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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Sweet Treats Saturday: Black Bottom Banana Cupcakes

Another recipe to use up those bananas that you just couldn't get to. At this point, I almost wait for my bananas to ripen just so I can make some of these yummy treats.  It's a way to get fruit in my diet, so at least there's an added bonus.

These cupcakes are soooo good.  They're not your standard cupcakes - there's no dollop of frosting on top.  But they're not necessarily muffins either.  They have a chocolate-y banana base, with a chocolate chip, cream cheese layer on top.  The combination?  Perfect! 

Black Bottom Banana Cupcakes
Makes 18 cupcakes

Cream Cheese Mixture Ingredients:
8oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 small banana, pureed
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
8 oz. (1 cup) semisweet chocolate chips

Chocolate Mixture Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 large bananas, pureed
1/3 cup oil
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two cupcake pans with 18 liners.

Cream Cheese Mixture Directions:
1. Beat cream cheese and sugar until nice and fluffy.  
2. Add banana, egg and vanilla, and mix together until combined.
3. Stir in chocolate chips and set aside.

Chocolate Mixture Directions:
1. Sift together flour, cocoa, sugar, soda, and salt using a wire whisk.
2. Add bananas, oil and vanilla, and mix together on low until combined.

Baking Directions:
1. Divide the chocolate batter between the 18 liners.  Flatten batter slightly to fill the base of the liners.

2. Then top the chocolate batter with the cream cheese mixture.

3. Bake between 25-30 minutes.  The cream cheese batter will be slightly moist but be careful not to overcook as the cupcake bottoms can burn.

Let cupcakes cool slightly... then enjoy!

Check out Bakerella's blog for more details on her use of different linings.  I used standard cupcake liners which turned out well.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The 'Rain Drops Keep Falling on My Rain Coat'

I've been so busy the last couple of weeks that I haven't been able to get much sewing done.  I always forget how crazy March is because of St. Patrick's Day.  Extra dance practices with the class and on my own suck up a lot of sewing time.  And work has been crazy busy too.  So I'm trying to keep afloat and get some 'me' time in with my sewing.  Oh, and did I mention one of our cars died?  And the hubby had to have surgery to have his tonsils removed? Buuusssyyy! Luckily the hubby dances too so we spent a lot of time together prepping for the shows.  They were a lot of fun, but as with every year - I'm glad they're over!

Hubby and I at one of our rainy shows.  Taken by my amazing friend Deb.
Now, onto my garment for the week.  Or last two weeks.  Because I've been so busy, this project took a while.  But it also was just a slow garment to sew and took a lot of concentration, so I tried to take my time.  But I was excited to do it and to have it done in time for Pantone week at Sew Weekly.  Luckily this week's theme was pushed out one week due to a impromptu green challenge (I know, I can't believe I sat out of that one, but I just didn't have time!).

A few years ago I worked in product development and thus lived and breathed Pantone.  I was constantly referring to Pantone guides for the household goods I would create, as it's the only way to ensure uniformity in products from multiple manufacturers.  I used to love going to the Chicago Housewares show and checking out Pantone's mega displays of colors and color trends.  Now, I've moved on from that life, but I instantly jumped on this week's Sew Weekly challenge.

Not only was the challenge timely to really use the Spring 2012 color trends, but my garment happened to be right on time too.  You see, I decided to make my second rain coat.  Because apparently working with oil cloth once just wasn't enough.  One of the first garments I made when I started sewing clothing in 2012 was a rain coat.  I used the Amy Butler Rainy Days pattern which is pretty straightforward. But what they don't tell you in sewing 101 (or maybe that do... I never really took sewing 101) is that oil cloth, while fairly easy to work with, definitely comes with it's challenges.  The two main ones:

1. The inability to use pins.  Any holes you make in oil cloth stay there.  So swap out the pins for alligator/binder clips.  When cutting your fabric, tape the pattern pieces with little bits of scotch tape.  It makes it so much easier!
2.  It's sticky. On your machine and metal that is.  So either stick some scotch tape on the bottom of your presser foot or use a plastic presser foot.  My new machine came with the latter so I was eager to try it out.
3. You can't iron your oilcloth... or it'll melt. So once you've sewed a bit, but back your seam allowances and finger press your seams.

Even knowing these two things though, the main thing with oil cloth is you can't be a speed demon.  Because it's tacky you have to slow it down a bit or it'll get lumps and bunches while you're sewing.  Or maybe that's just me?  But really, this project was done in slow motion.  Every time I worked on a bit in cotton you could hear me exclaim 'wooooohoooo!!' and then I'd repeat the process in the oil cloth and a groan would come out from the sewing room.  And gathering in oil cloth?  A whole 'nother story.

