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Weeknight Craft Project

Posted by Gregory Luna on October 10, 2013 2 Comments

Readers, I'm mixing it up.  Not literally.  For a while I've been wanting to try something other than edibles for the DoStix blog.  I did some surfing on Pinterest and bumped in to plenty of good ideas, as one does when surfing Pinterest.  DoStix projects have been hard to squeeze in because I wanted to finish my house projects before my new job started.  This craft project is easy enough for a week night so I went for it.  As usual, here is the before picture.  Note the special ingredient.

Before I get to far in I want to pose a question.  Does anyone else feel less adequate after spending time on Pinterest?  It's great fun to scroll through all those fab craft/baking/home improvement/sewing/fitness/health projects and it gets me thinking creatively.  The down side is that I get all these idea and no hope of having the time to do it all.  Don't we feel like that enough already?  My philosophy is this: look for fun and keep it to a minimum.  Also, are my projects perfect?  No.  Do they look like the pictures online?  Rarely.  Did I at least try and have a cocktail while I was trying.  Certainly.  Let's proceed.

I bought this clay at the local art supply store near Drake University.  I wanted small amounts so I could fiddle without having to destroy mass quantities of product.  It was inexpensive and they had an array of colors.  I also picked a big chunk for Greg to make a fake hand for a Halloween gift exchange at work (not pictured).  I'll let you know how that turns out....

The best thing about this project is how easy it was.  No prep, few "ingredients", and short baking time.  Like I said, good for a weeknight project and a nice kid project too (no kids were used in the making of this blog post).  First I used the 1/4" DoStix but the rolled out clay was too thick for my liking.  I downsized to the 1/8" and it was perfect.  The amount of each color of clay I bought made a circle about 5 inches in diameter.  Next step: place the doily on the clay and roll over again with the rolling pin. 

The next best thing about this project is the price tag.  The doilies were free, the clay was cheap, and I used cookie cutters we already had.  Since these doilies were stained and a bit rough around the edges, they are just right for this project.  This clay isn't sticky so I didn't worry about the counter top, rolling pin or other supplies.  Even the doilies could be reused.   

I had some ideas as I went along about what shapes, sizes and functions I wanted.  I used small bowls to get the shapes I wanted and popped them in the oven for about 15 minutes.

The finished product is not like a hard fired clay, it's almost like dried leather.  It has a bit of flex but holds its shape.  I love it.  When I do this again I think I'll make more ornaments.  I like the size and they way they look is holiday-ish but not too frilly (I'm not into frilly).  I guess festive would be the right word.

I'm hoping to get posts done more regularly as the weather turns cooler.  Keep checking back!

 

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Tomato Tart and Special Announcement!

Posted by Gregory Luna on September 04, 2013 0 Comments

Over the weekend my mom gave me a bunch of tomatoes and I needed to think of something creative to do with them. We’ve had plenty of BLT’s and caprese salad already this summer so what you get for this blog is a tomato tart! Another treat for this blog post is guest photographer, Greg Luna. He got a fancy new camera last week so I enticed him to take photos as I made the recipe. Thankfully he gave me some helpful tips as he was snapping away.

Ok, I’ll stop teasing you too. Our big news is that DoStix are going to be in two publications this fall! Hobby Home Farm and O! The Oprah Magazine are both going to feature DoStix in their respective December issues and we couldn’t be more excited. I’m going to use this as an excuse for my tardiness in posting a new blog entry. We’ve got a lot of prep to do to be ready for holiday season!

Now for the business at hand.  Here is the link to the recipe: Tomato Tart  I made the dough in the morning yesterday which took very little time.  It needed to chill so I put it together before I went out to get the other supplies I needed. Later in the afternoon I got started on the bulk of the recipe, starting with roasting garlic. I know not everyone wants to be using the oven these days but it’s cooled off here and frankly, I love the smell of garlic in the oven. While the garlic was roasting I rolled out the dough and fitted it to the tart pan. It was pretty stiff and I struggled to roll it out. Greg’s tip was to hammer at it until it flattened enough to more easily roll it. Genius. For the first time, I used the 1/8 inch DoStix. Having a longer rolling pin would have been beneficial because the recipe called for a 12” round(ish) dough. 

