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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Reacquainting Myself with the Seam Ripper

Last night I decided to reacquaint myself with my seam ripper. In actuality, I had hoped to just be reunited with my sewing machine but you know how that goes...

I haven't touched my machine since July when we learned our big news and promptly began the voyage through morning sickness.  Luckily, my morning sickness has been long gone, but I feel like I've just been overwhelmed with everything going on and haven't had the time to plan out a sewing project.  I swore to myself that over this winter break (my company shuts down for a little over a week during the holidays) that I would at least get some knitting done.  There's still a few days left of the break and I have not yet touched my knitting needles, but I did tackle a few sewing projects!

So, here's the back-story.  One of my co-workers has been kind enough to lend us her bassinet for our little Poppyseed due in March.  She has a little girl in the toddler ages and didn't currently need it.  I was stoked as I didn't really want to spend the money on a bassinet that is generally only used for a couple of months.  She passed the bassinet on with a few related items - bedding and a bumper.  Did I mention she had a girl?  The bassinet came with a hot pink animal print bumper with brown backing.  I debated just flipping the bumper to the backside so only a hint of pink would show through but said to myself 'you could totally make one of these yourself!' Sometimes I'm too intense for my own good.


I already had a fabric on hand; a minky type print in green and brown with little farm animals, including the sheep that fall into our theme.  My mother-in-law had also been kind enough to get me a gift card to JoAnn's so I was able to get some additional supplies for this project.  I knew I had enough minky to make the main piece, but I still needed the underlining and base.  I went with some basic green gingham.  While I was there I also stumbled across an actual pattern for the basket.  Score!  Simplicity 4636 had a pattern that matched the moses basket shape.  I headed home with my goods in tow.

Now I don't know if I'm just rusty or what, but the pattern instructions for what should have been a simple basket were in Greek or something.  I decided to loosely follow the instructions and use the pattern primarily for the cut-out pieces.  Problem solved... somewhat. Ok, then I had to deal with the minky fabric combined with the cotton.  The cotton cut like a dream but the minky was slightly stretchy and 'slippery' in the sewing machine.  Nothing was lining up! Somehow I managed to get all of the side pieces together but again, as I wasn't following the directions 100%, I butchered the bottom.  I spent at least 30 minutes cursing the pattern while ripping out the seams from the entire bottom piece.  Of course as soon as I finished, it then fit perfectly.  The hubby later remarked that he heard an awful lot of muttering and cursing coming from the sewing room so he decided to leave me alone.  Wise man.

So, what I was left with was a decent fitting bassinet cover.  It doesn't look 100% like it should, but I don't think Poppy will care too much.



Now, as I've promised for the last few months, I'm doing a giveaway this week. No, for real.  I'm composing the post immediately after this one launches.  It'll go live on New Year's Day - a little treat for 2013!  And I'll cover both knitting and sewing.  Intrigued?  Come back during the beginning of the New Year and you could win some fun stuff -  my treat for being such a slacker with the blog!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Gratitude and Putting Things in Place

While I'm being thankful, I never said thank YOU for the wonderful words and support that you sent our way after our big announcement.  The hubby and I couldn't be any more excited - he comes with me to all of the doctor appointments, and we love hearing the little heartbeat every time.  Now that I'm almost 6 months along (wow, really??), I feel the baby moving and we've both felt a few kicks.  I'm desperately wanting to start nesting and organizing baby stuff, but I don't want to be too eager - so I keep a lot of it to Pinterest. ;)

As I mentioned before, work has been really busy.  We've had so much going on, and I think knowing that I'll be out for a little while on maternity leave, I want to make sure everything's buttoned-up before I go.  We're also trying to get the house in order.  Moving rooms around, consolidating, cleaning and purging... it's amazing how much you can accumulate!  A major area of focus has, of course, been my craft room.  I had been saving small scraps of fabric for unknown projects, hoarding patterns and all the while, not making a dent in anything by actually making anything.  So, I decided a deep cleaning is due.