So, back to my garment and how it meets this week's requirements.  So I used the Prince Charming Dew Drops laminated cotton fabric from Fabric.com.  The fabric happens to have three of the Spring 2012 pantone colors in it: Sodalite Blue, Solar Power and Cockatoo.  The fabric itself looks more green online, but it is in-fact mostly blue, teals and yellow.

The Facts
Fabric: 3 yards Free Spirit Laminated Fabric $45, 3 yards Kona cotton in Canary $15
Pattern: Amy Butler's Rainy Days, 2nd time making $0
Year: Contemporary
Notions:  6 buttons $3
Time to Complete: Approx. 8 hours
First worn: All week!
Wear again: Oh yeah!
Total Price: $63

I omitted the pockets for now as I don't usually use them too much on my previous rain coat.  I did make them so I might add them at some point, but for now, I liked the solid panels of the rain drop fabric in the front.  Oh and this is one of the first times that I've really worked with a directional print.  That was a learning lesson in itself. Luckily I only had one minor mishap where I cut the under-sleeve panel upside down but I quickly realized that I needed to be more conscious when working with this fabric.

Finishing this project was so satisfying! I love rain coats - they're so convenient! Not having to panic if you forgot an umbrella, or if the weather is just iffy, you can wear it just in case.  And I love the rain drops print with the bright yellow inside. It makes me feel very festive for Winter/Spring.

What I Watched: 
More Scrubs! Finished Season 1, now onto Season 2

Monday, March 26, 2012

Featured Friend: Miss Crayola Creepy

We're staying local for this month's Featured Friend, Miss Crayola Creepy!  Erin is another California girl/sewing blogger/kitty mama who is also one of the hosts of the awesome Sew Colette challenge.  Participants are sewing their way through all of the patterns of the Colette handbook.  Between Erin's blog and Sarah from Rhinestones and Telephones, tutorials and project parades are being hosted throughout the year.  It's been a fun challenge so far and I love following along on their two blogs.  So read on for more on Miss Crayola Creepy!

What inspires you?
I don't want to come off as being corny, but all of YOU inspire me! Everyday I can't wait to check out my Google Reader and see what you have all been making. I get inspired by your color combinations, pattern choices, alterations, fabrics, tutorials, etc. I have even made a Pinterest board dedicated to all the sewing inspiration I get from you guys. Not only is everyone so talented, but nice too! We are lucky to "know" each other. When I need help or need inspiration I always turn to the sewing community first.
When I come across fabrics or color combinations from magazines that I like, I put them on my inspiration board above my sewing machine. When I see the fabrics it reminds me of what is in my stash and the color combinations inspire me for future projects.
What is your craft space like?
I try to keep my space organized, for the most part. It's not because I am a neat freak, but because I don't want my cats jumping on my desk and messing things up or worse, hurting themselves! Stella is known to shred papers (RIP Simplicity 2591) and Lebron pulls pins out of the pin cushion and tries to eat them.

My desk top is kept pretty bare other than a small ironing board, lamp, a small jar of buttons (more fashion that function), a candle, and my sewing machine. To the right I have a bookshelf with multiple purposes. The top shelf is used to hold all of my sewing books and mending projects that I keep putting off. The middle shelf holds all my rulers and muslin fabric. The bottom shelf stores lucky neko figures because I am not sure where else to put them at the moment. Technically the room is my husband's room, but he has slowly been moved out as I "need" more space for sewing . Don't feel sorry for him, he has all the room in the world in the garage!
Let us in on your stash... what’s coming, what’s in progress, what are you stumped with?
Last year in an attempt to stay organized I made a page on my blog where I could list all of my past, present, and future projects. When I finish a project I cross it off and add a link to the blog post about it. If there isn't a line through it then it's one I want to make in the future. 
This year I decided that 2012 was going to be "The Year of Colette" and I was going to make one of their patterns each month. I have started with the patterns in the handbook, but also plan on sewing Clovers, Rooibos, Peony, and Macaroon. It's not quite twelve, so I will just have to buy more, darn it ;)

