Sally’s Baking Addiction: May, 2019 Challenge: How To Make Perfect Scones👩🏻‍🍳

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When I saw that Sally had set scone baking as the May challenge, I was both excited and disappointed at the the same time. Excited because I love scones! And so does my family, which means I have baked a lot of scones over the years. I don’t find them to be that difficult, mainly due to all the practice I have had 😂

So I was not expecting this to be much of a challenge. But then I took a closer look at Sally’s recipe. Her method of cutting in the butter (a crucial component to scone baking) was one that I have seen before, but have never tried. More on that later!

The first task was to choose which flavor to make my scones. Sally has quite a large variety from which to select! She has savory recipes as well as the more common, sweet options. We were having house guests this month, so I selected the tried and true, blueberry, which would please all of us for breakfast during their stay.

The first step was to combine the dry ingredients: flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon and sugar.

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Then I chose to mix the wet ingredients and keep it in the fridge, while I cut in the butter. Keeping everything as cold as possible, for as long as possible is crucial to getting fluffy and light scones. Not an easy job in a hot Tucson kitchen 😆

I mixed the heavy cream, vanilla and egg in a 2 cup measure with a spout. I added another ingredient, not specified by Sally’s recipe: Lemon zest 🍋 I love lemon and blueberries together, so you will see the zest in the picture.

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This was whisked up, and placed in the refrigerator for later.

Now comes the new part, for me anyway. Normally, I will cube the cold butter into smallish pieces and use a pastry cutter to work the small cubes into smaller, pea sized pieces. And, that has always worked well! But Sally, and others that I have seen, will use frozen butter and a box grater. IMG_5800

I admit that this has always struck me as messy and time consuming. And, if you are making more than just 8 scones, it is a lot of butter to deal with! In this recipe, there is only 1/2 cup, or 1 stick. So I decided to give it a go.

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This was added to the dry ingredients and cut into the mix, which did not take long given how small the butter pieces were from the grating process.

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The cold, wet mixture was then added..

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as were the blueberries.

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The batter was stirred until the components came together in a loose ball. This was turned out onto a heavily floured counter, and molded into an 8″ circle. As I mentioned before, this was cut into 8 triangles.

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I put these on a tray and left them overnight in the fridge, as I wanted to bake them off, fresh in the morning, for our guests.

The next morning, the scones were brushed with cream and dusted with course sugar. They were baked at 400F for some amount of time (I forgot to set the timer 😉)

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Until golden brown 😋

 

Then it was time to chow down!

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So, was it really necessary to grate the butter?

These scones were delicious! No doubt about it! But they were just as tasty as recipes where I just cut up the butter into very small cubes. I would say, if there is a small amount of butter needed, then grating would be fine. But for those recipes where you are making more than just 8 or 12 scones, and you like to cube the butter, then go right ahead. That will be my plan moving forward.

Do try Sally’s scone recipes! I love her flavor combos ❤️

 

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Sally’s Baking Addiction: March, 2019 Challenge: Lemon Bars With Shortbread Crust 🍋

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When I saw that Sally wanted us to make lemon bars, I was not too excited 😏

I love lemon 🍋, but am not a huge fan of shortbread. Just too buttery for me, but it turned out that the crust was not too thick and did provide a nice relief to all that sharp lemon flavor.

Sally has converted me once again! Everytime I think that I won’t like something, I am wrong😂 Now I am a believer!!

There are only 7 ingredients in her recipe, so the quality of each is important🌟

The first step is to bake the shortbread crust. I put the 1 cup of butter into a glass measuring cup, with a pour spout, and melted it in the microwave, just until it was melted (I didn’t want this to boil). While the butter cooled a bit, I whisked up the granulated sugar, vanilla and salt

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The melted butter was added

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Finally the flour was incorporated and stirred into a shiny dough ball, the dough is thick at this point.

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This was pressed into a 9 X 13, parchment lined glass pan

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and baked at 325F for 20 minutes.

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While the crust was in the oven, the filling was prepared. It is also quite easy to assemble!

More sugar and flour were sifted together. I made one small change to Sally’s recipe here and added the zest of the lemons 🍋, I just couldn’t help myself😉

It also turned out that all my eggs were double yolks 😂

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Another important tip Sally gave us was to use freshly squeezed lemon juice. I have to agree with her! I always squeeze it fresh.