The 'before' shot of my pattern storage (aka, everywhere) and some of the larger pieces of fabric.

After the cleanup. Patterns are now contained to just three bins. Fabric scraps have been incorporated to shelving (freeing up three tubs that were under my sewing table).
First things first, I went through all of my fabric and looked at what I would really use in the long run, what scraps could become something, and which just had to go.  I considered doing a giveaway for some things, but there wasn't really enough to amount to anything garment-wise.  I've actually decided to donate a lot to RAFT, a local organization that provides various resources to teachers.

All of my patterns, sorted by designer.
Then, the dreaded bins of patterns.  I started with two bins for patterns, which quickly became three, which then became any available spot I could find to tuck them into, random containers, squished between fabric bolts on shelves... you get the picture.  So I pulled them alllll out.  And sorted them by brand. And decided which could stay and which needed to go.  I even found some duplicates!  What does this mean for you? Well, I split the patterns into three piles, keep, sell, and... you guessed it... giveaways!  So watch out, because I'll have at least a couple coming your way, just in time for the holidays!
My stacks of vintage patterns that will probably be sold. Still need to assess the condition of them .
Now that I have done the cleaning, I just need to start sorting through the vintage patterns that I'm going to list on Etsy and get them ready to go, and I need to start on a few crafts that I've had sitting on the table for a while.  In particular, an advent calendar (that I'd love to complete before this Christmas!), an Amy Butler bag that has all components and is just waiting to be assembled, and my crochet blanket that I've been working on since last November.  It's almost done, but it's just so big that it's a little unwieldy to work with.

So I haven't been completely unproductive! And I've been trying to check in with my blog reader at least once a week.  So hopefully you'll start to see me commenting on posts again and also updating my blog a little more regularly.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Sweet Treats Saturday: Poor Man's Toffee Variations

I'm still around! I've just been swamped with work stuff, baby stuff... so much stuff!  I've been getting caught up on my blogosphere reading, just not getting around to writing anything myself.  So while I'm working on getting my mojo back, here's a yummy treat I made for a recent neighborhood get-together. It's so quick, easy, and people gobbled it up!

Speaking of which, wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving! Even if you don't celebrate, I hope that you have much to be thankful for and are enjoying the approaching holiday season!



Poor Man's Toffee
Recipe modified from family and various online sources
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Ingredients:
2 tubes or Ritz crackers (1/2 of a 4 pack box)
1 14oz can sweetened, condensed milk
1 bag toffee bits
Optional: Hershey's bar, broken into pieces

Directions:
1. In a large bowl, crush the ritz crackers.  Mix in the condense milk and toffee bits.

2. Press into 8x8" greased pan. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 15 minutes.  If adding chocolate, take out at about 10 minutes, sprinkle with chocolate, and bake the remaining 5 minutes.  Let cool, cut and enjoy!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Bump Ahead

Oh readers, I can't believe it's been this long! Life had taken hold... so much has been going on that crafting had to take a back seat. But I think I'm ready to start turning that around now!

You see, back in June/July, we had a mini-vacation, house guests constantly rotating through, dance competitions to prep for, and just general business.  And then, well, the end of July came and we got big news...

We're expecting!



That's right, a mini crafter is in the making! Or Irish dancer. Ok, let's be honest - both.

But with this big news came the other symptoms. A LOT of morning sickness and nausea. And like they say, morning sickness never seems to just hit in the morning.  So between sitting upright and working in front of a computer all day, I haven't had much energy (or just the general ability) to continue to do so in front of a sewing machine or even to go through blog posts.  I've gotten so behind!

And with the prospect of an expanding waistline and my lack of knit sewing skills (I know I need to just suck it up), I haven't made much of anything.

