Take and Bake

Sometimes I just feel like getting crafty. I want to go to Michael’s with an idea in my mind and see what happens.

Enter the Sharpie Mug. Again the interwebs are full of ideas and suggestions and How Tos and Not Tos. So much so it became a bit overwhelming. So I took the most common suggestions and just went for it.

I collected stencils and stickers and Oil-Paint Sharpie Pens all from Michael’s and then a dozen or so mugs from the dollar store. The most common suggestion found was to use cheap mugs. The cheaper the mug, the weaker the glaze. The weaker the glaze, the more easily the paint can bond to the mug and prevent wearing when you wash the mug. Same goes for Oil-based paints. This was suggested over regular sharpies or sharpie paint pens.

Supplies and Prep

Supplies and Prep

This was such an easy project, once I got over the creative-freeze that came with a blank mug. The options are endless. I found that looking at too many photos of what others had done only limited me because I just wanted to copy all these great mugs. But I found the best results when I just let go and made what I wanted to make.

Monograms - they are my weakness

Monograms – they are my weakness

This is also a great project to do with kids, for family, or for mass gifting. The pens aren’t entirely cheap, but they will last for a long time. I bought reusable stencils and materials, so those will have a permanent home in my craft-belt. And the mugs? $1, people. Can you even by a soda for that price anymore?

The possibilities are endless...

The possibilities are endless…

So here’s what I did:

Gather the supplies, troops and a creative playlist.
Paint, stencil and freehand to your heart’s desire.
Let dry for at least 12 hours, but I waited until the next day before baking.
Bake in a heated oven to 350 for 25 minutes and then let completely cool in the oven after you’ve turned it off.

So close....

So close….

Enjoy the fruits of your labor. Or in some cases, give them away because you made 12 and don’t need quite that many…

if you try this, please let us know how it went for you. My cups are being hand-washed for the time being, but all my research leads me to test out their top-shelf dishwasher safe status. Report back!

-Jenn

Cottage. Pie. Cottage pie.

Apparently all my tomatoes were waiting for was a little public shaming:

matoes

YEAH! So naturally, now that I’ve got the tomatoes I’ve been waiting for, and what with the days hot and sunny and the nights warm and balmy, dinner around these parts this week has been slow-cooked, piping-hot tomato-devoid cottage pie.

What? It TOTALLLY makes sense.

Cottage pie, for the uninitiated, is shepherds pie made with not-lamb. Shepherds pie, if you’ve lived under the saddest culinary rock in the quarry, is basically lamb-based meat pie filling poured sans-crust into a pan, and then topped with mashed potatoes before baking. It’s warm, comforting, cozy goodness, and, admittedly, probably much more appropriate to nippy early spring weather or the first brisk days of fall.

Except, every summer, I get dragged to local Highland games with my mom. This is a decades-long tradition, something we’ve been doing since the distant dark ages when she danced competitively at these events. Now, we mostly go out of habit and nostalgia, and to have one guaranteed day out of the year where I am not the pastiest person in the room.

Oh, and for the food. And the beer. And ALL the food. It’s the perfect meeting place of fair foods and UK staples, including heavenly meat pies that we sometimes buy an extra case of, frozen, before we leave, and have for dinners the rest of the week.

Net result, cottage pies are a summer staple for me, common sense and contrary weather be damned. And really, when one batch makes 6 hearty servings, a little slaving over the stove goes a long way. What’s one night’s cooking for three night’s dinners, right? Assuming, that is, you don’t have little fridge elves that eat pie for breakfast and lunch while your back is turned:

just one day later!

just one day later!

The recipe here is my own, and because it’s made to suit my preferences, heavy on the vegetable and light on the meat. If you want a denser, meatier pie, definitely use more meat – all the rest of the quantities can stay about the same.

Start with:

4 ribs of celery, chopped
1/2 lb pearl onions
1/2 lb carrots – Parisian globes if you can find them (Trader Joe’s obligingly has them in the freezer section!)

Sautee vegetables in a large pan in 2 T butter, ghee, or olive oil, cooking until everything is just starting to get tender.

aromatic

Add:

1.5 lbs ground turkey
2 t Penzey’s Lamb seasoning (you can sub in an equivalent amount of a combo of parsley, thyme, marjoram, and savory, but if you have access to Penzey’s, just get the blend. It’s got a little kick of spearmint that makes it magical)
1/2 t garlic powder

Stir together with the vegetables, and keep it moving occasionally until the meat is thoroughly browned and things are starting to want to stick to your pan. Pour in:

1 12oz can beef or chicken broth

Simmer about 30 minutes, or until the liquid is reduced about 50%. Stir in:

1 6oz can tomato paste

Transfer the whole mess to a 4 quart baking dish with high sides if you have one, or a 9×13″ baking dish if not. Top generously with mashed potatoes. Like really generously. Like two or three inches deep, if you have the space.

fluff

Bake at 350 for 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are golden and little bits of filling start to bubble up at the edges.