Greg also recommended just pulling pieces of dough off and rolling them into the rest of the dough to get the shape and size I needed.  Being the foodstylist he is, he has to do these things all the time.  Finally, his new favorite way to move dough (his words) is to fold it in quarters and place it in the baking pan.  I was trying to roll it on to the pin and not having much success. 

Whew!  With the dough in place, I finished working with the garlic and arranged the garlic, tomatoes, and cheese in the chilled dough.  My friend Amanda gave us some basil so we decided to add it.  In to the oven it went!  The dough looked good and browned at about 45 minutes so I took it out to cool.  It smelled so good! 

I like the taste of this recipe but if I make it again, I would make some changes.  I would add another layer or two of tomatoes and cheese.  The basil was a good addition so I would probably stick with that as well.  This recipe is more of a weekend process unless you can do the dough and roasted garlic ahead of time.  The hands-on steps are not hard or time consuming but the roasting, chilling, and baking take a lot of time.  Behold the finished product!  I had the leftovers for breakfast and they were still tasty! 

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Shortbread Cookies

Posted by Gregory Luna on July 25, 2013 1 Comment

The oppressive heat we’ve had here in central Iowa lately has finally broken for some much needed relief.  I can’t said I would normally be excited to be baking in late July but the pleasant weather and an upcoming event have gotten me in the mood.

This weekend a few of my family members and I are hosting a wedding shower for my future sister in law, Jessie.  The menu plan is brunch-oriented but I personally eat cookies at all times of the day so they fit with a brunch theme, in my humble opinion.  DoStix recently started a Pinterest account, which has been lots of fun so far.  Browsing through the pins has stirred my creativity and given me a bounty of new ideas for future blogs.  That’s where I came across this recipe for Pecan Toffee Shortbread Stars from Cook’s Country magazine’s website. 

As I write this, I am eating one of the cookies.  My comment: YUM.  I’ve never made shortbread cookies before, mostly sugar and drop cookies, so it was a bit of an adventure.  I bought the ingredients this morning and ran into a slight snag: the recipe called for toffee bits without chocolate.  All my local grocery store had were ones with chocolate.  I bought the ones they had and omitted mini semi-sweet chocolate chips from my dough with the intend of doubling the toffee bits to compensate. 

Hmmm, I don't recall getting this at the store......

Upon returning home, I consulted Mr. Luna, who is a food stylist by trade, as you know, who said that toffee bits without chocolate are hard to find.  Since I know my readers include Des Moines area residents- HyVee has toffee bits sans chocolate, Dahl’s does not.  The next time I make this recipe I will use the no-chocolate bits.  Cook’s Country does a ton of testing for their recipes so if they call for these bits, I’m sure there’s a reason.   

My mom, who has an impressive collection of vintage aprons, recently gave me a cute apron to wear while baking for DoStix.  I realized a few minutes into my work that it was hanging in the stairway and I should try it out for today’s blog.  My next thought was that I was wearing bicycle shorts and a running shirt so maybe today isn’t the day to sport the apron. 

My usual baking chaos:

The dough was easy to mix together and in many ways, I found it easier to work with than sugar cookie dough.  It did take me some time to finely chop the pecans- I’m not proficient in chopping.  My mind turned to that Slap Chop thing from tv but I’m sure it looks better than it is. 

As per recipe instructions, I refrigerated my dough while I ran some errands.  That was a mistake.  The dough was so hard I couldn’t roll it!  I gave it some time to warm up and it rolled out easily.  Next time- no refrigeration!

 

I went with the same star shape used in the recipe and I think they look cute.  You do have to work around some bits as you use the cookie cutter and realize these cookies do not have perfect edges.  I say when imperfection is caused by bits of pecans and toffee- so be it. 