What is your favorite craft to work with? 
Garment sewing has my heart, but I have also been taking quilting classes to learn the basics. What I love about quilting is that the finished product doesn't have to "fit," so quilts make great gifts for friends and family. It's also fun sitting with the ladies in my class every week and talking about books and movies.
Recently my friend inspired me with her amazing embroidery, so I have been trying to learn some simple stitches. My goal is to eventually embellish some of the clothing and quilts that I make with some of Jenny Hart's cute designs.
What is your favorite thing that you’ve created so far?
My favorite thing that I have created so far would have to be a quilt that I made for my mother in law. It was a "mystery quilt" which I started in July 2011 and finished in December 2011, just in time to ship to England for the holidays. The instructor for my class told us to buy dark, medium dark, medium, and light fabric in specific quantities. Each week she would tell us what to cut and sew, but we had no idea what the end product would look like. I chose fabrics with a beachy feel because the first time I met my mother in law was in Maui. Making the quilt was very time consuming, but the end product was totally worth it. I'm working on another one right now and I am hoping to have it finished by summer, fingers crossed!

Where can I read more? 
You can find my blog here: http://misscrayolacreepy.blogspot.com/
I'm also in Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/crayolacreepy/

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Sweet Treats Saturday: Cream Cheese Banana Bread

Quote from hubby as I was walking away with him with a slice in hand: 'I don't normally like banana bread, but that stuff was gooood.'

Seriously, I don't think I need to ever try another banana bread recipe after this one.

The combination of cream cheese and four bananas, made this recipe so moist.  The pecans added a nice, nutty flavor to it (though if you really hate nuts in your banana bread, you could omit them... but seriously, you're missing out).  I would say that the brown sugar topping was really what made it, but the fact that every bite was so delicious leads me to say that this is just an awesome recipe.

My bananas were ridiculously ripe.  To the point where I was so grossed out even handling them.  But I'm kind-of a banana wimp.  A few brown spots on them and they're on the verge of being only used for smoothies for me.  I made the hubby peel them instead (Can I help you with anything? Well, actuuuaaallllyyy...).

Cream Cheese Banana Bread with Pecans
Recipe from Bake or Break
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Ingredients for the bread:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup butter, softened
8 oz cream cheese, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups mashed, ripe bananas (about 4 medium)
1 cup toasted pecans, chopped
1/2 tsp vanilla

Ingredients for the topping:
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup toasted pecans, chopped
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tbsp butter, melted
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease and flour two 8x4 loaf pans (I did one large, two small)
2. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.
3.  Using an electric mixer, beat butter and cream cheese until creamy.  Gradually add the sugar, mixing until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, mixing until just blended.
4. Gradually add the flour mixture, beating at low speed until blended.  Stir in bananas, vanilla, and pecans.
5.  Divide the batter evenly and spoon into prepared loaf pans.
6.  Combine all topping ingredients in a small bowl.  Sprinkle evenly over the batter in the pans.
7.  Bake for approx. 1 hour, or until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  If necessary, cover the pans loosely with aluminum foil to prevent over-browning.
8. Cool bread in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes.  Remove from pans onto the wire racks to cool completely.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Sweet Treats Saturday: Chocolate Coconut and Almond Scones

In the spirit of St. Patrick's Day, how about some scones?  But these aren't your typical scones - they're stuffed with all kinds of goodness.  They have a little bit of everything... coconut, slivered almonds, chocolate chips... what more could you ask for?  Actually, the flavors are a really nice blend.  They all work so well together and none are overpowering.  Joy's scone recipe really is delicious.  It's not too dry (I find scones often can be) but nice and flaky and perfect to go with coffee or tea. 

Over-flowing with chocolate, almonds and coconut.

Chocolate Coconut Almond Scones

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons raw or granulated sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
1 large egg
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk
1/3 cup shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
1/3 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
buttermilk and sugar for topping before baking
1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  
2. Place shredded coconut and slivered almonds on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for about 8 to 10 minutes.  Keep your eye on the coconut.  It browns quickly.  Remove from the oven when toasted and allow to cool.  
3. Heat oven to 400 degrees F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
4. In a large bowl, whisk together flour sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
5. Toss the cold butter cubes into the flour mixture.  Using your hands or a pasty blender, quickly work in the butter into the flour mixture, breaking it up.  Some butter bits will be the size of small pebbles, and some will be the size of oat flakes.  Set in the fridge for a few minutes while you work on the next steps.
6. Whisk together buttermilk and egg.
7. Remove the flour and butter mixture from the fridge and add coconut, almonds, and chocolate chips.  Whisk together and create a well in the center of the mixture.  Add the buttermilk mixture all at once to the well.  Use a fork to bring the wet and the dry ingredients together.  Mixture will be shaggy.  Lightly flour a work surface and dump the shaggy dough mixture out onto the counter.  Bring together the dough with your hands into a 1 1/2-inch thick disk .  Use a 2 1/2-inch round biscuit cutter to cut out biscuits.  Flour the biscuit cutter if it starts to stick to the dough.  I have scone pans that I don't get to use nearly enough, so I packed mine into the spaces.  I wasn't sure how much they would rise so I spaced them out a bit.
8.  Place scones, about 1 inch apart, on the prepared baking sheets.  Brush with a bit of buttermilk and a few pinches of raw or granulated sugar.  Bake scones for 14-18 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through.  Remove from the oven and serve warm, with jam or clotted cream.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Savory Sunday: Bacon and Cheese Biscuits