With regards to potatoes: at the moment, my favorite mash starts with a 3lb bag of Yukon Golds. I peel half of them and let the other half donate their peels in the name of rustic goodness. Quarter the potatoes, boil til fork tender (about 25 minutes) in salted water, drain, and then mash together with one 14oz can of full-fat coconut milk. Add salt and white pepper to taste, and revel in the fact that you’ve now made twice the potato you actually need for this recipe, and are now blessed with a bounty of mashed happiness you can shovel right into your face. And yes, I understand coconut milk sounds odd, but it brings all the buttery goodness of butter, and doesn’t loose its texture or taste with subsequent reheating.

All that glitters

So a while back, Jenn sent me a link to a tray she found instant, swoony love with on etsy. I took a peek, and had two nearly-simultaneous thoughts:

screenshot

1.) Instant, swoony love is an unfaithful beast, and we are just going to have to make this work somehow.

2.) $98? $98?? NINETY EIGHT DOLLARS? That better be real gold. It also better smell like cookies and hand-wash my laundry for me. For $98, the snozzberries sure as hell better taste like snozzberries.

Don’t get me wrong, I am usually a huge proponent of the idea that there really isn’t too high a price to pay for The Perfect Thing, but this seriously challenged that belief system.

Out with the instant, swoony love and in with the throwing of gauntlets: surely, SURELY we could make something passably similar? You know, like, for any dollar amount UNDER $98??

After our last foray into a challenge like this, Jenn insisted on ground rules, because apparently admittedly, I cheat. So, the non-negotiables:

– start with this big, basic, under-$8 tray from ikea

– make it white and gold

– make it as cheaply as possible.

We weren’t even out of Ikea before Jenn was talking technical concerns like primer. Honestly I kind of zoned out, because I knew I had more than enough leftover chalk paint from prior projects. Primer? That’s just precious. Excuse me while I just slap down some no-fail covers-anything Old White magic.

onecoat

No need for primer here!

I was blissfully unconcerned with sparse and wibbly first coat coverage because, well, first coat. This wasn’t my first chalk paint rodeo. I’ve thrown this stuff down on some of the grossest things a thrift store run has ever produced, and it never fails me. My faith in Annie Sloan was absolute.

Until.

crackalack

UNTIL!

Here’s the thing: I am not super great at reading directions. So I didn’t really stop and read the “if you have left this can of paint sitting idle in a drawer for more than a year, do the following” that was super-clearly printed on the label. Actual instructions: flip over, shake like crazy. What I did: half-assedly stirred with a chopstick, then started painting.

So, basically, my faith in chalk paint and my faith in my ability to make new and awesomely stupid mistakes pretty much daily both escaped unscathed.

In the meantime, I had a project to salvage. So…yeah. Primer to the rescue.

primed

Sigh.

I went heavy handed, mostly due to blind panic, and partly due to beer. Also, it’s very possible that I was using spray primer and in my kitchen and with no thought what so ever to ventilation. Because I am super smart.

When it came time to gild this fume-heavy melamine lily, I ditched the straight lines entirely. My reasoning was simple: this rectangular tray was going to go onto my rectangular dining table in my rectangular dining room. Any opportunity to add a soft edge and a little swirl of curve and curl was just not to be missed.

swirl

$2 paint pen at the craft store + 30 minutes of harnessing my adolescent self, who majored in swirly doodles in high school = oh. hell. yes.

golden

Total cost: new materials, tray included, $10. Primer, paint, and brushes were already on hand. So was the beer I pounded in a panic when the paint started chipping away on me, for that matter.

Net result: instant, swoony love? Not really. But I like what I’ve got. And clearly, it likes living in my dining room, where it’s already played host to condiments and salt and pepper shakers for a family dinner and served as a catch-all for my garden planning notes.

inplace

I’m a little worried about its long-term durability, thanks to the early panic, but I’m pretty sure there was some polyurethane in the same drawer as the chalk paint. Don’t worry, I’ll remember to shake it really well before I use it.