 

After the juice was added, the lemon filling was poured over the warm crust and back in the oven for another 20 minutes, until the center jiggled slightly

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Once the bars were done, they sat at room temperature for 2 hours, then in the refridgerator for overnight. Sally recommends they be refriderated for at least two hours but overnight fit my life better 😊

Then it was time to cut! I pulled them out of the pan using the parchment paper and dusted the bars with powdered sugar

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Then cut into squares, a knife run under hot water helped make this a cleaner job!

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I was happy with the look of these 😊

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And the taste! 😋✨

If you are a lemon fan, these are for you!

Sally’s Baking Addiction: February, 2019 Challenge: Homemade Chocolate Truffles 🍫🍬 😋

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February, Valentine’s Day, the month to celebrate chocolate 🍫❤️!

Sally’s baking challenge this month was to make chocolate truffles. This was incredibly easy! Only two ingredients, good quality chocolate and heavy cream. 😋 She did give us the option to add a tablespoon of butter for a better consistency and vanilla for flavor, both of which I did add 😉, but you could do this with only the chocolate and cream.

The first step is to finely chop up the chocolate, using a serrated knife works really well. The finer you chop the chocolate the faster the hot cream will melt it.

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I chose semi sweet chocolate to make sure that the truffles would not be too sweet, but you could use dark or milk chocolate. Sally provides some additional instructions for different cocoa content.

I added the tablespoon of butter and, carefully, heated the heavy cream in the microwave. When the cream was warm (but not boiling!), it was poured over the mixture and let to sit for 5 min.

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I then stirred the mixture until it was smooth and shiny.

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The chocolate has to be completely cooled before you can scoop it out and roll it into balls. This was faster when I poured it into a 9 X 9 pan and placed it in the fridge for a couple of hours.

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After it was solid, I scored it into 36 squares, which made smaller truffles than what Sally’s recipe stated.

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I went with 6 toppings: chopped walnuts, unsweetened cocoa power, chocolate sprinkles,   colored sprinkles and gold and white sanding sugar.

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One bit of advice that Sally gave was to scoop the chocolate and allow it to dry out for 20 minutes before rolling them into balls. This helped make a sticky job a little easier.

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They were small, but so tasty 😋

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The inside was soft, and the toppings provided a nice crunchy element. They were fine at room temperature as well, of course, we still have snow on the ground around here😂 so “room temp” may be a tad low!

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This was one of Sally’s fastest recipes! Next time I think I might add a liqueur flavor instead of vanilla. They would be perfect for the holidays 🌟

Our Long Weekend at Miraval Spa💆🏼‍♀️🧘🏻‍♀️🚵‍♀️

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Recently hubby and I visited Miraval Arizona Resort & Spa in Tucson. We went to celebrate my birthday and Valentine’s Day this year. And, although the resort was only 40 minutes from our Tucson home, it was as if we had journeyed much further. The tranquil environment, delicious food, beautiful setting and indulgent treatments were just what we needed! It’s no secret that Dennis and I are tremendously active, and our sore bodies needed a little TLC, in the form of massages 💆🏼‍♀️ and down time.

This is a popular spa and we had to plan our trip months ago. So far in advance that we sort of forgot what we signed up for😂. We had many options to choose from, and not just in the spa treatments, but the activities list was extensive! Everything from horseback riding to psychic readings was available. We tend toward active pursuits and stayed true to form. We did, however, avoid activities that we already participate in regularly.

The weather was a little cool, but we did get some sun from time to time. Our first goal was to orient ourselves to the property, so we set out to take a look around.

 

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View from the spa, overlooking one of the pools

 

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The mediation area, near the front entrance

 

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We didn’t have too much time because we were scheduled to take the slack line class! I was particularly excited about this one 🤩.

We started out low to the ground and them made our way up to the higher line. Dennis was pretty good at this!

I am really in love with this! It’s an excellent way to work on balance and strengthen the core. You will be seeing more of this on Instagram next month, as I already purchased one 😂

After our class, Dennis headed out to a yoga class that caught his attention. I decided to work on my own practice on the back patio at our room.

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And, continued looking around!

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We also spent some time in the pool 🏊‍♀️, and next to it reading. So great to just relax for a bit! We both had massages scheduled for later that night, so dinner was first.

