27 November 2013

A Tale of Two Foxes

Way back in August before this crazy over-full-time teaching semester started, I made this little blue fox potholder for my mom. She loves foxes and she loved the potholder... TOO MUCH! She refused to use it because it was just too cute. Ugh.
I made the fox blue because I'd never seen a blue fox before and I wanted to see one.

So I decided to make her a slightly larger wall hanging version so that she could actually take the potholder to her church baking group and show it off like she wanted. Progress was made and I documented over here.

Finally it was ready to be quilted. Since it is for my mom and I love her, I added a secret little heart. Man, my FMQ needs work.

But on the up-side, my FMQ is definitely improving. Here is the quilting on the newly made fox's head.

And here is the quilting on her predecessor [we decided the foxes were both females]. See how much I have improved!

Now here they both are together in a photo so bright you can hardly even see the quilting.

And here they both are in a photo where the quilting is overwhelmingly obvious. Apparently I am no good at finding a happy medium. Anyways, I put two loops on the newer version so it can be easily hung on the wall and displayed. It hasn't made it that far though because she is taking it everywhere with her and showing it off. Aww!

Not Quite White Vanilla Cupcakes & Cranberry Upside Down Cake

Let's say you want to make some vanilla cupcakes. Or maybe you want to try a sort of non-traditional recipe for the holidays... Well do I have the answer for you! I am loving the nearly perfected recipe for cupcakes I came up with and especially love how well they lend themselves to cranberry upside down cake. Here are the ways to make both with crazy photo-heavy instructions. Have no fear! There are easy to follow instructions at the end. :)

For the cupcakes you are going to need all this good stuff!

If you are going all the way to cranberry upside down cake, you will also need this stuff.

But let's begin with the cupcakes! I'm making a double batch in the photos because I'm going to two different Thanksgiving celebrations. The recipe at the end gives measurements for a single batch, but feel free to make two! Start with eggs.

Add in some salt.

And some baking powder because we want them to be fluffy!

Vanilla cupcakes would be worthless without vanilla, so don't forget to add some of that!

Now my secret weapon in these cupcakes is flax powder. You can absolutely omit this because it adds nothing flavor-wise. All this adds is fiber and possibly a little texture. So add it, or don't. It's your call!

But I always add it!

Then add some milk or soy milk. Whatever you have on hand.

How about some brown sugar?

Oh yes!

Then we need some flour.

And an electric or stand mixer to do the dirty work. I mean c'mon, it's the holidays! No one has time to sit around and mix batter by hand!

If you are making the cranberry upside down cake, you are also going to want to add a little bit of cinnamon and allspice. Heck, you could add them even if you aren't, but please add them if you are!

And finally.... Butter! I'm channeling Paula Deen with this recipe. "Hey y'all! Don't forget to add the butter before you mix it all up!"

If you are just making cupcakes, you would go ahead and spoon that batter into cups and bake them up. You would end up with something that looks like this.
My new go-to cupcake

But if you are shooting for the stars and making cranberry upside down cake, you are not done yet, so hang in there! (Good news: You are nearly done!)

Start with half a stick of butter.

Rub that sucker all over the bottom and sides of your pan.

After the sides are greasy, leave the rest in blobs on the bottom of the pan. This is going to be what cooks the cranberries, so don't be stingy.

Next we need some flavoring for our cranberries. I start with brown sugar, but you could totally use regular sugar. Either way we need to add some cinnamon and allspice. Gosh, allspice sounds so pretentious: "I'm every spice to everyone!" *sigh* ...Whisk it all up.

And sprinkle it over the butter lumps in the bottom of the pan.

Next you add your cranberries. You can use a little more than the recipe calls for, or less, depending on how cranberry-y you want the cake to be.

Then spoon in the luxurious and thick batter!

Spread it out to make it relatively even and bake it!

Once a toothpick comes out clean you can take it out of the oven. It might look something like this.
Cranberry upside down cake

Let it cool for about 30 minutes before you flip it out of the pan! You have to let it cool first so your cranberry ooze has time to absorb into the cake.
Cranberry upside down cake

Not Quite White Vanilla Cupcakes
makes 12 cupcakes or one cranberry upside down cake

½ cup milk (or vanilla soy milk)
1 tsp vanilla
1.5 cups flour
1 cup brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
3/8 tsp salt
1 stick butter, room temp & cubed
2 eggs
2 tsp flax meal

Preheat oven to 350.
Mix eggs, salt, baking powder, vanilla, flax meal, milk, and brown sugar.
Then add flour.
Then add butter and cream the mixture with hand mixer.
Add to prepared cupcake cups.
Bake 19-23 minutes until toothpick comes out clean.

