Monday, March 31, 2014

Cracker Jack Brownie Recipe from Rachel Ray - Feedback

"Take me out to the ball game,
Take me out with the crowd.
Buy me some peanuts and cracker jack,
I don't care if I never get back,
Let me root, root, root for the home team,
If they don't win it's a shame.
For it's one, two, three strikes, you're out,
At the old ball game."
by Jack Norworth (1908)


A piece of Baseball Game Brownie

Yesterday was the 2014 Baseball Season Opening Day! For the occasion, I am coming to share a brownie recipe with Cracker Jack. Last year I was watching Rachael Ray around the baseball opening season and her guest (Katie Lees) came to the show to share a brownie recipe especially  for baseball games. The ingredients of the recipe seemed so interesting and out of the ordinary that I had to try it. What would you say to chocolate, pretzels, peanuts and Cracker Jack! The opening day was few days away and we were invited to the opening home game day party of the Rockies which was a perfect to make this brownie. I have made this recipe several times and came with some recommendations (mentioned at the end of this page).

 The Recipe

Serving: 16

- 1 box brownie mix (such as Ghirardelli Double Chocolate)
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup canola oil
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 cup caramel popcorn (such as Cracker Jack)    
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped pretzel sticks
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped lightly salted peanuts


1. Preheat oven to 350 Fahrenheit. Grease a small square baking dish (9 by 9) with cooking spray. 
2. In a large bowl, combine the brownie mix, egg, oil and water, and stir until well-blended. Gently stir in caramel popcorn, pretzels and peanuts. 
Pretzels, Peanuts and Cracker Jack

3. Spread evenly into greased pan.
Ready to go in the oven

4. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack completely before cutting into squares.

Out of the Oven

  • What do I think about this recipe?

1. Do not follow the instructions on the back on the package and stick with the one from the recipe. Otherwise your batter with be extremely stiff.

2. Use the double chocolate brownie mix from Ghirardelli. The mix comes out nice and moist and the extra chocolate is a great addition to the recipe. I tried another brand and it did not work as well. It was more on the dry side.  

3. Cut the pretzel sticks ¼ in. long by hands. It might seemed time consuming but you only have a ½ cup to go throw. It will take you only few minutes. It is worth it. It will fit better into the batter and provide a more interesting texture. The pretzels do not get most a little during the baking process. They still stay hard. Having very small pieces will help cutting the brownie into pieces and eating it. It is not pleasant to have a bite of brownie with long pretzel sticks to chew on considering that you also have peanuts and caramel popcorn.  I tried with the food processor and it gave me more trouble than helping me. The sticks were still too long and after 2 or 3 more pulse it was into crumbs.

4. Incorporate the pretzels, peanuts and cracker Jack as indicated in the recipe at the end. Mixing all the ingredients might appeared a bit stiff and fell very dense. It will make you wonder about the texture of the brownie once done but it will come out just fine. It will not be a brick.

5. The brownie is soft and moist with a real taste of chocolate at the first bite with a bit of crunch. You will get some texture with the some pieces of pretzels and peanuts. However, the caramel flavor of the Cracker Jack is gone and the popcorn fells very soft. It is disappointing to your palette. Because you know how the Cracker Jack taste on its own, you want it to fell the same way in the recipe but it does not work. 

6. Suggestions: To get that Cracker Jack taste and texture, which is a symbol of a baseball game, I would make some chocolate and/or caramel icing and sprinkle some quartered Cracker Jack. I have not try it yet but if you do before me let me know what you know what you think and if you have additional suggestion. Another option would be Cracker Jack cookies. I have not heard, see or taste any but I am sure that there is a recipe out there

Enjoy The Baseball Season!


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

*** ROCKET SHIP APPLIQUE - Tutorial ***

Rocket Ship appliqué
For our little guy's third birthday (which was back in December), I made another appliqué. This time is a ROCKET SHIP! After searching on line for an appliqué idea with a tutorial or a template for clothing, I finally came across a rocket ship pattern to make a birthday card from Paper Crafts Mag for my appliqué. I was finally happy with the pattern and would work perfectly for my appliqué.

Rocket Ship to the Moon

The ROCKET SHIP Appliqué Project

Difficulty: Easy

Stars on special applique paper
Time: 2 afternoons to complete if you already have the pieces of fabric and the long sleeve shirt.


I directly printed the template provided on the page from a PDF file for the rocket ship (click on the link to get to the pattern). As for the moon, I used a circular Playdough container and made my our stars. Option: you can draw or print a number "3" to place it in the center of the rocket ship. It was my original idea. However, I ended up not placing the number "3" on the appliqué because I did not like the way it looks. Then, I traced on the "Steam-A-Seam" all the different parts of the template with the original template underneath. Tracing on a window will help see the lines better. Make sure to layer your different pieces of paper (template and special appliqué paper) on the correct sides to have it ready to be ironed on.

