Make It Monday: Blue (Wo)man Group Painted Shoes

I had a pair of oxfords that my mother bought several years ago. At the time, I wasn’t too interested in the shoes, simply because they were quite wide on my very narrow feet. I have been told that they make me look like the Penguin. From Batman. Not the look I go for, usually. And they had these annoying yellow spots all over. Ew on several levels.

But when I saw these painted oxfords on A Beautiful Mess, I was blown away. Painting shoes? That sounded ridiculously perfect! I searched far and wide for Martha Stewart Multi-Surface Paint and found a collection of 10 colors at Hobby Lobby for $19.95. Paint for forever!


As you can see, there were some yellow spots located on the tops of the shoes. Prior to painting, I took a wet paper towel and cleaned them well. Then I let them dry completely before proceeding.


I promise, no one had an accident on these shoes. That yellow had to go. Shake your paint very well before pouring it into a plastic bowl or something and begin painting.


First coat. As you can tell, I chose a nice pearl light blue hue from the Martha Stewart Paints. After finishing the first shoe, I decided it would just be easier to paint free-hand rather than tape the black sections. Just as easy, especially since I had a tiny brush to paint in the little circles.


The first coat was completed on both the shoes. I let the shoes dry for at least an hour between coats, enough time to watch some “Star Trek” with my dad.


Once the second coat was completed, the shoes started looking as if they had been blue from day one. Yay! I felt a lot more comfortable once I had done the first coat, so the painting went much faster.


As you can see from the close-up, the second coat still left a few streaks on white visible. I decided to go with one more coat.


And success! Three coats were the charm!


With three coats of paint, these oxfords looked better than new, they looked original and fun!

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Butters Stotch’s Butterscotch Blondies

Pretty sure Butters would love these lovely little blondies.

Butterscotch always fills me with glee. The flavor is distinct, and holds its own again any combination of flavorings. When I was little, I loved having hot fudge and butterscotch topped sundaes. It brings all sorts of gooey, nostalgic feelings out in me.


And then, Butters Stotch is my favorite character on “South Park.”



If you have never had a blondie, it is the non-chocolate equivalent of a brownie. You want the same thick yet gooey texture as a brownie but with a milder flavor. The original recipe for these blondies had no butterscotch (travesty!) and used brewer’s malt to make a malted dessert. I also upped the recipe, to ensure large blondies. This was a huge hit with my household, and there were enough blondies to last about two days, a rare event indeed.


Adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito page 129


3 ½ cups all-purpose flour

2 ¼ tsp baking powder

1 ½ tsp salt

21 tbs. unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 5/8 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar (or 2 ½ + 1/8)

3 large eggs

3 tsp vanilla extract

1 bag butterscotch chips

½ cup (or 1 small bag) toasted walnuts, chopped


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter the bottom and sides of a baking dish.


In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.


I may have a slight sifting addiction. Anybody know a cure?

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and brown sugar on medium speed until completely combined.

Cutting the butter into small pieces eases your job a little when creaming butter and sugars.

Scrap down the bowl well. Add the eggs and vanilla, beating to combine.


See how glossy that is? Just where you want it.

Add the flour mixture in two batches and beat until just combined.

Now’s the part of the show where you might think, “This is waaaay too thick!” Nope, stick with it!

Add the butterscotch and walnuts and beat until just combined. This won’t take you long at all, maybe five to ten seconds.

Oh, the butterscotch is hiding. Not for long, you delicious chips, you.

This will be a very thick mixture at this point. Pour/ use a spatula to transfer the mixture to the buttered pan. Use the spatula to spread the mixture out.

I’d tell you the dimensions of the pan I used but I’d have to measure it and all that jazz. Too much work. Suffice it to say, use a large pan.


In just a couple of minutes, those edges will be nice and browned.


Bake in the center of the oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick can be inserted in the center of the pan and remains clean when pulled out.

If you’ll excuse me, I need to buy larger pants, because these are too addictively wonderful.

See what I mean?

God, That’s Good! Beef & Guinness Pie and Twice-Baked Potatoes

You should take a few swigs before adding the Guinness to your stew. You know, to make sure you got a good bottle.

They say “home is where the heart is.” If that’s the case, my heart has probably been trod upon by every person in London. I first went as a senior in high school and have returned three times. Every time I learn new things about my favorite city, find new places to revisit, and eat incredibly wonderful foods.


However, the first time I had a beef and ale pie was not in London but a bit north, in Edinburgh. I went last summer with a dear friend and we had a grand old time, walking on Arthur’s Seat, strolling the King’s Mile. But one of the most memorable trips was to a little restaurant called MUMS.


