Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Blissfully Baklava

I'm not Greek, actually I'm Puerto Rican, but tell you what, there are a couple of foods that make me wish that I was Greek; Dolmas and Baklava. It was Baklava night at my house and the result was a sweet victory! In other words, I called my Aunt and asked her for her Baklava recipe that was handed down to her from her husbands Grandmother. When my Aunt made it for her Church something or another (I don't remember what it was for) a guy from Greece said it reminded him of his Grandmother's Baklava recipe.

I brought some of the baklava into work and the crew went crazy on it. I mean I made a tray for them and it was gone in 30mins. 4 hours of labor gone in 30 mins, why does it always work that way? To this day I will never know. The labor of love, I guess you can call it that.

So it took 4 hours to make 2 batches, which all things considered I don't think it was too bad. And boy was it delicious! Not to mention incredibly beautiful!

My first dilemma was trying to find the Phyllo Dough! I mean seriously where would you put phyllo in a grocery store. I checked near the cinnamon rolls and other refrigerated doughs but no luck, and when I asked someone for help, they just looked at me blankly as if they didn't know what phyllo was! I was having no luck. fortunately Sam was there to help me and she suggested we check the frozen isle near the pizza. The PIZZA, why would anyone in their right mind put Phyllo dough near Pizza. I mean pizza is Italian, phyllo is Greek.... Oh but wait the phyllo was so innocent and sweet lying next to the pizza..

Phyllo Dough
Now that I'm off that tangent, I didn't realize how much butter baklava actually calls for... in case you are worried about the extra weight you will gain from eating this food, don't worry because there is only a ton of butter in baklava... Oh well the butterer the better (Yes I spelled butter wrong on purpose.)
All the brush stroke looking things on the top is butter is cooling!

Baklava Recipe:


1 (16 ounce) package phyllo dough
1 lb chopped nuts
1 cup butter
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup water
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup honey


1. Preheat oven 350 degrees F. butter the bottoms and sides of a 9x13 pan.
2. Chop nuts and toss with cinnamon. Set aside. Unroll Phillo dough. Cut whole stack in half to fir in pan.
Cover phyllo with a dampened cloth to keep from drying as you work. Place two sheets of dough in
pan, butter thoroughly. Repeat until you have 8 sheets layered. Sprinkle 2-3 tablespoons of nut mixture
on top. Top with 2 sheets of dough, butter, nuts, layer as you go. The top layer should be about 6-8
sheets deep.
3. Using a sharp knife cut into diamond or square shapes all the way to the bottom of pan. You may cut
into four long rows then make diagonal cuts. Bake for 50 mins until Baklava is golden and crisp.
4. Make sauce while Baklava is baking. Boil sugar and water until sugar is melted. Add vanilla and honey.
Simmer for 20 mins.
5. Remove Baklava from oven and immediately spoon sauce over it. Let cool. Serve in cupcake papers.
this freezes well. Leave it uncovered as it gets soggy if it is wrapped up.

      Friday, December 23, 2011

      Sugar Cookies for Christmas

      So these next couple of posts are probably going to be about Christmas and cookies. Mostly because I had a lot of fun this year and want you all to see

      So it didn't start to feel like Christmas until almost a week ago. Maybe its because I work retail and everyone in retail kinda detests Christmas, since we listen to the exact same Christmas song over and over again for 8 hrs!

      We had our annual Cookie Making Day. It was a lot of fun as usual. Filled with flour butter, eggs and sugar! I made around 11 dozen cookies, my sister made 11 dozen cookies, my other sister made 4 dozen plus some souffles, and my two friends came over and they made around 2 dozen each. So there was tons of everything everywhere.

      Sam and I went out and bought some Christmas tins and then I wrote on them with Sharpie Paint Pens, to add a personal touch.

      Christmas Tin opened to reveal a list of what cookies are inside the tin.
      A hand written To and From on the front of the tin.
      Sugar Cookies
         from All Recipes

      • 1 1/2 cups butter, softened
      • 2 cups white sugar
      • 4 eggs
      • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
      • 5 cups all-purpose flour
      • 2 teaspoons baking powder
      • 1 teaspoon salt
      1. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cover, and chill dough for at least one hour (or overnight).
      2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Roll out dough on floured surface 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Cut into shapes with any cookie cutter. Place cookies 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets.
      3. Bake 6 to 8 minutes in preheated oven. Cool completely.               

      Wednesday, December 14, 2011

      Chicken Addiction....Again!

      It seems as though every winter I fall into the same addictions; wearing slacks around the house, letting my room get dirty, wanting sweets and the strange desire to own chickens. Well maybe addiction is too strong of a word. I know, owning chickens, such a strange thing for someone in the burbs, right! Last year...or maybe two years it was last winter, I started to really want chickens. I think I am going to have to blame my internship on the Organic farm. On the Farm I incubated chickens and it was AMAZING. Read about it HERE. Well It has started again. I have been looking up ideas on coops and what types of chickens are better for the suburbs. It is really awful.