Long sleeve shirt, Fabric and Threat:

The long plain grey sleeve shirt was bought at Target. I found it few months earlier for $2.50. Target always have sale at the end of each season or when they have too many of the same item. As for the fabric color palette, I went with the pieces of fabric that I already had at home and used mainly primary plain colors: blue, red, light green, yellow, orange and white. The threat colors choice matched the color of the pieces of fabric selected (white, orange, yellow, red and blue).

Stitch Selection:

Straight, Zig Zag and "long line". To saw the main pieces of the rocket ship, I used the straight stitch selection. To add more texture and definition to the rocket ship, I selected the Zig Zag option for the stripes on the rocket ship. It was the best option to hold the thin stripe. The edge of the moon was done with the Zig Zag as well. To sew some sections and pieces of fabric, I did not used the pedal. I manually turned the flywheel. It was easier to move around the fabric and adjusting the foot of the machine at every turn and at a speed that I could control. To sew so closed to the edge and having the same interval, I traced a line with a washable pencil which made it easy to follow while using the sewing machine. For the stars, I made a border by sewing a straight lines for each side.
Playing with the pieces until I like it


1. Place the different appliqué pieces on the long sleeves shirt until you like the way it looks. To remember where things were exactly placed, you can make some marks with a washable pencil, use pins or take a picture with your phone. It is what I do most of the time.

2. Rocket Ship
Iron the red body, the nose cone (green) and the stripes. Note that I cut the stripes the exact length after I decided were they look best on the body of the rocket ship.

Playing with thread colors and stitching selection to make the design more interesting.

Sewing with a white thread closed to the edge after tracing with a white washable pencil to help keeping the line straight and with the same distance from the border. 
Do not sew the bottom of the body because you will lay the blue part on top of it and finally sew it.

3. The Exhaust 
a. Leave an interval for the blue part between the body and the fire.
b. Lay the yellow piece and then the orange.
c. Trace with washable pencil on the fabric to help you while you sew to keep a straight line and stay in the same distance from the border.
d. Use different thread colors (white and orange) to sew the pieces in different areas.

4. Fines and Propulsion Reactor (just 1 blue piece) 
Place the blue piece where you left a gap and sew with white thread using the same technique as mentioned above.

5. Moon and Stars
a. 1 yellow star with an orange thread for the edge.
b. 2 white stars with 1 red and 1 blue thread.
c. White moon with blue Zig Zag stitch


Check my last applique by clicking right here A giraffe applique for additional notes on appliqué.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

French Mardi Gras Beignet Recipe: Roucettes from Chartres

HaPy MaRdI gRaS!

For the occasion, I made some "Roucettes" to celebrate and share them with everyone. Those diamond shape beignets looking are called "Roucettes" where I am from. I did not have my grandma recipe but I found one on the net from the city I am originally from, Chartres. I will have to make sure that I will make my Grandma's recipe next year. It is a family recipe. She got it from her mother. her name was Madeleine. After all those years, I finally thought about asking my Grandma when I had her on the phone last Sunday. 

Roucettes de Chartres

Click on the link to get to the recipe from La Recette de Cuisine to get the Recettes Gourmandises: Recette de Roussettes de Chartres. The recipe is in French. However, I will get back to you to translate the recipe, put some of my own pictures and add some comments. I had to add way more flour than the recipe called for and did it entirely from scratch. I did not used a food processor to kneed the dough. I really wanted to add this post today for the occasion. If you are celebrating Mardi Gras, Have a Great Day!

Roucettes de Chartres Recipe

Ingredients:                                                                                                               Serving: Around 70 Roucettes
- 500 g flour
- 100 g sugar
- 500 ml milk
- 125 g soft butter
- 3 large eggs
- 20 g fresh yeast or 7 g of instant dry yeast
- 5 g salt
- 1 soup spoon of rum
- Oil (for cooking).


1. Warm the milk in the microwave until you reach a temperature between 100 and 110 degree Fahrenheit. Add the yeast with a pinch of sugar. Let the yeast raise about 10 minutes. Make sure to use a large bowl.
2. In another large bowl, mix the flour, sugar and salt. Add the eggs, rum and butter. Pour the milk mixture/yeast mixture slowly and stir well to avoid lumps. You should have an elastic dough or a bread dough texture like. The original recipe called for 500 g of flour but I had to add 1.5 to 2 cups of flour to get the right bread/dough texture.
3. Sprinkle some flour on your working surface and knead the dough for 10 minutes.
4. Shape the dough into a circle. Place it in a greased bowl and cover it with a greased plastic wrap as well and let rise for at least 1 hour (minimum) in a warm place or until the dough has doubled in volume. Click on the following link to check my rising process:

After  rising way over 1 hour
After kneading 10 minutes and ready to rise
5. Heat your fryer around 350 to 375 degree Fahrenheit. Make sure that you have at least 2 inches of oil in your fryer.
6. Cut a small piece of your dough and roll it with a rolling pin (5 mm thick). Cut the dough in a diagonal with a fluted pastry wheel cutter (do not use a knife) to give them the shape of a rhombus and you have make a roucette ;-)

Rolling and cutting the dough into rhombus with a fluted pastry wheel cutter
Ready to hit the fryer

7. Once you are sure that your oil is hot enough, place the raw diamond shape dough in the fryer. Fry 2 or 3 roucettes at a time for about 2 to 3 minutes on each side. They need to be between light to brown color.