The cooking times were true to the recipe and I’m very happy with the results.  The next step is to see what the shower guests, and most importantly Jessie, think of them.  Jessie is no slacker in the kitchen (she also is a user and support of DoStix!) and she knows a quality baked good when she sees it.  I’ll be sure to update you after the shower!           

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DoStix Variety- Colors!

Posted by Gregory Luna on July 22, 2013 0 Comments

Recently a DoStix customer asked if we had any of the colored DoStix leftover from the giveaway we did earlier this year.  She was interested in one of the Red sets and I was happy to oblige her request.  It got me thinking- why not offer the rest of the colored stock we have for sale?  For a limited time- colored DoStix!  With the aid of my trusty office assistant (featured at the end of this post), I have put the new color options on the website.  They are on the main page at the bottom with "Related" items   

Royal Blue

Red

Marbled Tan

Slate Grey

I'm excited to offer these to our DoStix customers!  So is Floyd.

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Summertime Strawberries!

Posted by Gregory Luna on June 23, 2013 1 Comment

Yesterday a friend of mine and I went to a farm north of Des Moines where you can pick your own produce.  It was the first day of their strawberry picking season (which is short) and it was packed with people getting fresh berries right from the plant.  Neither of us had done something like this since we were kids and we ended up having a great time.  The farm is only about 30 minutes away and in 45 short minutes of picking, I had nearly 9 pounds of strawberries!  In a way it seems ridiculous to pick so many but they were cheap ($2/pound) and delicious.

I have a small strawberry patch of my own but I have not yet been able to harvest any of the fruits of my own labor because of a small creature called the chipmunk (known in my part of the world as the "squinnie").  I've taken some control measures so I might actually get to try my raspberries since my strawberries were a loss. 

Since it's rainy (again) in Central Iowa again today, it only made sense that I do some baking.  Today's recipe is something I saw on the Better Homes and Gardens Facebook page.  Here's the link: Hand Tarts.  I've seen several recipes like this in other publications since I first noticed this one so I'm thinking hand tarts are trendy right now.  It's fitting because I'm always up on the latest trends......I hope you pick up on my sarcasm there.  I have to say, this recipe wasn't hard to execute but I have things about it I would change and I mention them toward the end of this post.  Bon Appetit has a recipe for blueberry hand tarts that I'm going to try next time.  The pick your own farm has blueberries available in July- a perfect excuse for another trip!

This recipe calls for rhubarb and apples but I modified it, with Greg's input, to feature rhubarb and strawberries.  Luckily, I don't know of anything that eats rhubarb so I was able to harvest stalks from my own patch.  FYI- that gnome has done nothing to assist in pest control.  What a freeloader.  

Greg advised me to swap strawberries for equal amounts of the other fruit in the recipe.  I used one less cup of rhubarb and switched the apples for strawberries. 

Following the instructions, I placed the sugar, tapioca, ginger, and nutmeg in a saucepan and mixed the fruit in.  I let it sit for a few minutes to start creating a sauce, which didn't take long.

                    

With the addition of the strawberries, the sauce wasn't thickening like it should have.  Greg suggested I add cornstarch which solved the thickening issue.  Next, I let the mixture cool while I made the dough.  At first I thought the dough seemed like something I could easily mess up but it came together nicely.  Using the 1/8" DoStix, I rolled it out to get a nice, thin crust.  I haven't used this size yet so it was good to put them to work!  

                    

At this the point in the process things got...well, annoying.  The dough was easy to work with, and I was thankful for that, but when it came to filling the tarts it wasn't going smoothly.  I folded them into rectangles, as per the instructions, but filling kept squeezing out and I had a hard time sealing them up.  You'll notice there are no pictures of this step- I'm not in the mood to embarrass myself today with my tart styling.  Then I realized in the picture that accompanies the recipe, the tarts are triangle, not rectangle.  Once I started doing that, it was so much easier.  This is the finished product:

Filling belched out of each one but it wasn't the end of the world.  It smelled and tasted great so I consider the day to be a success.  I'm not opposed to using this recipe again but here's what I would change:

Either make 1/2 the amount of filling or twice the dough because I had about 3 extra cups of filling.  I'm leaning toward twice the dough because if you're going to take the time to do this, you should have more tarts at the end of your labors.