It was right down the street from Greyfriar’s Bobby and the Elephant Café, where J. K. Rowling wrote some of the Harry Potter books, as anyone in the city will tell you. Although the bathroom did have fantastic directions to Tom Riddle’s grave.

Proof the Dark Lord lived.


We were actually trying to find a place called Monster Mash, a highly rated restaurant from a Lonely Planet guide. Instead, we discovered it had been changed to a new restaurant: MUMS. MUMS had a slightly off-putting picture in front of it, which meant we just had to eat there. And it was then that I had the most beautiful pie imaginable. It was piping hot, the crust flaky, the inside gravy dark from the ale. The ratio of meat to mushrooms to carrots was sheer perfection. I still kick myself for failing to take a picture of it.

See what I mean about the picture? Love it!


Since that time, I visited London twice and searched for equally wonderous pies. Though I had a passable one at the Coal Hole before seeing “Love Never Dies” and several I have luckily forgotten, never have I tasted such perfection. That pie proved that my ancestors certainly were from the UK.


I have made several pies on my own, using one of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution recipes as a guide. This is the first time I have made a crust from scratch, from the Sono Baking Company; usually I just use puff pastry. You most certainly can do so. Or you can just eat it as a stew, sans crust. I also made twice baked potatoes to accompany the pie.


Beef and Guinness Pie


For the stew

1 large onion, chopped roughly

Mushrooms, sliced or quartered

1 can of carrots (you could use two carrots, sliced. I simply did not feel like buying whole carrots)

3 bay leaves

Olive Oil

1 heaping tablespoon of flour

Beef, cubed (I used probably a pound and a half)

1 can diced tomatoes

1 bottle Guinness or any other ale (the alcohol cooks out of it, I pinky swear)

Salt and pepper


For the crust

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons granulated sugar

½ teaspoon salt

1 stick of butter, cold and cut into pieces

¼ cup ice cold water

1 egg

A bit of milk


The amount of veggies you add is entirely up to you. I’m hobbit on my father’s side, so copious amounts of mushrooms were needed.

Begin by cooking your veg. In a large pot over medium heat, pour about two tablespoons of olive oil and add the onion, mushrooms, carrots, and bay leaves. Allow the veggies to cook for ten minutes, making certain that they do not stick to the bottom of the pan.

Already gorgeous and smells divine


After ten minutes, add the flour, beef, tomatoes, and Guinness. You will have a bubbling reaction when you add the Guinness, do not be frightened! Stir the stew well, and add salt and pepper.


Double, double, toil and- I’m having flashbacks to being in the Scottish play now 🙂

Bring the stew to a boil and put the lid on it. Pop the heat down a smidge. You will simmer the stew for between two and three hours. My burners are much hotter than my last ones; rather than simmering nicely, it stayed at a boil for a long time. I had to switch pans and burners, to keep the stew from sticking too badly. Add a little water if it needs it, but it should be fine for the first hour or so.


On to the crust. Like I said, feel free to use a puff pastry in lieu of making one but this was so simple, I don’t see why you wouldn’t at least try it. In a food processor, add the flour, sugar and salt. Pulse it once. Then add the butter pieces and pulse until you have nice sandy crumbs.

So much butter, must be good!

Nice and sandy

Turn on the food processor. Slowly, pour the water in a stream into the flour mixture. Only add enough to make the mixture just form a dough. I had to add a little more ice water to get mine that perfect dough consistency.


Action shot!!! Don’t ask how this was accomplished. I’m pretty sure my chin had something to do with it.

See how it’s starting to come together? That’s the consistency you want

Put the dough onto a cutting board. Divide in half and form each into a flat disc. I didn’t take pictures of the step by step, I’m sorry! Now wrap each disc and chill for at least an hour. You will need to take the dough out around the same time as the next step.



By now, your stew should be nearing its completion. During the last half hour or so of cooking, take the lid off. Add water if it needs it. Once your stew is finished, pour it into a waiting dish that can be put in the oven. Allow it to cool quite well, if not completely. A half hour to forty-five minutes is sufficient, in my book, but you can wait longer if you like.

Look at that sexiness. Face it, you wanna come over to my house for dinner.


Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Roll out the dough until it will cover the pie dish.

Wish I had a less ginormous Polish pottery dish. It would mean a lot less work when it comes to rolling dough.

