Saturday, July 9, 2011

Parmesan Crisps & Homemade Croutons

At our house, when anything we bake is topped with cheese and inevitably some of it falls overboard onto the pan becoming all golden brown and have to be fast, and efficient with a spatula,  if you want to scrape all that goodness up and claim it for yourself. This ritual is akin to the 'lick the bowl' syndrome which occurs frequently at the Robertses, but it's cheese that gets left behind instead, but not for long.   That's what Parmesan Crisps remind me of, though they are easier on they eyes.  Belying their presentation is the simplicity in making them.  Apparently they reminded Michael, Ethan, Bryan (not our kid but might as well be & we claim him), Jonah, Kalyn, Trevor and Ashton of the 'cheese drips' to because I consistently found myself repeating, "eat another bite and you will not live to tell about it".   They were to be served with dinner, after all.  Beautiful garnishes.  On our salads.  As salad crowns. With my homemade croutons (warnings were given regarding these as well).  On Shawn's birthday.  There were only 9 of them.  One for each of us.    Get the picture? 

Parmesan Crisps or Fricos (from the Friuli region of Italy)
(makes 8-9 large crisps, about 3-3.5")

1 cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup Italian bread crumbs (you may also use corn meal, flour, or wheat flour)
1/4-1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp olive oil

Combine shredded Parmesan cheese, bread crumbs and pepper in a small bowl.

Spread olive oil on baking sheet.   Drop by large spoonfuls about 3-4" apart on baking sheet (I make 6 to a sheet).  It is really best to use a silicone mat or line the pan with parchment paper for easy removal.  I didn't but I know from experience it's easier.  Slightly pat flat so they are not big mounds. 

Bake at 350 for about 5-6 minutes and allow to cool slightly.  Remove them from the pan with a spatula. 
You can make these ahead, storing them in between wax paper in an airtight container for up to a week.

*Variations: These can be made with just the parmesan cheese, which I've done in the past. They come out beautifully, looking more like lace with little holes between. 
 *Fresh Herbs. Add a tablespoon or two to your crisp mixture.  Rosemary and thyme are two favorites.
*3-4 teaspoons smoked Paprika 
*Gorgeous variations include making them into small Paremesan cups, filled with cheese mousse or a salad.  Prep is the same but bake them about 3-4 minutes, cool for a minute or two and then remove from the sheet with a spatula and  while still warm place them over an upside down shot glass, egg carton, small cup, etc. and allow to cool to form little bowls.  

Cookin Canuck serves Spinach salad in her Bowls.

Okay, now let's get on to the croutons.  Loaded with butter, garlic, parmesan cheese, onion and a wee bit of parsley, they are addictive.  
      Seriously.  If you're one of those 'I can't eat just one' people then you are going to fit right in.  No more croutons = fightin' words at my house. 

Nancy's Homemade Croutons 
(I always, always double or triple this because...well you read it above)

8 slices white sandwich bread, etc.  I don't trim the crust.  Cut into 3/4" squares or tear into bite sized chunks...size, shape...up to you.
1 stick salted butter, melted
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
2 tablespoons grated parmesan (I use the canned version)
1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes

Spread the bread crumbs onto a cookie sheet, or sheets, and bake at 250-275 for about 15 minutes.  You may want to pull them out, stir them around and bake an additional 10 or so minutes until they are thoroughly dried out.

Once they are dried and out of the oven, melt your butter and add to it the parmesan cheese, garlic and onion powders and the parsley.  

 Stir to blend.
The parmesan cheese swells a bit and the mixture separates a little but don't fret...

just pour it all over your bread crumbs trying to coat them evenly (sometimes I shake the crumbs with the butter mixture in a ziploc bag to coat). 
Bake at 250-275 for another 10-15 minutes.  Remove and allow to cool.

Store in a Ziploc bag up to 10 days...if they last that long!
Oh, and don't forget to gather up all of the leftover crouton crumbs on the pan...they are worth fighting over too!  I sprinkle them over our salads.