Oh the food!! Have you been to a spa? If so, you know that the emphasis is on healthy, tasty meals😋. All dishes have the nutritional breakdown listed, and is appropriately portioned. Of course it is still easy to consume too much! It is a lot like going on a cruise, where the food is included, so you do have to police yourself😉

We (tried) to eat lite, as we had the massages later, and no alcohol since we had an early tightrope walking class the next day. Still, we had to try three desserts 😂

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The next morning, it was time to hit the ropes course. I had signed up for this experience and had them add it to my hubby’s schedule too, without telling him! That was two months ago, and I meant to tell him….really!

We went through the safety stuff, were fitted for our harnesses and the order of participation was set. Much to my chagrin, I was last😳, and Dennis was to go first.

So, up he went. The course is 35 feet above the ground and is effectively a slack line with ropes to grip as you make your way across the obstacle.

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Dennis had no trouble moving all the way to the last rope (on the right of the picture). The vertical support ropes start out close together but grow farther from one another as you progress.

As I mentioned, he was first, and I was to be 8th. So, we watched the other ladies for a while. Most made it all the way🌟

Finally, my turn!

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more clouds have moved in!

 

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Yep, I made it too! Dennis took this shot. I look like a spider in a web 🕷🕸!

We went for breakfast after this and I was in heaven. Breakfast is my favorite meal and Miraval did not disappoint!

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Pesto fried egg on a roasted sweet potato 😋

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And, steel-cut oats with more eggs! 🥚

We split up after this amazing meal. I went to the spa to hang out in the hot tub and have a facial, while hubby went to another yoga class. He had another treatment as well, so we did not see one another until the sunset hike later that evening.

The hike itself was fairly straight forward. Since we do live here half the year, we have been on many desert hikes, but never with a guide. She was wonderful and very knowledgeable about the desert environment. Not too much of a sunset though, as it was quite cloudy☁️

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She did point out this prickly pear that had a heart shaped lobe. Had to grab this image for Valentine’s Day ❤️

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We finished our 2 hour hike just in time for dinner. This time, there were no restrictions for time the next day, so we had some drinks 🍸🥃🥂 and, then a few more🤪

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We also continued to explore the menu! A few appetizers…..

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And, two more desserts to sample 😂

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We crowned the dessert winner….This sweet potato tart with white chocolate ice cream 🏆

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At some point, during another round of drinks, I noticed that I was feeling a little off.. a cold perhaps? Oh well, not tonight!

The next morning however, ya, I was starting to feel a little yucky! But no matter! We had mountain biking to do 🚵‍♀️🚵🏻‍♂️

I don’t have any photos of this as we were too busy mowing over obstacles, but believe me it was a sight to see hubby on a bike😂 definitely not his comfort zone! We did not fall and had fun, all you can ask, right?!

Dennis went off for a massage and I headed to my yoga class. I signed up for a yoga wheel experience, but when I got there, it was just me😳 I ended up having a private session in the most beautiful yoga studio.

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Just the teacher and me

 

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What a view!

By now, I was limber and feeling the full effects of my cold 🤧 Time for some hot beverages

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And, another round of hot tub soaking, and my final spa treatment. I had a sugar scrub and was all set for, more hot beverages, and dinner.

This would be our last dinner, so we wanted to have our favorite dessert one more time. As well as something really tasty for the appetizer and entrée.

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The farm fresh egg appetizer

 

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Roasted shrimp with forbidden rice entrée

Afterward, we took a walk around and saw a beautiful sunset!

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By now, I was ready for bed, with my cold in full bloom!

Our last morning at Miraval and Dennis had one more spa treatment, while I went to the core blasting experience. So glad I didn’t cancel this one!

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I had never used one of these boards before! It was fun, not super hard, but I may have been in need of a tougher class for this one. Many other folks seemed to be hurting 😂, at least I got some exercise in before we left!

One last stroll around the beautiful grounds.

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This long exposure almost looks like a cartoon

 

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And, with that, we left for the short drive home 🏠😊

Such an amazing experience. We truly felt rejuvenated, and rested. We chose a mixture of relaxing treatments and fun activities for our experience, but you could truly go more indulgent or more active. We recommend Miraval, and the spa experience in general.