Cranberry Upside Down Cake
·      4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
·      1/2 cup sugar
·      1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
·      1/4 teaspoon allspice
·      2 cups fresh cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees with rack in center. Rub the bottom and sides of an 8-inch round cake pan (or 9” square) with 2 tablespoons butter, leaving remainder on bottom in chunks.
In a small bowl, whisk together: sugar with the cinnamon and allspice.
Sprinkle mixture evenly over butter chunks in pan; arrange cranberries in a single layer on top.
Prepare a batch of not-quite-white vanilla cupcakes. Add dash of allspice and cinnamon to cake batter.
Spoon batter over cranberries in pan, and smooth top.
Place pan on a baking sheet; bake cake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes.
Let cool on a wire rack for 20-30 minutes. Run a knife around edge of cake; invert onto a rimmed platter.

24 November 2013

Brunch & Lunch: Three Recipes

Since I haven't been sewing too much, I am going to switch to cooking for a while and share three quick recipes: Creamy scrambled eggs, strawberry basil scones, and brown butter balsamic pasta sauce. These are not going to be full photo tutorials. These recipes all just seem too easy for that.

Let's begin with brunch, shall we? Mimosas at the ready! The brunch menu for today was basil strawberry scones and insanely creamy scrambled eggs. It was delicious as well as beautiful! Since I have to give credit where credit is due, I made the scones and my boyfriend made the eggs.

First off we have the egg recipe. This is modified from a cookbook I found at a resale bookstore.

Super Creamy Scrambled Eggs
  • 1/2 Tbsp butter and then another 1/2 Tbsp so 1 Tbsp total flour
  • 1/2 Tbsp. flour
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • pepper
To make them you melt 1/2 Tbsp. butter in a saucepan. Add flour and mix, then cook until bubbly. Remove from heat and let it cook for a bit. Add in sour cream. Cook until bubbly and smooth. 

After you do this (or while you do this depending on any extra limbs you may have) beat eggs with salt and pepper in a bowl. I use a fork. Melt the other 1/2 Tbsp. butter in a different pan. Add the egg mixture and scramble them up! When you are done scrambling, fold in the sour cream mixture and serve! I topped mine with capers and more sour cream because I was trying to finish the container off before it went bad. :)

Now we should focus on the strawberry basil scones! Yuuuum! Just look at them!

Strawberry Basil Scones
  • 2.75 cups of flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1 cup strawberries, chopped
  • 3 Tbsp cut up basil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup half and half
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Mix up all of your dry ingredients. Add cubed butter and chop with a pastry cutter. You aren't going for completely blended, just crumby texture. Add in strawberries and basil. 

In another bowl, mix eggs and half and half. Add this to the other mixture and mix. You can add a little more flour if it gets too sticky. My strawberries were seeping moisture and made the dough sticky, so about 1/4 cup more flour was necessary. 

Roll into 12 balls, cover with a light dusting of sugar and bake on parchment paper lined pan for 14-16 minutes or until they turn golden brown. 

FYI: the bottoms of mine were a little dark, so you could try an air bake pan or something similar to prevent this.

Then we come to lunch which was really more of a linner type meal, but whatever. This is for Brown Butter Balsamic Pasta Sauce. Yum!

Brown Butter & Balsamic Pasta 
  • Package of pasta or ravioli cooked to your liking
  • 6 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • optional parmesan for topping
Start off by melting the butter in a pan. Stir this over medium-ish heat until it bubbles. Keep stirring it until it starts turning golden brown and the foam starts to go away. Mix in the flour. Remove from heat and cool for a few minutes. Add in the vinegar, salt, and pepper. Add to your pasta, toss, and enjoy! You can also top with some parmesan if you are into that sort of thing. :)

19 November 2013

A Skirt!