Make them all triangle shaped- ignore the mention of rectangles in the recipe.

Add a splash of lemon or something similar to give it just a bit more zip.

Having so much leftover filling did give me the opportunity to put one of my lesser known talents to good use.  I have an eye for choosing the exact right size of storage container for leftover food.  I wish I could make a living that paid me millions of dollars for this talent but I guess I'll have to settle for the satisfaction of not wasting refrigerator space on inappropriately housed leftovers.

Now that is satisfying:  

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Dog Treats!

Posted by Gregory Luna on June 12, 2013 0 Comments

Ok, I know I said I was working on a post about pie, which is still true, but getting Greg and I both in the house and with enough time to do side-by-side pie baking is a challenge.  I promise- it’s still coming!

Today’s topic: dog treats.  I wanted to do something off the topic of cookies because we are certainly not limited to sugar cookies here at DoStix. I did a bit of research and found a recipe I wanted to try on the Martha Stewart Living website.  Here is the link: Treats  I’ve never made anything this so it seemed worth a try.

Now, anyone who knows me needs no reminder that I’m more of a cat person than a dog person.  Cats are just so wonderfully blasé about everything, which I love.  This same trait makes them less fun to make treats for.  Let me demonstrate:

Boys, how about some homemade treats???

 

Nothing.  Suit yourself.

Let’s try with the dog.  How about a treat, Floyd?

  

Heck yes! 

Seriously, look at that face.  You’d make some treats for him too.  To get started, I picked some cookie cutter shapes that I thought were Floyd-appropriate.  I picked the squirrel because this dog has a passionate hatred for squirrels and it seems like it would be satisfying to eat one, even in treat form.  I also picked a cat shape for the exact same reason (yes, having three cats and this dog makes life interesting).  The dog shape just looks fun and the heart was just another variety as well. 


I followed the recipe and the dough came together quickly.  I did decide not to do the shape the recipe shows because seemed more fun to make them in shapes that the dog hates.  It was different from cookie dough because it was much stickier and required a bit of kneading.  I was worried that it would be hard to roll out but it wasn’t at all. I used the 1/4 inch DoStix for this recipe.  Martha's website included another recipe that used the 1/2 inch size but I'll do that one another day.

                      

The harder part was cutting the shapes in the dough because of the density and stickiness of the dough.  The trick was really getting in there with the cookie cutter and making sure it cut all the way to the counter top.  Once I got that going, it was pretty easy.

The dough smelled nice- I wasn’t sure what to expect with a recipe like this.  It reminded me of bran muffins or a similar type of baked good.  I pulled the treats out of the oven half way through the specified baking time to brush on some broth.  Things were looking good.  Finally, after 20 minutes, I turned the oven off and checked the progress.  I will say the edges of some were a bit crispier than I wanted them to be.  Other than the cats, the shapes looked pretty good. The dog tail got overdone but I like the look of it otherwise.  The surfaces are kind of lumpy but frankly, it looks like the surface of a dog treat.  So, I guess it’s perfect! 

                        

As with all my baking projects these days, I really worry about the end result.  Will it look good?  Will it taste good?  Will it take forever?  The best thing about this project is that the recipient is a dog.  I can’t speak for all dogs, but I know my dog will be pleased as punch with these treats.  I’ve seen this animal willingly eat an ant-covered bagel off the sidewalk and love every minute of it.  His standards are not high.  That being said, I think these treats will be a hit with any dog.  I have to say, they look and smell a heck of a lot better than the pizza flavored ones in the cupboard.  Gross. 

I'm ending this blog post with a photo from the one of the calendars I make for my mom.  This looks ridiculous, I know, but she loves it and it’s fun to make.  It seems fitting to share since this photo shoot takes a lot of treats.  Next time I can pump him full of treats that I know are healthy and homemade! 

