Archives

Sugar, Spice, and Everything Nice: Sweet-and-Sour Cucumber Salad

Hello, readers,

I’m excited for today’s recipe, which is a basic cucumber salad. I love cucumbers. They’re so refreshing and tasty, and I’ve never understood why anyone would want to ruin that by pickling them.
Cucumbers hold a special place in my heart for their prominence in the afternoon tea that lolitas so often enjoy. If you want to feature cucumbers as a snack or appetizer for a get-together, it might be worth it to dress them up a little so they don’t feel so plain next to the macarons.
I think the easiest way to make cucumbers a little more cute is to use cookie cutters.

I think I got fairly decent results for just using the cookie cutters I had. All of my cookie cutters were far too big for the cucumber I bought. Depending on what varieties of cucumber you have access to (or if you can get very small cookie cutters), you might have an easier time making shapes. Madiganmade (there’s a recipe for cucumber and radish appetizers on that blog, too) was able to get adorable flower shapes using a little cookie cutter, for example.

If you don’t have cookie cutters, you can always make cut and shape the cucumber slices with a knife.

I used these shaped cucumber slices for the recipe below. You could also use these cute-shaped cucumbers in whatever your favorite cucumber sandwich recipe is.

Sweet-and-Sour Cucumbers – Epicurious, via Popsugar

Here’s the recipe with my modifications:

Ingredients

  • 2 cucumbers, sliced thinly and cut into shapes
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  • 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
  • (1 Tablespoon and 1 teaspoon) dried dill
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Pat cucumber slices dry with paper towel.
  2. For dressing, stir vinegar, dill, sugar, salt, and pepper in large bowl until sugar is dissolved.
  3. Add cucumbers to dressing and toss/stir to blend.
  4. Refrigerate at least 15 minutes and up to 2 hours; serve cold.

I wasn’t sure if I had enough dressing for the cucumbers. About half of my slices were submerged when I stopped stirring/tossing, which meant that only half my slices had a chance to absorb the flavors. I tried to remedy this by pouring the dressing into the serving dishes as well, but I feel like that made the salad’s taste much stronger than intended. I still liked the overall result, though.

When I make this again, I’ll try and follow the original recipe’s instruction to slice the cucumbers thinly. I was pretty lazy when making slices, so they turned out much thicker than they could have. I would also like to use fresh dill, but I don’t feel like I can ever use fresh herbs quickly enough before they go to waste.

As always, let me know how this recipe turns out for you if you make it!

Stay bright,

Raven

If you dislike cucumbers or are allergic to them, then this obviously wasn’t the post for you. Sorry! In that case, I hope that you’ll like my next post more.

Advertisements

My DIY Beauty Routines

Hello, readers,

Today, I thought I would share a little about my beauty routines. As I hope you’ve been able to figure out from this blog, I love DIY and homemade products. For the past two years or so, I’ve been trying to build a beauty routine and incorporate natural products into it as I go.

In my last year of college, my skin started to get really dry. I tried to use just regular store-bought moisturizers and lotion, but they either didn’t work very well or I’d get areas of rashes/irritated skin that would get worse with continued use. Gah! I started looking around the internet for homemade solutions to my problems, and I found a lot of viable DIYs. Here, I’m going to share what I make, what I used to make it, and how well it works.

I made all of these products by following or modifying recipes found on Live Simply. There are a ton of blogs out there that promote natural products and natural lifestyles, but I like Live Simply’s writing style and genuineness. (I’ve never gotten the vibe that she makes recipes just to post affiliate links.) I’ll include the link to the original recipes below in case any of you want to make one of these products, too.

Moisturizer/Lotion

Original Recipe (Go here for the melting instructions and pictures. I didn’t pour my batch into a container soon enough so it looks really ugly.)

  • ~4 oz. shea butter with tangerine
  • 2 Tablespoons apricot oil

P1060894

I really love this moisturizer. I use it on places that need a bit more love, like my feet, hands, and elbows. In the winter, I occasionally rub my arms and legs down with it, too. This stuff will make you very shiny for a while after you apply it, and it takes a while to fully soak in. I don’t really keep track of how long it takes (maybe half an hour?), but it isn’t very long. It certainly seems like it takes forever, though, if you’re used to regular store-bought lotions that quickly evaporate off the surface of your skin. The slower time frame takes a bit to get used to.