With the semester quickly drawing to a close, I have been ridiculously busy. It is terrifying how soon it will be over. After today I only have to teach 4 days until Thanksgiving break. After Thanksgiving, there are only 4 days of teaching all 10 classes, followed by 2 days with only 6 classes, and then proctoring 3 exams the next week. Wow! I have so much grading in my future.

I basted about 30 more 3" half hexies, but forgot to take a picture of them, so you just have to trust me about them!

I also did some recipe testing. My contributions for Thanksgiving dinner will be: Sundried tomato pesto risotto, truffle mac & cheese, cranberry sauce, and a new recipe for me: Cranberry upside down cake. I sampled one at Trader Joe's and decided I had to buy it! That led to me having to make it! I made a trial batch, and the cake was just too dense, so I decided to my standard cupcake recipe with a few modifications. Mmm, they look pretty and taste better than plain old vanilla cupcakes. I will be posting a recipe for these soon.

I also worked on a quiche recipe. This is a hash brown crust quiche filled with goat cheese brie, asparagus, spinach, and broccoli!

Oh my gosh, I can't decide if it looks better all together or cut into slices!

Somehow I managed to also knock out a skirt. Okay, it is an easy pattern, so it makes sense. I followed this little kid skirt pattern, but just made it to my size.

Here is a close-up shot of the fabric and lace trim at the bottom. I used a pinstriped linen fabric, so I had to add in French seams to avoid ridiculous amounts of fray. Sadly the trim was more expensive than the linen.
Skirt! Detail.

And here is an action shot of me in the skirt playing tag with my chickens (I am chasing Hyacinth and Rose, while Violet is chasing me!). This might end up being what I wear for Thanksgiving. :)
Skirt! Action shot!

12 November 2013

Cook, Sew, Rock, Cook, Cook

Lately it feels like all I do it teach and cook (damn my full-time teaching load this semester!). My boyfriend and I are on a mission to cook our way through the hundreds of recipes we have bookmarked over time in order to eliminate the sucky ones and add those that are delicious to our recipe binder.

First off, I am on a quest for the perfect orange-cranberry scone recipe. I have been through two, and so far I'm not perfectly happy with either, but the second recipe sure came out pretty. 
Orange cranberry scones!

We also made some ridiculously tasty New York strip steak tacos topped with mango salsa, guacamole, sour cream, and amazingly limey red cabbage cole slaw.
Steak tacos with a rainbow of toppings!

Oh yeah! Back to sewing! A few more 3" half hexies were basted. I'm out of paper pieces, so until my fresh supply comes in, I have these 5 pinwheels to assemble.

I also made a ton of broccoli cheese soup, since it is cooling down outside. Here are the leftovers frozen and ready to eat later. Remember, I live in South Texas, so cooling down for us is 70 degree weather.
Frozen broccoli cheese soup

And what would broccoli cheese soup be without homemade bread bowls, amiright?!
Bread bowls!

Last weekend we went to the Houston Gem and Mineral Show. There was a certain specimin I had been kicking myself for not buying at the San Antonio Gem & Mineral Show months ago. I was a nervous wreck wondering if the same vendor would be there and if he would still have it. Turns out, he was and he did! Here is my gorgeous slice of Pietersite (it is similar to Tiger Eye, but comes in blue, orange, and red). The picture doesn't do it justice because the colors are so shiny and light-catching.

I also scored a wonderful deal on half of a fossilized jaw from a Pleistocene era (27,000+ years old) cave bear. It is in such great condition, and I could not be more excited! It is about one foot in length.

Before going to the rock show, I knew a bigger purse was needed. Years ago I found the perfect large purse at a thrift store, but at this point it is falling apart. I set out to recreate it. Here is the result of my pattern drafting.

Here is a close-up of the fabric selection.

One of the best things about this purse (I'm planning on writing up and releasing a tutorial) is that the strap is just knotted closed so it can be shortened to shoulder length, or lengthened to be a cross-body strap.

Ooookay, just a tiny bit more food before I let you go! I made some more roasted veggies since I have a few really long work days coming up and desperately need lunches and second lunches.

The last of the cooking is a big batch of tabouleh salad. My dad taught me to add ground meat to tabouleh so it feels more like a complete meal. The local butcher was out of ground lamb, so I went with ground veal. It was a tasty substitution. 

Wow! So much cooking! I really need to get back to sewing.