I’m already looking forward to our next visit🌟

 

Sally’s Baking Addiction: January, 2019 Challenge: Homemade Bagels 😋

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Sally’s first challenge of 2019 finds us back into yeasted breads. Homemade bagels, yum 😋 Now, you probably have figured out that I do love to bake bread. However, I am not a huge consumer of bagels. Not sure why. It may have to do with the fact that they are too large and bready for my taste. But if I get to make them, well, then they can be any size I want! And, any flavor 😉

I kept it simple for this go around. I made her basic recipe, but if you want to change it up, Sally did provide a list of her other tasty varieties!

One item that is truly unique to bagel, or pretzel making for that matter, is barley malt syrup. This is what gives bagels their malt like flavor. You don’t have to use this of course, honey and/or brown sugar can be used instead. But, I decided to order it online, just to be authentic.

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I also opted to do this overnight, as I was kinda busy during this time. Actually, allowing the dough to rise slowly, overnight, allows for a delicious flavor development 😄. So, I mixed up the warm water and yeast.

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Once I saw it was activated, I added the barley syrup, bread flour and salt. And that’s it!

The mixer pulled the ingredients together, and then I kneaded it for another few minutes until the dough was firm.

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This went into an oiled bowl, covered and left overnight in the fridge, to slowly rise.

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The next morning, I allowed the dough to come to room temp, about 2 hours in my house that morning.

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Sally’s recipe called for the dough to be divided into 8 “equalish” pieces. But, you know I can’t just do that! 😂 I did weigh the dough so that the bagels would be similar.

I weighed the bowl with the dough, removed the dough, and weighed the empty bowl to find the total weight of the mixture. 838g of dough, divided by 8 came to, a little over, 104g per bagel.

I divided the dough into 8 pieces and checked them on the scale. A little extra dough here, a little less there…. And, each was ready to be shaped.

The first step was to roll it into a tight ball.

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Then flattened, and a 1-2 inch hole punched into the middle

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Seven more later….

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These were covered and allowed to rest while I prepared the water bath.

Yes, water bath! Bagels (and pretzels) need to be boiled prior to baking. This gives them the crusty exterior and helps them color properly.

The boiling water has more barley malt syrup, but you can use honey. Check out the color of the boiling solution with the syrup!

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Once the mixture had boiled, I added the bagles and cooked them 1 minute per side.

It took a little time, but this step is quite important. Once all were boiled, an egg wash was applied. I decided to add some course salt to the top. We had been given a special sea salt from our yoga trip to Mexico last year, so I used that.

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Now they were ready for the oven!

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The bagles were baked at 425F for 20 minutes, until dark brown

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After they cooled, we dug in! I know that most people associate bagels with cream cheese, and that is delicious. But I like mine with goat cheese and honey 🍯

 

A great start to this year of baking challenges 🤩 And this was not hard! It really is simple to make bagels at home, and they freeze well if you have extra😊💕

Give it a try, and let me know what you think! Or better yet, join me in the next challenge😁👩🏻‍🍳

Sally’s Baking Addiction: December, 2018 Challenge: Gingerbread House🎄🎅🏼🌟

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So, once again, I am getting this post in just under the deadline 😂. Honestly, I should be packing for our trip south, but I really want to keep my Sally streak alive! This past month has been very busy with holiday merriment, visiting with people I won’t see for several months and climbing with the kids. All great stuff, but I need to get back to blogging now💕

 

This month’s Challenge was to make a gingerbread house from scratch. Sally provided a wonderful video and great recipes for the gingerbread, frosting and royal icing. 

My daughter and I have been making gingerbread houses for years. My son was there too, eating all the candy and pointing out all our flaws😉. So this time around, I really wanted to challenge myself to construct something that truly reflected our family. So, what could be better than an outdoor climbing gym at the North Pole 🌟

My daughter and I headed off to the Candy and Cake store with a rough plan. We knew this would take several days and that we would most likely have to try somethings that would not end up working, but that was ok. We purchased gum paste, fondant, templates, molds and edible paints, we set to work on the figures first. 

my daughter made the top row, I made the Santa and last elf. 

I love these penguins, but flippers do not make for good climbers😂 We decided that they would be working the front desk!

That was pretty much the first day! We stopped here to allow the gum paste creatures a chance to dry out.