Roucettes in the making!
8. Put the roucettes on a paper towel to absorbent the excess of oil and sprinkle with powder sugar.
9. You can enjoy them warm with some extra powder sugar or at a later time. Conserve them in an airtight container up to 3 days or freeze them for few months.

Delicious Roucettes!

  • What Do I Think About This Recipe?
Roucettes are time consuming. If you decide to make some Roucettes make sure you have time in front of you. It takes around 45 minutes to prepare the dough between letting the yeast/milk set for 10 minutes to rise and kneading which takes 10 minutes as well. Note that you get the equivalent of 2 loaves of bread for the Rousettes' dough. As far a the rolling and frying steps, it takes around 1 hour and half. Rolling and cutting the dough into rhombuses take a long time. I cut some diamonds in advance as I was waiting for the fryer to be ready but had to stop frying them as I was cutting some more diamonds. I could not be at 2 stations at the same time. Some Roucettes were on the verge of being too brown. If you have someone who can check on the frying as you shape the dough it will save you a lot of time. 
Something that I noticed in relation to dough. After the first cut of diamond shape dough, I collected all the extra pieces left over to form another ball to roll flat again. The dough was very elastic which made it somewhat challenging. If you want more like a bread texture after you fried the Rousettes cut small diamond shapes around 2.5 inches. Longer and thinner Rousettes have just empty inside with a tinny touch of crunch. The best way I can describe the taste of a Rousette: A fried soft piece of brioche. There is rum but you cannot taste it at all. I like my Rousettes with some powder sugar. Some people in France like them with jelly. Here it seems that the trend is: honey and cinnamon sugar.

Click on the following link to get to the King's Cake recipe that I made last year: It is king cake time!


Laetitia :-)

Project: Fixing an Ottoman Seat

An Ottoman for FREE (with a broken seat)

Few weeks ago, I got a double seat faux leather ottoman with a wooden tray in the middle for free. Perfect for the playroom to replace the suitcase where we have all sorts of costumes to play dress up. One side of the ottoman would be perfect to put the dress up clothes away and the other side for the trains and train tracks. It would be great for space saving, sitting and extra playing area. The only thing, I had to fix it before having it functional, safe and secure. 
The thing about this piece of furniture, it was free because one of the seat was obviously broken. However it was in overall good condition. My overall goal for this project was to fix the seat at a very low cost by reusing everything taken apart and using things that I already had at home.


On Your Mark, Get Set, Fix It!

Project at a glance

Difficulty level of the project: Easy
Time: 4 hours (including a trip to Home Depot to get a piece of wood)
Cost: $6
Challenge(s): Putting the hinges and side piston by myself. 2 people is better for this task.

Step by Step

  1. I took several pictures of before and during the disassembling of the seat to make sure that I was going to rebuilt it the correct way. I had to consider 2 different layering of staples and screws for the hinges and side furniture piston to put back. I had to know where they were placed exactly. A crew on a staple could not be happening.
  2. I removed all the staples that held the black thin felt like piece of fabric carefully as well as the ones securing the faux leathe cover. This task was long and tedious. It took me 1 hour and a half. 
  3. Assessing the seat problem: I just had to replace piece of wood. I needed a half inch thick of compressed wood which cost me no more than $6. 
    Here is the hidden problem
  4. I measured the dimensions of the original piece of wood and used a jigsaw to cut my new piece of wood.
  5. I tried it on the foam cushion to check if it fit perfectly before stapling again.
  6. I stapled and stretched the leather like fabric back. For the stapling part, I checked the placement of the staples going back to some pictures that I took I the beginning of this project. 
    One side done. Three more to go.
  7. At some point, I noticed that the fabric was slightly ripped. To fix this problem, I cut a small piece of "Duck Tape" (I only had white) and placed it on the inside of the fabric to fold the ripped piece of fabric back in the hole.
    View on the ripped faux leather

    A nice patch using "Duck Tape"
    The seat looks perfect!
    Afterwards, I was able to finish stapling the leather seat cover and the felt fabric on top of the leather. 
  8. I crewed the hinges and side piston back. 2 people are better for this part if you want to do it fast. 
    The new seat is back at its original place.
  9. The seat looks and fit perfectly and the ottoman is a great storage piece of furniture for the messy-fun playroom! 

Having Fun Playing!!!!!

Happy Fixing!

Laetitia :-)