      Click HERE to see Heather's Blog and her article and their coop.
      I found this awesome blog where a lady (actually her husband) built their own coop, and it looks BEAUTIFUL. It wasn't cheap, but when you look at it, you will want chickens too! Also Heather has the plans to build this beautiful coop for sale on her blog for only $39!!! Really the only thing that stops me is that its winter and that means its CRAZY COLD! I am too afraid for the chickens. Also I am so busy with school and work. I don't know if I could find the time to take care of them and I don't want to pass that chore to my mom...I try to be a good son.

      These are the chickens from the farm I interned on.

      Here are some other pics of coops that I found on pinterest if you want to see them

      Monday, December 5, 2011

      The Finished Planter

      So here is the finished project! I hope you all like it. I think it turned out pretty good myself. Next year, when its not so cold and rainy I will probably do another coat. however I think it looks pretty hot as it is now! You can see both of them, the natural and the painted one. I have the instructions of how I made them is a photo step by step instuctional. Plus it was virtually FREE!

      Pallets = FREE

      Screws = FREE

      Paint (optional) = $15

      I should probably mention that the paint that I used is an exterior barn paint that I got at Lowes. I used a barn paint because the wood is really rough and I thought it seems more appropriate. In the spring I will make two more and paint the second one I made this time around. 

      But all in all I think they turned out super awesome! Even my Dad said he thought they looked great, and if  you knew my dad, a compliment from him means that he was really impressed!

      Saturday, December 3, 2011

      Pallets with a Purpose

      I have recently had this infatuation with re-purposing pallets. Not because I have millions of them laying around my house. Honestly my parents would kill me if I had one laying around! lol. But because its just neat. Pallets are a super easy resource to come by and they are often times cheap or free; and who can beat free! I was able to swipe a few from my job, but if you can't do that, find a store near by that gets in large shipments and see if you can buy or have the unwanted pallets. Most of the time they are willing to oblige. Make sure to ask before taking any pallets, as that often companies send the used pallets back for a cash deposit, and its stealing if you don't. For this project I am making Planter Boxes for my Earth Boxes. Earth Boxes are not the most beautiful thing to see at your house. They are also unsturdy, and tend to fall over when tomato plants get tall and heavy. All in all I two boxes (which turned out pretty AWESOME!) each taking about 3hrs to make and 1 pallet that I deconstructed.

      I drew up a REALLY quick plan of what I wanted the boxes to look like when I was all said and done. The dimensions were_____________
      Okay, So here we go. Obviously safety is our #1 goal. So be sure to have a pair of safety goggles on. We have to make sure we are safe since we will be using saws, drills and such. Glass eyeballs are not a good thing to have!
      Starting off you will need to deconstruct the pallet of your choice. This can be challenging since the nails they use makes you wonder if these are supposed to be deconstructed. They made them like they weren't supposed to be! WHAT!?! Here I have all the pieces that I will be using. With the 3 really study "legs" of the pallet, cut those into  2 - 31" legs and 2 - 16" legs. as seen in the picture on the right.

      With the slats from the top and bottom of the pallet, cut them into 11.5" section. These will be used as the sides of our box.
      Following the picture on the left. Place the legs in a rectangle, with the smaller of the legs on the inside and the larger legs on the outside. Next, nail them together. I used 3" wood nails. Sorry I don't have a picture of them. I threw the box away! :( Repeat this two times so as to make a top and bottom "lid" (pictures on right)

      Tip to top section of your box onto its side and align the 11.5" planks up against the top. So that they are flush with the outside edge... This part is kinda like a jigsaw puzzle, because you'll need to select the boards that fit best. With mine I didn't need to do any extra cutting to make them fit. Maybe I was lucky... :-) Screw the tops of the boards in with two screws per board.
      Now You will need attach the bottom part. The inside of the planks should be 6.5" long; as seen in the 1st picture. You will need to keep measuring this over and over and over again as you screw your boards in, because they will shift. continue screwing 2 screws into each board.
      For a majority of the project I was using 2" Phillips Wood screws. I did find some problems with the screws stripping. I believe its because the pallets are made from hard oaks and other hard woods. So if you can find some screws that are meant for hard wood use...DO IT! I was trying to make this for free, and I had these laying around.
      Now flip it over and do the exact same this to the rest of the sides of the box. I did the two longer sections first and saved the smaller sections for last. That is up to you. It was a personal preference for me.
      Now for the finishing effects. Just to give it a more polished look I screwed some planks onto the top. Mine were 2 inches longer than the box to give it a small overhang....and VIOLA we are done!
      So I made two of them and will make two more, since I have four earth boxes. You can see one of the earth boxes in the far one. Now I am going to paint them white to match the house. However I really like them as is. It gives them a really great rustic look, and then  you can still see that they were made from pallets! If you were to leave them as is, make sure to coat them with a wood varnish so that they stay looking fresher longer. No point in making your hard earned work rot! 
      Well I hope you all enjoyed this little tutorial, Feel free to leave any questions you might have for me. I think these boxes turned out great and surprisingly didn't take long at all to make. I'll put pictures up of them once they are painted, but it is still too cold to be painting now :(