The next day my daughter was called into work, and I was on my own. I began painting these little guys. 

I added some elf ears and harness, safety first!
Two of the elves are on top rope and needed harness, while the middle one is bouldering, so he didn’t need one😊
 
 
I also starting baking the gingerbread. I made one batch of Sally’s recipe and got lucky! I was able to get all the pieces I wanted, with a little leftover for some tree shapes.

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The ginger bread is delicious! The little extra trees and bears were quite tasty! The walls need to be transformed into climbing structures. This is where the fondant came into plays. I dyed some white fondant and made marbled colors and one dark “wall”. The fondant was rolled thin and “glued” to the gingerbread with the buttercream recipe.

 

You can see the structured wall on the right, (below) the fondant was pressed onto a brick template. The wall on the left is using the marbling effect only.

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The wall on the right (below) has the marveling effect and pressed with the template. Since this is the bouldering wall, we also wanted to make extra features which was done using Rice Krispies! 

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Once the fondant had time to dry, it was time to affix the elves. They also needed ropes and holds wich we made from gum paste and fondant, and painted.

Then I had to turn my attention to the front of the gym! We needed a desk, a sign and the penguin workers! 

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I struggled, so hard with the penguin eyes!!! Oh my God! I tried paint, made them out of fondant, nothing looked even half way decent! I ended up buying sugar eyes, and they look stoned😳 

I do like the name of the gym, “Slay It”, get it?? Sleigh=slay=crush it! I am so clever😉

The desk is made out of Rice Krispies too and covered with pink fondant that was pressed onto a brick template sheet. The smaller trees have frosting decorations and the larger trees….

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So, after 5 days, a ton of trial and error, and the messiest kitchen you could imagine..

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I had to take a panoramic shot to fit it all in one frame! It is more of a diorama than a house, but I am pretty happy with it 😅

 

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I had to add some mats, safety first!!

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It is outdoors, so need some snow❄️

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Another awesome Sally Challenge in the books! I think I will just do the normal challenge next month!! No extra work for me😄 

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday 🌟

Sally’s Baking Addiction: November, 2018 Challenge: Savory Vegetable Cheese Tart🍠🍅🧀

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Once again, I am getting this done just under the wire! 😬 It’s the last day of November and Sally will be revealing the December challenge tomorrow. Perhaps I will challenge myself to get that done BEFORE December 31st😁!

Sally loves pies!! Like, really loves them. And, every year in November, she dedicates her blog to all things pie related. This time, she went with a savory tart, which is just a flat pie😂

Sally’s savory vegetable cheese tart recipe begins with a choice of crust. I went with her All butter pie crust, so glad I did! I don’t make a lot of pies, and have never had the best of luck with these types of crusts. Usually I make them too dry, because I am worried about it turning out too wet. But I went for it anyway!

The concept is pretty straightforward. Mix the flour, salt and a little sugar together. Cut in the cold butter.

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Until it is the size of peas

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Why does every recipe say that? the size of peas…? How big is that really?🧐 my “pea size” is actually quite a bit larger 😉

Then add the ice water until it is not dry, but not too wet either 😳 Whatever.

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This recipe will make two crusts, one is needed for this tart. I let it rest in the fridge overnight. The next day I rolled it out.

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This was the best roll out I have ever made, hopefully I can replicate it again!

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The dough went into the tart pan

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Then I blind baked it for 15 minutes at 350F. I don’t have pie weights, so I went with the dried beans!

While the tart was blind baking, I mixed the second element of this dish, the ricotta filling. The cheese filling went into the warm tart shell.

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Now came the creative part! We could use whatever vegetables we liked to top the tart. Sally provided lots of great ideas, and I went back and forth as to what to choose. Finally, I settled on sweet potatoes, tomatoes and zucchini. I was worried that the tomatoes might be too wet, but I cut them thin and blotted with a paper towel, just to be safe.

I tried to do something creative 😂

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This was brushed with olive oil, sprinkled with sea salt and thyme.

And, baked until the veggies were tender, for about 40 minutes in my oven.

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And then we feasted!!😋

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My hubby really liked it. And what about the other crust that was left over?

I have always wanted to try a sweet potato pie recipe. I chose one from Alton Brown, and yeah, it was great!

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November was a good month at our house 👩🏻‍🍳❤️!