorgeous and yield beautiful results, not to mention they have cutters based on a ton of popular franchises like Dr. Who, Mario Brothers, even newer stuff like My Little Pony and Adventure Time!

Being a big Nintendo fan, I bought a bunch of Mario themed cutters and had a blast using them.
The recipe used in this post also originates from WarpZone Prints, and can be found here: Best Sugar Cookies Ever!

Recipe yields 20 to 25 medium-sized cookies.  

You need:

1 c butter, softened
1 1/2 c sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 c Greek yogurt (do not use reduced fat Greek yogurt)
3 1/2 c flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Cream sugar and butter.  Add in the egg, vanilla, and Greek yogurt, then mix in the dry ingredients.

Flour the surface you will roll the dough on, and also flour your rolling pin as well as your hands.  Roll the dough to your desired thickness, (some people enjoy a 1/2 inch, others prefer a 1/4 inch).

Once your dough is rolled, be sure to flour the bottoms of the cutters you will be using, as it will help the cutters to not get stuck in the dough.  After the cookies have been cut, place them on an ungreased baking sheet.  It is recommended that the baking sheet have either parchment paper on it or a Silpat baking mat, though I found the recipe still worked well for me without using either.

Once the cookies are on the baking sheet, bake them for 10 to 12 minutes, depending on the thickness and size of your cookies (I actually found that 9 minutes worked best for me, though I made my cookies thinner).