 

 

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Kids, Cookies, and a Great Deal of Frosting

Posted by Gregory Luna on May 13, 2013 1 Comment

Kids are about to be done with school for the summer and baking is a great way to keep kids occupied in the summer months.  Since I don’t have kids, a few weeks ago my sister in law was gracious enough to allow me to make a mess of her kitchen and her kids by hosting a cookie baking session.  I had a preconceived notion that it was going to take a long time to make and decorate the cookies but it was really easy and smooth.  I made the dough ahead of time to allow it time to chill and took it over to their house one Sunday afternoon. Also, I took the easy way out by purchasing some frosting in various colors from the store.  Of course, there was also an array of sprinkles.   

 

The girls each had a set of DoStix, a rolling pin, and a portion of the dough.  It really helped that they have a short workspace in the center of the kitchen so the girls could roll the dough at a height that was comfortable for them.

Not everyone has to wear such a formal outfit to get great cookies, but I’m not one to shy away from some fashion in the kitchen.  Yes, the dress collected some flour in the rolling process but it was easily taken care of with some vigorous skirt shaking. 

 

We employed cookie cutters but there was a request for variety so we used drinking glasses and a plastic butter knife to create some non-traditional shapes. 

Cutting the dough didn’t take much time so we were on to frosting pretty quickly.  It was anything goes with the decorating and I’ll say the nieces have some skill when it comes to cookie styling. 

                                            

Each girl got to have one cookie to eat and the rest they donated to a local homeless shelter.  When I dropped the cookies off on my way home the staff at the reception desk and a couple of the clients who were there were really touched by the girls’ donation.  I was told specifically to pass on a sincere thanks to them.   

Finally, thanks to my sister in law and nieces for such a successful baking session!  We even discovered DoStix are a useful tool in the cleanup process! 

 

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Mother's Day Under $20

Posted by Gregory Luna on April 29, 2013 0 Comments

Today I put together a quick but really cute Mother's Day gift featuring DoStix that I want to share with you.  My thinking with this gift was that many moms don't want much for Mother's Day gifts but some thought put into a small gift goes a long way to get brownie points with Mom.

This gift is less than $20 and took me about 10 minutes to put together.  Yes, it was easy and quick but let me tell you about the details, which were thought out.  I used to collect postcards when I was a kid (and I still have them all) so I thought a vintage inspired postcard would be a great recipe card.  I picked one that I thought my mom would like, adapted a sugar cookie recipe I use and wrote it on the back of the card.  (See the end of this post for postcards that didn't make the cut).  Of course, you could type the recipe but I think writing it makes it more personal and old-fashioned, which I'm into and so is my mom.  

Next, I went to my stash of spare ribbons and picked a coordinating one.  Earlier today I picked up a cookie cutter for less than one dollar to complete the gift.  The one I picked seemed vintage looking to me and looks nice with the card and DoStix.  I tied it all together and we have a nice gift!  

I had other postcards that were nice but not quite right.  I love this one but it says Best Wishes.  It also says "From Floyd" and is postmarked 1912.  I just couldn't bear to erase that to write a sugar cookie recipe.  The next one is beautiful but is for a birthday.  I'll tuck that away for a different occasion. 

                               

This one makes a statement.  What kind of statement is really up to you....

                                                

Finally, these are just awesome.  The kittens one would have been my second choice after what I chose above.  Truly.

                             

Happy Mother's Day! 

 

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DoStix Giveaway!

Posted by Gregory Luna on April 16, 2013 0 Comments

DoStix is doing a giveaway!  We have a few special sets from a very limited run of colored DoStix and we'd like to have a little contest to give them away.

Here’s the deal:

Three winners will each get one of our special sets of DoStix.  They are the exact same measurements as traditional DoStix but in fun colors!  We have crimson red, navy blue and marbled beige.  The challenge is that we get to 125 Facebook “likes” by May 1.  Anyone who shares or likes the page will be entered into a drawing for the prizes and three winners will be awarded.  Those are pretty good odds!  We have a few sets of each color if winners are interested in the same color set.

The contest starts today (April 16, 2013) and will end at midnight CST, May 1st.