Crack the egg into a small bowl and, with a fork, break the yolk. Add a little splash of milk and mix well. You will brush a little bit of egg onto the pie dish, to give the dough something to stick to. Cover the top of the dish and crimp the sides with a fork. Now brush the egg wash over the top, covering all of the crust. Cut a small hole in the middle of the pie, to let the steam escape. Pop it in the oven and cook until the crust is nice and browned. This could take about forty-five minutes or so. I put the pie in the bottom of the oven while cooking the potatoes at the top, then put the pie at the top once the potatoes were done.

And my house smelled like a pub. Heavenly.


And that’s it!


You can see where I had to patch up a few spots with dough. But overall, it was a hit! The gravy was lovely, the mushrooms a dream.


Twice-Baked Potatoes Recipe

5 potatoes, one for each of us. Cook at least one per person

Grated cheddar cheese, or whatever cheese you prefer

3 green onions or scallions, sliced

Bacon, as much or little you want

Sour cream

Salt and pepper


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. For this recipe, I looked at several others on the internet and just popped some stuff together. Wash the potatoes and put them on a baking sheet and into the oven. Allow them to cook for an hour to an hour and twenty minutes.


Cut bacon into pieces and fry. Allow it to cool well before adding to a large bowl. To that bowl add ¾ of your cheese and green onions.

Twice-baked means anything goes. Make it a party, add what you want!


Remove the potatoes from the oven and turn the heat down to 350 degrees (this will allow both the pie and the potatoes to cook at the same time if you want). With heatproof gloves on, cut the potatoes down the center and scoop the innards into the large bowl with the cheese, bacon, and onions. Do so with all the potatoes and put the skins back on the same baking sheet. Smash the potatoes with a fork, making it as chucky or smooth as you like. Add sour cream, salt and pepper. Using a tablespoon, scoop the mashed potato mixture back into the skins. Add extra cheese on top.

Yep, I think I nailed it.

Now just put the potatoes back in the oven until the cheese is fully melted. Delicious!

Cheesy goodness

Ashley Dreams of Coconutty Cookies

I’d share but I’m afraid they’re all gone!

Every so often, I get odd cravings for odd reasons. This particular one for coconut and cookies came about in a fashion almost akin to the plot of A Song of Ice and Fire. Let me break it down to try to show my reasonings:


I was wanting desperately to watch Doctor Who. Sadly, I do not have BBC or any other channels for that matter, relying on the Internet and Wii for my television needs. Which are sizeable, I must tell you. We already have Hulu Plus but it doesn’t have the fantastic Who series. Netflix does. And so I got a Netflix account. With me thus far?


While browsing Netflix, I noticed the movie “Battle Royale.” I have heard about this movie for a long time but never got my hands on a copy. Let me tell you, if you like bloody awesome films, you need to see this one. You may have to read subtitles, but the directing and acting is so wonderful, you won’t notice it. Essentially, “Battle Royale” is set in a Japan that has decreed that once a year, a class must fight to the death. Each of the forty-four students is given a bag with food, water, a compass, map, and one weapon. These weapons can range from machine guns to a pot lid. Yep, you can imagine what that might lead to.


But wait, you might say. Didn’t I see a movie shockingly similar last year? But there were all these attractive people in it and the deaths usually weren’t seen? Yes, “The Hunger Games” is a very poor spin-off. After watching “Battle Royale,” my parents wanted to watch the American film. It hadn’t seemed as slow and boring in the theater. The only thing that I could really get into was the unseen part of the Games, the control office. I will not start a big argument about the movie. And I still haven’t explained my cookie craving.


We were still on a Japanese kick. So we watched “Jiro Dreams of Sushi,” a documentary of a Michelin sushi chef. Watching all of that delicious sushi reminded me of my favorite spot for it in Germany, called Sushileecious (yeah, terrific name!).


And like when you give a mouse a cookie, I had a craving for my favorite German candy, coconut covered in dark chocolate. That seems far too complicated to explain wanting to make cookies but there you have it.


As many of my recipes are, this one is an adaptation of Une Gamine Dans La Cuisine’s Peanut Butter-Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies. I simply think she has the best ratios of sugars and such.



1 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt + extra for sprinkling

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, at room temperature

½ cup creamy peanut butter

½ cup dark brown sugar

1/3 cup granulated sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 egg, at room temperature

½ cup rolled oats

½ cup coconut

½ cup white chocolate chips


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In the original recipe, the dough was allowed to sit in the refrigerator for several hours. I know that will make the flavors blend better and make an overall better cookie. However, I was in a crazy sugar mood so I went ahead and baked half the dough and put the rest in the freezer. I’ll update on the flavor when I make the other batch J


Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt into a small bowl.


Sift that flour! It’s good for you. Oh, never mind, I just like using my sifter.