But the morning sickness is slowly getting better.  I'm now approaching the 14 week mark and in the second trimester. I'm waiting for that time when I start to get that 'pregnancy glow.'  Tell me that's coming soon? Right?? And I need to start tidying up the craft room to get ready to consolidate our offices and guest rooms to make room for baby.  A March baby is an exciting prospect for me, though my husband doesn't wish for a St. Patrick's Day baby like I do. ;)



So readers, I really appreciate your patience in my absence.  I'm looking forward to start baking again and to get back in front of the sewing machine.  I do plan on braving a couple of clothing pieces, but I will probably get more side projects done, such as an Amy Butler bag that I've had cut out forever, and more knitting and cross stitch projects.  I also need to get through my long list of blog posts that I have neglected reading. I've only been vaguely aware of events from a few facebook pages and emails (oh if I could just fit into the new Colette patterns in the next year!).

Oh, and I did make one thing about a month ago.  A friend asked me to whip up a car seat cover for her new arrival.  I used a tutorial that I'd saved to my Pinterest as a potential gift idea, so it was great to put it to use.  I made a slight modification based on her request... I made a slit in the front middle so that she could easily see the baby.



While this project was fairly fast, it was a pain.  I did include the ric rac trim which had to be pinned in place just so in order to have a proper amount show when the fabric was inverted.  I don't know if it's because my sewing was a little rusty, but I probably pinned my hand more than I pinned the fabric.  At least, while the sewing process was taking place.  Also, lining up the two fabrics to match completely... I swear, no matter how much ironing I do, I just cannot line things up like that. It's probably a patience thing.



But I do think it came out pretty cute. My friend picked out the fabrics. We just went with a blue and green stripe for one side and a coordinating polka dot for the other. Will I make another? Ehhhmmmm.... maybe for my own child? Or even just without that painful ric rac? We'll see.

So once again, thank you for sticking with me. I'm excited to be back and can't wait to see what you all have been up to!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Sweet Treats Saturday: Praline Apple Bread

Fall is approaching and our apple tree is in full bloom.  I'm determined to make good use of it this year os I've already begun baking some new apple recipes.  I had some great success last year with a few and am looking forward to remaking them, but this was a new one I tried that will be added to the collection.  The bread almost has a cake texture to it, but the glaze just soaks in to make a wonderful subtly sweet flavor.

Praline Apple Bread
Recipe from My Recipes
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Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans, divided
1 (8-oz.) container sour cream
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups finely chopped, peeled Granny Smith apples (about 3/4 lb.)
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Bake 1/2 cup pecans in a single layer in a shallow pan 6 to 8 minutes or until toasted and fragrant, stirring halfway.

2. Beat sour cream, sugar, eggs and vanilla at low speed with an electric mixer until blended.

3. Stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add to the sour cream mixture, beating just until blended. Stir in apples and 1/2 cup toasted pecans. Spoon batter into a greased and floured 9- x 5-inch loaf pan. Sprinkle with remaining 1 cup chopped pecans; lightly press pecans into batter. I ran out of pecans so I omitted this last step but if you love a nutty fruit bread I highly recommend including them.  I also love to make a loaf for us and a loaf for a friend - in this case a neighbor. So I filled one mini loaf pan and used the rest in my regular loaf pan.  This will cut back on baking time slightly so just make sure you check on the bread so that it doesn't dry out.

4. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes to an hour or until a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, shielding with aluminum foil in the last 10 minutes to prevent excessive browning. Cool in pan on a wire rack for about 10 minutes; remove from pan to wire rack to cool completely.

5. Bring butter and brown sugar to a boil in a 1-qt. heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly; boil 1 minute. Remove from heat, and spoon over top of bread; let cool completely (about 1 hour).



Option to freeze:  Cool bread completely; wrap in plastic wrap, then in aluminum foil. Freeze up to 3 months. Thaw at room temperature.


Saturday, August 18, 2012

Sweet Treats Saturday: Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

I've been in the mood for breakfast treats recently.  Maybe it's all the talk of back to school? I feel left out though, since I'm not in school anymore.  Instead, I decided to make some muffins. I nice little sweet pick-me-up with a cup of coffee, or an afternoon snack.  The lemon is so refreshing and I love the little crunch of poppy seeds.  This recipe was so easy to make and whipped up exactly one dozen muffins.