Let's the games begin!

Check them out:

 

 

 

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Gold Star(s) for me! My first DoStix Experience

Posted by Gregory Luna on April 10, 2013 1 Comment

It's a gloomy day in the middle of Iowa so I thought it would be a perfect day to try my first recipe using DoStix.  I’ve learned a lot today including the fact that we need a new hand mixer.  The beaters are knocking together creating quite a lot of noise.  So much so that the dog had to bark about it, which upset the cats, which upset me.  Once we all settled down, things went pretty well.

I chose a sugar cookie recipe from a church cookbook.  I don’t know about other states, but Iowa has a long tradition of church ladies compiling recipes into a book that the church sells as a fundraiser.  The other church cookbook I have has a recipe for “Mashed Potato Doughnut Balls”.  Don’t expect to see me making that on the blog any time soon.

My cookie recipe is titled “1,2,3,4 Sugar Cookies”.  I don’t know what all the counting is about but the recipe looked easy which I found appealing.  The quantity of cookies it produces is stated as “many dozens”.  Precision.  I like that.

I got all my stuff out to make the cookies this morning and what a quaint little scene it was!

Don’t worry, I destroyed the space within seconds of starting to mix ingredients. The recipe came together well.  Although the instructions did not say to refrigerate the dough, I did anyway.  I divided it into three portions of more or less equal size and put them in the fridge to chill.  I should mention that I combined this cookie project with another project I'm working on.  I have a goal to listen to all of my about 500 records (both sides).  Going alphabetically these were today's selections.  Not bad listening at all!

In the mean time I made my icing.  Greg recommended using royal icing to decorate the cookies.  Specifically the recipe from the blog Bake at 350.  See the instructions at this link: http://bakeat350.blogspot.com/

I was nervous about this icing because I’ve never made it before and it also required using the behemoth KitchenAid mixer that has been in our kitchen for years.  I’ve never used one of these mixers and I couldn’t even be sure it worked because I've never seen this one in operation although I look at it every single day.  I hefted it on the counter and gave it a try- success!  Once I figured out that the top didn’t flip up (like I see on tv cooking shows) but the bowl lifted to the paddle, things went great.  I had to search the internet to figure that out.  Duh.

 

After making the icing, I put it aside and started working with my chilled dough.  I got one of the thirds of dough and placed it between my ¼ inch set of DoStix.  I made sure to have plenty of flour on the counter and on my rolling pin.  I have to say, and I know I’m biased, but DoStix really do make this process a breeze.  This part of cookie making is certainly a part that I’ve fretted over in the past.  The thickness was perfect and it only took me a few seconds to roll out the dough.

 

I wanted to make star shaped cookies so I got to work cutting them out of the dough.  After baking my first batch I decided to leave them in a couple of minutes longer (the first round was a bit doughy).  Also, the shape of the stars wasn’t quite what I wanted so for lack of a better idea, I just bent the cookie cutter in a bit to make sharper angles.  They looked better after that.

Once the first sets cooled, I started in on the decorating process.  I outlined the shape with a stiff batch of icing and then thinned the remaining icing to fill the middle of the cookie.  The first few I iced were not exactly ready for photography, but I did get better at is as went along.  I got so engrossed in what I was doing that my records ended about halfway through my decorating process so all I had for background noise was my favorite cat Hobo purring loudly in encouragement. 

I got about 30 cookies that look decent for my first attempt at all this.  I’ll let the cookies sit overnight and I plan to take them the homeless shelter tomorrow. 

Since I had a bit of extra dough, I tried two other cookie cutters that I am thinking of using for bake sale fundraiser cookies early next month.  However, after today’s experience, I think I should stick with something simpler since I want people to buy the cookies and they need to look good.  I like the shapes but I don’t think my icing skills are there yet.

In conclusion I did several new things today and I’m pretty happy with myself.  For next time I think I'll get a squirt bottle to apply the icing instead of the quart bag I used.  It's a small investment to make things go a little better and faster. 

 

 

It took nearly all day but I did it! 

 

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