On medium speed, cream together the butter, peanut butter, sugars, and vanilla extract until the texture is nice and creamy. I swapped the sugar ratios, simply due to my love of brown sugar. Add the egg and beat to combine. On low speed, gradually add the flour mixture until just combined. Using a large spatula or wooden spoon, stir in the oats. I then decided to add coconut and the only chips I had on hand, white chocolate. Any combination you choose will be great!


Look at that creamy goodness!

Oatmeal and coconut and chips, oh, my!

Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Using a teaspoon, heap the cookie dough into a nice dollop. This is the first time I made such clean looking dollops and I can’t really put my finger on how that came about.

Ain’t they the cutest dollops you’ve ever seen?

Lightly sprinkle each cookie with whatever salt you think takes the best. Bake for 10 minutes, or until the cookies are lightly golden. Cool completely on the baking sheet and then store in an airtight container at room temperature.

The waiting’s the hardest part.



These were not my very favorite cookies in the world (that honor goes to my brown butter chocolate chips from a few weeks ago) but they had a great consistency. There was just enough coconut to shine through. Had I had regular chocolate chips, this might be a different story and I might make these little suckers on weekly basis.

Tropical Edamame Granola Recipe

Tropical Edamame Granola

A few weeks ago, A Beautiful Mess posted a loose granola recipe that was wonderful. I hadn’t thought about making my own granola but it makes sense. A) it is cheaper to buy the various foodstuffs like nuts and dried fruit, B) you can customize your recipe to reflect what you like in granola, and C) I knew it would make my house smell like the muesli I loved at the local Rewe when I was a teenager. So I made a batch of my own with cashews, dried pineapple, and dried cranberries (to make it like that old muesli) and it was a huge hit! My father eats granola bars everyday at work and texted me that he didn’t think we needed to buy any anymore.


Which boosted my already too large ego. But I wanted to make actual bars. I would rather have a granola bar, just to be quicker and easier than making a mess with the loose kind, since I would just eat it by hand rather than put it in yogurt.


So I did a quick search and found one that I could easily adapt for my own means. I decided to use edamame, a slight addiction in our household. It is a salty, crunchy, nutty bean. We buy tons a week. Ironically, we only became fans of it after we moved away from Japan.


Tropical Edamame Granola Recipe

2 cups old fashioned oats

¾ cup packed dark brown sugar

½ cup edamame

¾ teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

1 cup all purpose flour

¾ cup dried fruit (I julienned dried mango and pineapple)

½ teaspoon salt (I cut the salt a bit due to the saltiness of the edamame)

½ cup honey

1 egg, beaten

½ cup olive oil

2 teaspoons vanilla extract


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and butter a baking dish.


In a large bowl, mix together the oats, brown sugar, edamame, spice, flour, fruit, and salt. Make a well in the center, and pour in honey, egg, oil, and vanilla. The original recipe called for mixing with your hands. I didn’t do that. It mixed just fine with a spoon. I did pat the mixture evenly into the pan.

The mixings prior to the wet ingredient addition.


Into the oven with you!


Bake for 30 to 35 minutes in the oven. You should see the edges darken and harden. Remove and cool for a few minutes, then cut into the bars while the mixture is warm.

Mmm. About all I can say.


And success! These had a great spicy flavor with just enough salt from the edamame and sweetness from the honey and fruit. There are a variety of textures going on in this granola, which I love. What are your favorite granola mixings? Let me know if anyone else tries this recipe!

Brown Buttered Chocolatey Chippy Goodness

My sister Sarah adores chocolate chip cookies. She knows her way around the kitchen but somehow, whenever she gets that cookie-feeling, it is up to me to make the dough. She’ll bake them, don’t get me wrong. Apparently, I make magical cookie dough.

This time, I was the one with some serious cookie cravings. I rewatched the fabulous movie “Stranger Than Fiction” the other day. If you’ve never seen it and you are a fan of Will Ferrell, Dustin Hoffman, Maggie Gyllenhaal, or Emma Thompson, you should stop what you are doing and watch it. It’s the movie that made me realize just what a talented actor Will Ferrell really is; he is so sweet and awkward, it’s adorable.

Back to my point, in the film Gyllenhaal plays a baker and in a great scene, she forces Ferrell’s Harold Crick, an IRS agent who has started hearing someone narrate his life (yes, it is so great), eat cookies.

Stranger Than Fiction Cookie Scene

Which got me wanting chocolate chips. I have followed the blog Une Gamine Dans La Cuisine for years. Trust me when I say every recipe is terrific. I make her salted millionaire’s shortbread for basically any occasion (just last weekend for a family party). So it was a no brainer for me to try one of her many chocolate chip recipes.