Call them scones, call them biscuits... regardless they're so delicious!  My hubby thinks they're reminiscent of my mom's quiche recipe that she makes for special occasions.  Minus the hassle of making quiche.

This recipe is generously modified from the book Home Baked Comfort by Kim Laidlaw.  While I originally wanted to make the original recipe, I realized I didn't have all of the ingredients on hand, so I made do with what I had. I think the variation was great, and this recipe could be modified and customized in so many ways.  But back to the book - I highly recommend it.  It was originally published for Williams-Sonoma stores only but has recently been released for distribution so more stores will now have it... including Amazon.com.

Bacon and Cheese Biscuits
Recipe modified from Home Baked Comfort by Kim Laidlaw
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Makes about 2 dozen biscuits

4 slices of bacon, cooked until lightly crisp, then chopped
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 cup sharp cheddar (I used Dubliner, a white cheddar)
Pinch of salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1/2 cup (1 stick), cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 large egg
3/4 cup half and half or milk (I used a combination of the two)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper or a silpat.

2. In a food processor*, combine the flour, baking powder, cheese, salt and pepper and pulse briefly to mix.  Add the butter and pulse until the mixture looks like coarse meal.
*If you do not have a food processor, use a pastry blender (the handheld gadget sold at most home accessory stores in the kitchen gadget section... a great use of a few dollars, especially if you make things like scones and biscuits often). I have a small food processor, so I went with the pastry blender method.  You might be able to use a couple of forks but it'll be pretty tedious.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and milk.  Combine with the flour mixture (in food processor or a mixing bowl), until the mixture comes together.

4. Mix in the bacon until combined.

5. Using a large ice cream scoop or two spoons, scoop out the dough into two inch rounds.  Space out on the baking sheet.  Press down into the center of the biscuits, just to flatten them out a bit.
Optional: If you have extra cheese (as I did), press a little onto the tops of each biscuit.

6. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until biscuits are golden brown.

Let cool on a cooling rack, and enjoy!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Sweet Treats Saturday: Bailey's Brownies

There comes a time in our lives when we need to make tough decisions.  I'm here to help you with one of those.  Mainly, do you get the large or small bottle of Bailey's.

Think of all the things that you can make with a large bottle of Bailey's! Cupcakes, brownies, cheesecake.  You can use it as creamer in coffee, sip it on its own, or combine with other liquors for a delicious drink.

Now the small bottle. It's awfully cute. But it runs out so fast... Maybe pick one up for decoration.  After you polish it off of course.

Lucky for you, these brownies will stretch the use of your Bailey's.  They only need 1/4 of a cup.

Bailey's Brownies
Recipe slightly modified from How Sweet It Is
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1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
3 oz. bittersweet or other dark chocolate (not chips but an actual bar or baking squares), chopped
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 cup flour
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup Bailey's Irish Cream Liqueur

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease a square baking pan (9x9 or similar).
2. Melt butter and chocolate in a microwave safe bowl.  This should only take about 45 seconds. Do in a couple of increments so as to not burn the chocolate.  Transfer to a mixing bowl and beat for a couple of minutes.  Add in sugar and vanilla and continue to mix.  The mixture will be grainy, but just keep scraping down the bowl.  Mix for 2-3 minutes.
3.  Add the eggs, beating in one at a time.
4. Add in the flour and stir until just combined.  Stir in the Bailey's.  The mixture will be thick.
5. Pour into baking dish and spread until even.  Bake for 30-40 minutes.  A crisp crust will form on top but use a toothpick to ensure the inside is not raw, but not overdone (standard fudgy brownie consistency).

I actually made these twice.  The first time because the original recipe mentioned a 9x13 pan.  While they were tasty, they were too thin for my taste.  The square pan was just the right size (a little over 1/2 an inch).  Because of the crisp top, your first bite starts with a soft crunch and then an ooey, gooey, fudgy center (yes, all three of those things).  The Bailey's is just right - a little bit of sweet and the flavor is definitely still there.  But the alcohol cooks out, right?  Right.

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