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins
Recipe from Brown Eyed Baker
(Baking time was slightly modified)
Makes 12 muffins
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Ingredients:
2/3 cup sugar
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup sour cream
2 eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 tablespoons poppy seeds

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Grease the 12 molds in a regular-size muffin pan or line with cupcake liners.

2. In a large bowl, rub the sugar and lemon zest together with your fingers until the two are incorporated - the sugar will have a nice lemony scent. Whisk in the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk the sour cream, eggs, vanilla, lemon juice and melted butter together until well blended. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and, with the whisk or a rubber spatula, quickly stir to blend. Lumps are ok as you don't want to overmix the batter. Stir in the poppy seeds until incorporated into the batter. Divide the batter evenly among the muffins cups (I just used a large cookie dough scoop).

3. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until the tops are lightly golden and a thin knife inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool slightly before removing the muffins from the pan.  Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature.


Saturday, August 11, 2012

Sweet Treats Saturday: Strawberry Cupcakes with Strawberry Meringue Buttercream

What's a better, refreshing, summer dessert than strawberries and cream?  Well, these cupcakes were a perfect combination of the two flavors.



I followed the recipe exactly from Brown Eyed Baker.  You can find it here.



These recipes turned out beautifully - both in looks and taste.  They are a delicious summer dessert that uses fresh strawberries - though you could make them out of season with thawed, frozen strawberries.  The meringue frosting was so easy to make, following her directions to a T.  Hopefully you'll get the chance to make these delicious cupcakes.


Monday, August 06, 2012

Crochet Baby Blanket

While I haven't been doing a lot of sewing at the moment, I have been getting in some quality needlework projects.  A very good friend of mine is about to have her first baby... a boy.  She's big into the ocean theme as her hubby does spear-fishing in his spare time.  I was throwing her a baby shower so I decided to dive in (har har har) to the theme and go with blues, greens, and yellows (the house where we had the party was going to have yellow linens so I incorporated that color to the theme).


Well, I found these adorable, customizable tags on Etsy, and instantly ordered them up for her cupcakes and favors.  A small chocolate shop just opened down the street from me, so I had them prepare little boxes of sea salt caramels (again, with the ocean theme).  I made sugar cookies and vanilla cupcakes with blue frosting.


As for her gift, I crocheted my first baby blanket.  It's made out of super-soft, Cascade 128 Superwash Chunky.  It was so nice to work with and because it was such a thick yarn, the project came together really fast.  I made it in about a month but could have finished it long before if I just had time (and if we didn't have a minor heat-wave... I hate working with yarn in ridiculous heat).  I added the scalloped border on two sides instead of all four, just because I liked the finished look.  The pattern was a free one that I found on Ravelry, linked here.

It was a really easy project. Essentially just double crochet's for the entire length, but into the back of the previous row's stitch.  I watched a video and off I went.  And the final scalloped edge was so easy too. I almost omitted it because I didn't really want a feminine frill to it, but I think it works.



Oh, and I haven't mentioned it, but when I met up with Miss Crayola Creepy, she convinced me to sign up for Instagram.  I'm really new to it, and am just trying to remember to take pictures and load them up, but it's pretty fun.  Please feel free to follow me on it and I'll follow you back. My username is whatsupcupcake.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Sweet Treats Saturday: Brown Butter Crispy Treats

Rice Krispy treats always make me think of the summer.  Though I never limit them to just one time of year... in fact, the reason this recipe is such a long time in coming is because I thought I had already shared it.  Apparently I hadn't, so I instantly whipped up a batch to share with you.  Let me just tell you, they were delicious.


They're so easy, taking under 10 minutes to throw together... no baking required, just one large pot and a large baking dish.  That's really all it takes.  A little arm action to get everything blended and you're done.