I like the idea of a face moisturizer with SPF, but I started having a weird reaction to the Neutrogena one I was using. I found that this DIY lotion is actually very effective on my face (which is prone to getting super-duper dry patches) without irritating my apparently sensitive skin. However, I only will put this on my face at night or once I’m home for the day because of the aforementioned “super shiny and oily-looking for half an hour” effect.

I also use regular coconut oil as a moisturizer. I don’t normally use it on my face, but I will use it on my feet, hands, and elbows every so often to change things up, and it is my default moisturizer for my legs and arms. Coconut oil also takes a long time to fully sink in, though.

P1060897

Makeup Brush Cleaner

Original Recipe

  • 3/4 cup witch hazel
  • 3 teaspoons castile soap
  • 1.5 teaspoon apricot oil

P1060888

To avoid dealing with using water in the mixture (and then trying to remember this product’s shelf life), I just pour out a little bit of the cleaner into a container and then add twice as much water. I mix it around and shake it up before soaking my brushes.

I mainly made this because I bought new makeup a while ago, and I needed to clean out my brushes before using any of it. Want to know how well this stuff works? Let’s go on my first brush cleaning adventure together!

The results of this experiment were really gross, so now I clean out my brushes once a week to avoid all that gunk building up.

P1060948

Makeup Remover

Original Recipe

  • 3 Tablespoons witch hazel
  • 2 Tablespoons apricot oil

P1060889

This combination does work well to get all my makeup off. However, witch hazel can apparently cause eye irritation. I specifically bought white eyeliner to use on my waterline, and I got this kind that is both waterproof and smudge-proof.

I doubted its claims when I bought it, but this stuff is seriously intense and I couldn’t get the tester line on my hand to smudge or fade until I used soap. That’s very cool, but I didn’t want to use soap or the homemade makeup remover so close to my eyeballs. Until I find something more viable, I’m still using store-bought eye makeup remover to get rid of eyeliner.

P1060951

I don’t use mascara, so I can’t say if either this makeup remover works to remove that.

* * *

Readers, do you make any of your beauty products? Have you purchased something that’s turned out amazing? Let me know in the comments!

Stay moisturized,

Raven

Sugar, Spice, and Everything Nice: Chocolate Chili Enchiladas

Hello, readers,

Today, we’re making a main dish! Be excited!

Part of my unending struggle to infuse “lolita” into my everyday lifestyle is that I have trouble thinking of lolita-esque food (hence, this series). I could just make everything into cute shapes, but the idea of bat-shaped pork chops is super unappealing to me. So how do you take lolita food, which is often very sweet, and make it into a main course? Today, that answer is to use chocolate.

Specifically, we’re using Mexican chocolate.

This stuff makes the best hot chocolate, but you need to make a big pot of it on the stove to get the proportions right. It’s so worth it, though, especially because of the little kick of spice it has.

According to the original recipe poster, you can use bitter chocolate and a pinch of cinnamon if you can’t get Mexican chocolate.

Chocolate Chili Enchiladas – The KitchenAid Blog

I changed up this recipe quite a lot, and I will make more adjustments when I make this again. For some people, this is going to be a recipe that requires a lot of specialty ingredients. For me, it wasn’t because I already had some Mexican chocolate in my pantry, and tortillas and hot peppers are things we get all the time.

Enchilada Sauce Ingredients

  • 1 poblano chili pepper
  • 1 serano chili pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3.5 cups chicken stock
  • 5 Tablespoons creamy peanut butter (I will definitely use less next time.)
  • 1 Tablespoon honey
  • 3 ounces chopped Mexican chocolate