This recipe was altered a smidge by me, mostly adding a whole bag of chocolate chips and no nuts. It calls for brown butter, which lends the most fantastic dark coloring to the end result. I typed out how I made the cookies but check out the original one if you want to see what she did!

1 2/4 cups of all purpose flour

½ teaspoon of baking soda

14 Tablespoons of butter

½ cup of granulated sugar

¾ cup of packed dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 egg

1 egg yolk

1 bag chocolate chips

In a bowl, mix flour and baking soda.

Heat 10 Tablespoons of butter in a pan at medium to high heat until it is completely melted. Continue cooking the melted butter by swirling the pan until the butter darkens. It will take you a few minutes; it took me about four to five minutes because I didn’t have the stove up too high. Pour the melted brown butter into a heatproof bowl, or, as I did, directly in the mixer bowl, over the other 4 Tablespoons of butter and stir until it is melted.

The butter was a lot more brown in real life. Not sure why it’s so light in the pic.

In the mixer bowl, add the sugars, salt, and vanilla with the butter and mix until it is mixed. Add the egg and yolk and mix until the mixture is smooth and there are no lumps. Let the mixture stand 3 minutes and whisk for 30 seconds. Repeat this 2 more times. It will let the mixture become perfectly incorporated and delicious. Not that I am condoning eating raw dough. Because I would never do that. Eat dough. With an extra spoon.

Smooth and dreamy looking sugary buttery goodness.

Putting the mixer on the lowest mix level, add the flour until it is just combined. Add the chocolate chips and mix really quickly.

And I did not eat this with a spoon. Really.

Just as she did, I let the dough refrigerate. I was making dinner, so I wrapped up the mixing bowl and left it in the fridge for about two hours.

Preheat the oven to 375 and line a sheet with parchment paper.

Now I’m not precise when it comes to portioning. If you check out her page, you will see that she is a lot more professional about the cookie sizes. Me, bigger is better so I just popped a few tablespoons worth of dough and called that a cookie.

Weird shot, but I had to show you how gooey these suckers were in the oven!

Bake the cookies for about 10 to 14 minutes, rotating the sheet hallway through, at the 5 minute mark. Mine cooked in 10 minutes on each batch.

Told you, bigger is better, at least when it comes to cookies.

For fun, I put a smidge of different salts on the last two batches, a red Hawaiian sea salt and black Sicilian sea salt. They were delicious! Honestly, these might be the best chocolate chip cookies I have ever made. They had a terrific crunch but were gooey and warm. The chocolate to dough ratio was perfect, at least in my mind. I hope you all enjoy the recipe and check out Une Gamine Dans La Cuisine!

Pour Some Sugar On Cookies

Sometimes you just feel like a sugar cookie. That’s my mother’s philosophy. While in the grocery store a few days ago, she nearly bought some atrocious faux-sugar cookies. That simply would not do. Why buy when you can bake?

Again using the Sono Baking Company Cookbook, I found a new sugar cookie that I thought would appeal both to her love of sugar and lemon. These lemon drop sugar cookies were fairly fast to put together, though I will admit that I was taken aback by forming balls of dough by hand and rolling them in sanding sugar. Not that I had an issue with the sugar. The dough was so sticky I thought I had screwed up the recipe. Nonetheless, the cookies ended up being just what they promised to be: light, slightly tart, and altogether delicious.


Sanding sugar for rolling

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar

½ teaspoon coarse salt

2 large eggs, at room temperature

The zest of two lemons

1 teaspoon pure lemon extract


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Pour the sanding sugar onto a plate; the recipe called for ½ cup of the sanding sugar but I just played it by ear.


Sift flour and baking powder together in a bowl.


In a standing mixer fit with a paddle attachment, beat the butter, granulated sugar, and salt on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl halfway through. Add the eggs one at a time and beat after each addition. Beat in the lemon zest and extract.


Lowering the speed of the mixer, add the dry ingredients, beating until all the flour is absorbed. Using a ¼ cup measuring cup (that sounds redundant) scoop out the dough and, with your hands, roll into balls quickly. Do not add flour, though it will be sticky. Roll the balls in the sanding sugar to give it a good coat and then place on the baking sheets. Make sure to have some room as these cookies will expand.

Place the pans in the oven. Make certain to rotate the pan after about 9 minutes in, and cook until the cookies are set but not browned and still soft in the middle. This will take about 12 to 15 minutes.

There you have it! Next time I think I may up the salt just a smidge, as there needed to be a little more oomph to break up the sweetness. Overall, these were easy and delicious! Next up, “Game of Thrones” cross-stitched bookmarks!