Brown Butter Crispy Treats
Recipe slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen
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Ingredients:
4oz (1 stick) of unsalted butter
1 10oz bag of marshmallows (regular or mini)
1/2 tsp vanilla
6 cups rice crispy cereal
1/4 tsp sea salt

Directions:
1. Butter or grease a 9x13" pan.

2. Melt stick of butter in a large pot, stirring until the butter starts to foam and develop a golden brown color.  You should smell a nice, nutty scent off of the butter.  Keep an eye on it because it'll burn fast.  As soon as your butter is a caramel color, turn off the heat and pour in the marshmallows and vanilla.  Stir until melted - you may need to turn the heat back on to low, especially if you used regular size marshmallows.

3.  As soon as the marshmallows are smooth, pour in the rice crispy cereal and sea salt.  Stir until combined then pour out into your baking dish.  Flatten with your spatula or hands (careful as it may be hot).  You can also take a lightly greased sheet of wax paper and press down on the top, but I didn't think it was necessary.

Let cool, cut, and enjoy!



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Thursday, August 02, 2012

Vacation and a Meetup

Ahhhh vacation. Just what you need to get your creative juices flowing again, right?  Well, I think so.  It helps when you get to meet up with a fellow blogger along the way.

The hubby, dog, and I took a road trip to Southern California.  We had good, quality time with friends, family, and Mickey Mouse.  We went to Disneyland, road all of the rides at the new Cars Land in California Adventure, and just had some quality rest and relaxation.



On the way home, we stopped by Santa Barbara for lunch with a girlfriend, and then a little past that, met up with the lovely Erin from Miss Crayola Creepy.  When I knew we would be driving the coastal route home, I sent Erin a note to see if she would be interested in meeting.  I was in the middle of my sewing rampage and had huge plans!  Well, by the time we met, I was such a bum and hadn't made anything in weeks.  But I still couldn't wait to meet.  If you remember, I featured her back in March and love reading along with her blog.



It was so great meeting up with her! We had some ice cream at this super-cute place called Doc Burnstein's, and chatted about sewing idols, blogging, meetups, and life in general.  Oh, and she brought me a sewing book that I've had my eye on for a while, Famous Frocks.  So sweet! (I was totally lame and not prepared, but I see something exciting for her in the near future. ;)) Time flew by and I was sad to leave, but we had to get back on the road to get home.

Now, I'm feeling refreshed and ready to get back into my sewing space.  I haven't had time just yet as I'm prepping for a baby shower that I'm throwing this weekend, but I can definitely see some sewing taking place immediately afterwards.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Sweet Treats Saturday: Macadamia Nut Crunch Ice Cream

Living so close to Hawaii (ok, really, not that close, but I like to pretend) I like to get my tropical fix by indulging in island flavors like macadamia nuts.  Actually, having some friends that live there and having been on a recent trip, I found myself staring at a jar of macadamia nuts in my pantry.  I knew I wanted to make something sweet with them and this recipe was the perfect summer solution.

The brittle is so good that you'll want to eat it on it's own. Don't - it's worth it putting it into the ice cream mixture. However, I can't help it if there might be some that 'just wouldn't fit' and somehow ended up in my mouth.  It was worth it.


Macadamia Nut Crunch Ice Cream
Recipe from Technicolor Kitchen

Ingredients for Macadamia Nut Crunch:
2/3 cup roasted salted macadamia nuts, coarsely chopped
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp water
2 tbsp unsalted butter

Ingredients for Ice Cream:
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 cups whole mik
pinch of salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
6 large egg yolks
2 tsp vanilla extract


Directions for the Macadamia Nut Crunch:
1. Lay out a silpat mat or butter a small rimmed baking sheet.  Combine nuts and baking soda in a small bowl.
2.  Stir sugar, water and butter in a small, heavy saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves and the butter melts, about 2 minutes.
3.  Increase heat to medium-high.  Boil until amber colored, stirring constantly for about 3 minutes.  Mix in nut mixture and immediately pour it onto silpat or buttered sheet, spreading as much as possible.  Cool completely then chop into small pieces.  Set aside to add to the ice cream mixture.