Toss them in your favorite salad.  They're perfect with Caesaer or as someone I used to know once called it, a Seizure salad.  

Thursday, July 7, 2011

1980's Brass Light Fixtures Get a Seashell Makeover

I hope you all had a safe and fun 4th of July. Shawn and I had dinner with Michael and Ethan.  As I mentioned, our youngest four are at camp this week so Shawn and I have had the house all to ourselves.  I have gotten so much done, including make-ing over these light fixtures.  The bathroom, besides being unbelievably filthy, when we found the house, had a 1980's era striped, red, blue and white stripes with tan dots on the white.  It wasn't completely horrible, but it was really dirty (beyond being able to be washed away) and just looked very outdated.  I got rid of the paper and finished painting the bathroom but the bright brass light fixtures needed a change.  I DON'T like the shiny brass finish....and since I couldn't afford to replace the lights  (even it this were my house, and not a rental) and since the landlord has given me free reign to do what I wish here, I decided to give these a little makeover.  

Not only were the fixtures bright brass, but they were also rusted in areas.

I took the glass shades out of the fixtures and gave them all a bath.  The one on the left has been washed.

I cleaned the fixtures really well and wiped them down with a rust remover.
Next, I painted the brass fixtures a soft, creamy sand color called Sugar Beige.  This was some paint I had left over from the shop.
Looking better already, don't you think?

 I poured about a cup of crushed seashells into a bowl (these cost under $4 for a bag and I didn't even use 1/4 of it).

I used brush on super glue around the rim of the shade and then dipped it in the shells.  

I applied another coat of the glue, this time around the lower edge of the shades so that I'd have the shells on the bottom rim and around the edge.  I just sprinkled them on and then turned the shades upside down to sit a few minutes and dry.

This is how they are looking thus far.  

After the crushed shells had dried I glued three shells evenly spaced around the shades, just over the frosted flowers.

I let the larger shells dry for a while and then it was time to put them back on the fixtures. 

And, with the lights on the seashells offer a soft glow.

I am anxious to show you all the after photos of the entire bathroom.
It can't be worse than how we found it, now can it?   


Between Naps on the Porch,
 Savvy Southern StyleRomantic Homes Common GroundFeathered Nest Friday,Charm of HomeFunky Junk Interiors No Minimalist Here,  Transformation Thursday, Delightful Order, Somewhat Simple

Monday, July 4, 2011

Easy Wreath for Independence Day

Happy 4th of July!

Shawn and I just dropped our youngest four kids off for Church camp.  They'll be gone until Saturday so, yippee, we are celebrating Independence in two ways today! ;-)  We are looking forward to relaxing and spending some time together.  I've talked him into taking me junkin' tomorrow and I'm working around the house.  I have several jobs I want to get done this week, while the kids are away.  One of them is to finish putting an enamel epoxy on the kitchen sink.  I don't know if you remember it, but it was really disgusting. Pic here (it's the third one down).  The sink cleaned up some but is badly stained and has several chips in the enamel.  I've fixed two already but I'm going to re-coat the entire sink.  Even if I mess up, it can't look any worse than it did.  It's hard to try to do something like that with a large houseful of people where the kitchen sink seems to be in constant use.  I need to let the epoxy dry between coats....hmmm that must mean Shawn's taking me out alot this week. ;-)
I am also putting some finishing touches on the Jack and Jill bath downstairs.  There are pics of it in the link above as well.  I can't wait to show the after pictures.

I recently made this arrangement for my front door.  I found a vintage, straw purse with a flag on it at Salvation Army for $1.98.  I just added some silk geraniums and daisies and hang it on the front door.  So easy!  If you like this, you could use any straw purse with handles and just add a red/white/blue bow or small flag in the mix to give it a patriotic look.  I have a few straw purses, so I think I may do another one for the door with pinks and yellows, after the holiday weekend.

I hope you all have a festive, safe and happy day!