Filling Ingredients

  • 8 – 10 flour tortillas
  • 36 ounces cooked shredded chicken (I already had this.)
  • 14 ounces shredded cheese (I used “Mexican blend.”)
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • Hot sauce of choice to adjust spice level (Optional. I didn’t use any.)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. (You’ll also want to shred the chicken ahead of time.)
  2. Chop up the chili peppers, onion, and garlic. Chop up the chocolate separately.
  3. Add the butter, onion and garlic to a pot over medium heat. Sauté for 2-3 minutes then add the peppers.
  4. Sauté another minute or so and add chicken stock, peanut butter, and honey. Simmer for 10-15 minutes.
  5. Take the pot off the heat and stir in the chopped chocolate. Keep stirring as the chocolate melts and dissolves.
  6. Now place the shredded chicken in a large bowl and add 1 cup of the enchilada sauce you made along with half of the cheese. Add the seasonings and stir, adjusting the seasonings and hot sauce amounts to taste.
  7. Make sure your tortillas are soft and malleable. If they’re not, a quick five seconds in the microwave should do the trick.
  8. One at a time, spoon approximately 1/8th to 1/10th of your total original filling on the tortilla. Do it in a straight line down the center of the tortilla to make the rolling process less messy.
  9. Roll the tortillas into tubes and place in a rimmed baking dish.
  10. Pour the remaining sauce over the tortillas in the baking dish. We had a lot of sauce, and that’s fine. I like it when the tortillas soak up all the sauce flavor.
  11. Top the tortillas in the baking dish with the remaining cheese and bake for 15-20 minutes until warmed through. (Just as a last reminder, do not use uncooked chicken in these enchiladas.)

There you have it: a savory main dish that uses chocolate. With enough dishes like this in your recipe box, it may just be possible to live off nothing but sweets after all.

My boyfriend really liked these as they turned out, but I thought they were a bit too nutty/earthy. I think that’s the large amount of peanut butter we used. My boyfriend and I made this dish together, and he just loves to add lots of whatever the recipes call for: garlic, onion, heaping spoonfuls peanut butter, etc. The original recipe wanted three tablespoons of peanut butter, and we must have had five or six by the end. I still liked the taste of these enchiladas overall, but I wouldn’t go so heavy-handed on the peanut butter.

Let me know how this recipe turns out for you if you make it!

Stay spicy,

Raven
The original recipe calls the sauce a “cheater mole.” I prefer to call it what it is, a chocolate chili sauce. If you like this recipe and want more ways to cook main dishes with chocolate, a general “chocolate mole recipe ideas” Google search should turn up a large variety of recipes.

Sugar, Spice, and Everything Nice: Homemade Sugar Cubes

Hello readers,

I have been able to dress in lolita only once since this semester of graduate school started, which makes me both sad and even more determined to lolify my general lifestyle. So, this is the first entry in a little cooking series I plan to run on this blog. This recipe/guide is super simple, but it lets you add another little touch of “lolitaness” to your lifestyle: homemade sugar cubes!

You could always buy sugar cubes, of course. The benefit of making them yourself is that you get to really fine-tune them. I bought a heart-shaped chocolate silicon mold for this project, and the end result is really cute. I was tempted to buy rose/flower molds, but I couldn’t find any with small enough cavities for what I wanted. Anyway, feel free to play with this recipe. You can add coloring to tint them your favorite color, you can add vanilla, almond, or peppermint extract to flavor them, and you can even add shredded rose petals to your sugar cubes! Really, make these to fit your lolita lifestyle.

* * *

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon water

That’s it. These are not firm measurements, but more of a ratio. I’ll show you how my sugar looked when properly mixed, and I’ll also show you what happened when I added too much water.

Instructions

  1. Add the sugar to a mixing bowl.
  2. Pour in the water.
  3. Mix.
  4. Press the dampened sugar into your mold. Make sure to pack it in as tightly as you can.
  5. The next step is to let the sugar cubes dry. One recipe variation I found said letting them dry on the counter overnight worked, and another one said that they would be done in 30 minutes. I turned my oven on to 250 degrees F and put my mold in for 10 minutes.

They were perfect when they came out.

Put them in an air-tight container when they’re dry. Some of the other online recipes I found said they would last up to a year, but another said they were good for up to two years. I plan on making them in these small batches anyway, so I don’t think I’ll ever run into their expiration date.

* * *

This is a little gallery of what happened when I added more water to the remains of the original mixture. I mixed, pressed, and baked them the same way I did the first batch.

In terms of how wet the sugar should be, the easiest answer is “not very.” If you accidentally add too much water and the mixture starts to look transparent, the sugar is dissolving and you need to just add more sugar.

* * *

These were super easy to make, and I’ll definitely make more when these are all used up (which should take about a week). Maybe I’ll try and make them purple next time, but maybe not. I think that these would make an excellent little gift for someone, especially if they were cute shapes or a fun color.

This was not a very messy project, but I did end up with loose granules of sugar all over my work space. Clean-up was really easy, though, so you shouldn’t have any reservations about making sugar “cubes.”

Please let me know how these turn out if you make them! I’d love to see your pictures of your cute, custom sugar drops.

Stay sweet,

Raven