Directions for the ice cream:
1. Bring cream, milk and salt to a simmer in a large saucepan.  Whisk sugar and egg yolks in a medium bowl.  Gradually whisk the hot ice cream mixture into the yolk mixture - making sure to start with a small amount of the hot liquid so as to not curdle the eggs.  Return mixture to the same saucepan.
2.  Stir over medium-low heat until custard thickens and leaves a path on the back of a wooden spoon when your finger is drawn across.  Do not let the custard mix boil.  
3. Pass the custard through a sieve into a medium bowl.  Stir in vanilla and refrigerate for at least 3-4 hours.
4. Process the custard in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.  Add the crunch brittle during the last few minutes of churning.  Transfer to a container, cover and freeze until firm.


Monday, July 23, 2012

Checking In

Sorry for the lack of posts. So much has been going on... between house guests, work, dance, life, etc... I haven't had much time for sewing and have been so pre-occupied physically and mentally.  I have made a dent in two needlecraft projects.  One baby blanket for a wonderful friends' baby shower in a couple of weeks, and my other crochet blanket that I've been working on since the dawn of time (or last November).  I hope to finish the baby blanket this week, and well... I hope to finish the other blanket before its one year anniversary of casting on, but I really can't promise anything.

We're going away for a few days for a little R&R.  I will hopefully get this time to mentally get back in the sewing game, and maybe even meet up with a fellow blogger.  I'll keep you posted, and I promise I won't be gone for too much longer.  And of course, keep looking for the regular Sweet Treats posts. Those are still coming to you every Saturday!


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Sweet Treats Saturday: Orange Almond Cupcakes

I had some more almonds calling to my from the panty, and I wanted to make use of some fresh summer fruit.  Our orange tree is filled year-round, but I really don't make enough use of it's fruit.  So, I grabbed a couple and whipped up this recipe.  It was soooo good.  It's probably one of my favorite cupcake recipes.  The orange tastes fresh without being overpowering, and I love the combination with the almond flavor.


Orange Almond Cupcakes
Recipe from Lauren's Latest
Makes 12 regular or 36 mini cupcakes
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Ingredients for the cupcakes:
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 tbsp orange zest
1 egg

Ingredients for the frosting:
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
3 tbsp fresh orange juice
1 tbsp orange zest
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/4 cups powdered sugar

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Line muffin tins with paper liners and set aside.

2.  In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.  Stir to combine and make a large well in the center.  Pour in the wet ingredients into the well and stir until just combined.

3.  Spoon the batter into the prepared tins to 3/4 full and bake for 18-22 minutes (less for mini's).  Cool completely before frosting.

4.  To make the frosting, whip the butter, orange juice, zest and vanilla together.  Slowly stir in powdered sugar until it starts to come together.  Scrape sides and whip 30 seconds until light and fluffy.  Frost cupcakes and store in an airtight container.



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Sunday, July 15, 2012

Savory Sunday: Scalloped Potatoes with Leeks

The hubby and I both love scalloped potatoes, and when asked to bring a side dish to a recent party, I jumped on this recipe.  It's one of my tried and true, and I make it for most of our large lunch or dinner get-togethers.  There wasn't a bite left in the dish by the time the party was over - a sign of success in my book!

This recipe is easy to transport to a party because once it's out of the oven, it needs to rest for 15-30 minutes.  Just enough time to wrap it up in some foil and drive over to the event.  Because of all of the baked, cheesy goodness, it stays warm for quite a bit afterwards too.


Scalloped Potatoes with Leeks
Recipe from Martha Stewart
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Ingredients:
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 leeks, trimmed, thinly sliced and well rinsed (about 1 cup)
6 russet potatoes (2 1/2 pounds), peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 tsp coarse salt
1/8 tsp grated nutmeg
fresh ground pepper, to taste
8 oz gruyere cheese, shredded (about 3 cups)
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease a 12 cup baking dish (I used a standard 9x13 dish).

2.  Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat.  Add leeks and cook until translucent, about 3 o 4 minutes.

3.  Arrange 1/3 of the potatoes in dish, slightly overlapping slices.  Sprinkle with 1/2 of the salt, 1/2 of the nutmeg, paper, and cover with 1/2 of the leeks and 1/3 of the cheese.  Repeat.  Top with remaining potatoes.  Sprinkle with remaining cheese.

4  Combine cream and stock.  Pour over cheese and potatoes.  Cover with parchment and foil.  Mixture can be refrigerated overnight.

5.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Increase temperature to 425 degrees F, uncover, and cook until top is golden brown and potatoes are tender, about 45 minutes.  Let rest for 15 to 30 minutes before serving.



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Saturday, July 14, 2012

Sweet Treats Saturday: Brown Butter Toffee and Chocolate Chip Cookies

I promised our recent house guests that they would have fresh cookies waiting for them upon their arrival (they were driving all the way from Texas to California) if they could make it by the evening of their second day of driving.  They had been trapped in Southern California traffic and were debating whether or not to push through to the end.  I'd like to think that my cookies were what made them continue the journey.  They made it in record time, and they had these delicious, fresh baked goodies waiting for them.


Brown Butter and Toffee Chocolate Chip Cookies
Recipe from Table for Two
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Ingredients:
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
14tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 tsp salt
2tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 egg yolk
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup Heath (or similar) toffee pieces

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and line baking sheets.

2.  Whisk the flour and baking soda together and set aside.

3.  In a small skillet  over medium-high feet, melt 10 tbsp of butter and continue cooking until the butter is a dark golden brown and has a nutty aroma.  Swirl constantly so it doesn't burn.  This should take a couple of minutes.

4.  Pour brown butter into a heatproof bowl and stir in the remaining 4 tbsp of butter into the bowl, stirring until it's completely melted (it helps if the 4 tbsp of butter are cut into small pieces).

5.  In a large bowl, mix both sugars, salt, and vanilla with the butter and beat using an electric mixer until well incorporated.  Add the egg and egg yolk and mix until smooth, with no sugar lumps in it.

6.  Let the mixture stand for 3 minutes, then beat on high for 30 seconds.  Repeat this process 2 more times until the mixture is thick and smooth.

7.  Stir in the flour mixture until just combined, then stir in the chocolate chips and toffee bits by hand.

8.  Scoop out cookie dough using a medium sized cookie scoop or a spoon - the dough should be about the size of 2 tbsp.  Space 2 inches apart on the cookie sheets.  Bake 10-12 minutes or until the edges are crispy and the insides are soft.  Let cool slightly before transferring to a wire rack.



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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Summer Pattern Giveaway Winners

Hello readers! I apologize for the delay! It's been a crazy week at work and also getting back into our normal routines after house guests for two weeks.  I was totally wow'd by the number of people who entered the summer pattern giveaway and was excited to divvy up the responses.  Surprisingly, an almost even number requested either pattern.  I was waiting to see a clear favorite pop up, but it really was as close to divided in half as it could be (with 31 entries).  So, onto the winners!

Winners were selected using random.org after I sorted the entries into two buckets - Simplicity 1873 and 0325.

The winner of Simplicity 1873 is:
Stacy Sews and Schools
'My favorite summer tradition is cooking out and just hanging around the house with my family. '


The winner of Simplicity 0325 is:
Cuckoo Chanel
'My favorite summer activity is going to Block Island, RI with my boyfriend. During this heat wave, I am also devoted to jumping into the pool as soon as I get home from work!'

Congratulations to the winners!  I really had fun with this and it made me want to host more giveaways.  So, if you were not a winner, stay tuned as I'll try to get another giveaway going shortly.

If the two winners could please send me their mailing address at craftycupcakeblog@gmail.com.  Thank you!

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Sweet Treats Saturday: Snickerdoodles

Snickerdoodles! I've made them before but this is just a slightly different version.  What the previous version had in crispiness, this one had in chewiness.  I found this closer to store-bought snicker doodles and it totally fulfilled my craving for a kicked up sugar cookie.



Snickerdoodles
Makes about 36
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Ingredients:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1 egg
1/2 sp vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Topping:
3 tbsp sugar
1tsp ground cinnamon

Directions:
1.  In a medium mixing bowl, bea the butter until smooth (about 30 seconds).  Add the sugar, baking soda and cream of tartar.  Beat until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl.  Beat in the egg and vanilla until combined.  Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer, then stir in the remaining amount with a spoon.  Cover and refrigerate for an hour.

2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  In a small bowl, combine the 3 tbsp sugar and cinnamon.  Shape dough into 1inch balls (I used a small cookie dough scoop).  Roll in the cinnamon/sugar mixture.  Bake in preheated oven for 10 to 11 minutes, or until edges are golden.  Transfer cookies to racks to cool.  Store in an airtight container.




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Wednesday, July 04, 2012

The 'Boardwalk' Dress


I was so excited to receive Christine Haynes new pattern in the mail! I signed up for her Sassy Librarian Craftsy class and was pretty into her style, so I instantly preordered one of her two new patterns when she announced them.  It arrived early last week, bundled up in the cutest retro designed tissue paper, calling to me to make it up.  I just happened to have picked up this red, white and blue floral print fabric for this week's Sew Weekly challenge... in 3 1/2 yards, just under what the pattern called for. But with my creative pattern placement, I actually had just enough fabric.  I think her yardage allowances were pretty generous and I can be pretty frugal with my pattern placements - making sure to get every last inch of fabric covered so that I 1) have leftovers, and 2) can use 3 1/2 yards of fabric when almost 4 are called for.  Genius. (Or cheap... whatever).

The Facts
Fabric: 3.5 yards floral printed cotton, $22, on sale
Pattern: Christine Haynes Derby Dress pattern, $18
Year: Contemporary
Notions: None!
Time to complete: 4 hours
First worn: This last Friday, to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
Wear again? Yup
Total cost: $40

When it actually came time to cut out the fabric, I almost got cold feet.  I started to worry that the dress shape just wouldn't be flattering on me.  Ultimately, I bit the bullet.  I had spent the money on the pattern, the dress looked really cute... I should just do it.


The pattern was a breeze to assemble.  While there were quite a few pieces, they were no-fuss, no zippers, no notions... just me, my machine, and my serger.  I didn't make the belt that comes with the dress... yet.  I will, I just wanted to be done and I was happy with the look with my own little brown belt.  The only aspect that I wasn't a fan of was the way the notches were done on the pattern.  Instead of being inside the pattern lines, they were out... which would seem easy enough to fix but I was too lazy to draw the notches into the patterns.  I know some people prefer to notch their patterns on the outside but I figure that with a standard 5/8" seam allowance, there's no real need.  Anyways, not a deal breaker by any means but just something I had on my mind.

We've had some out of town family members staying with us so we're showing them the California sites.  We took them to Santa Cruz. It's a somewhat nearby coastal town famous for it's hippie vibe, surfer culture, and Boardwalk (which you may recognize from the movie Lost Boys).  It was actually a gorgeous summer early-evening.  We rode a few rides, enjoyed some funnel cake, took pictures on the beach and had Marianne's ice cream.  The dress held up really well though keeping the front slouchy can be a challenge when you constantly stuff your hands in your pockets.



Here are some more pictures from our trip to the Boardwalk:



I did not go on the ride in the last picture. Ok, well, I went on the roller coast, but not the crazy spider arm.  I left that one to my hubby and our house guests.  My excuse was that I was wearing a dress. In reality, I thought I'd pee my pants (which would be pretty impressive considering I was wearing a dress).

What I Watched: Trainspotting (1996). Love. Ewan. McGregor. Oh and Kelly MacDonald was so young! The Shawshank Redemption (1994).  I feel like I watched this recently but I just love this movie.
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