Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Ode to Winter Squash

Winter squash, how many ways do I love thee? Last night it was in lasagna. Oh, so delicious.

I just threw a layer of mashed up butternut squash in the middle of my lasagna and baked as usual. Lasagna is such a wonderful winter meal that can be done so many ways.

And I'm always making up a batch of 'Pumpkin' Bread, made with basically any orange flesh squash I have on hand. I played around with the recipe and this one is my family's favorite. The only spice used is powdered ginger, which brings out the squash nicely instead of covering it up.

Sally's Winter Squash Bread

2 c squash purée
1 c granulated sugar
1 c brown sugar
4 eggs
2/3 c oil
2/3 c water
1 t salt
2 t baking soda
2 t powdered ginger
3 c white whole wheat flour (or any flour of your choice)

Mix squash and sugars together in a large bowl. Mix in eggs, one at a time. Stir in oil, water, salt, baking soda and ginger until combined well. Mix in flour just until combined. Bake at 350 in greased bread or muffin pans. Bread takes about 45 min and muffins range from 15-20 min. Bread will also brown much more on top than muffins will. Enjoy!

I don't think I will have enough squash left in my freezer to last through the summer. That's a funny thought, freezing winter vegetables to last you until they are in season again! Winter is almost over, thank goodness, but I sure will miss eating winter squash.

Three Bag Weekend

I went c-razy this last weekend and sewed three Charming Handbags from Bend-the-Rules Sewing by Amy Karol from Angry Chicken. Amy is a local where I live, so it's fun doing projects from her book with the thought that I could possibly run into her around town. Well, one can only hope.

It definitely is a charming bag. I like the design of it, not your typical shape and it is a quick sew. I started making one for a friend using fabric that I found at the Goodwill bins. It was the score of the lot, at least a yard of fabric and a very nice pattern. As I was sewing the final details, Violet came in to see my progress and declared "I want you to sew me a bag, momma!".

Violet's bag with a purple ribbon. She now totes her 'babies' and animals around in it.

I set out to sew myself a bag, and came out with this pink polka dot one. I added a pocket and a magnetic snap. But it just wasn't quite right. It didn't look good with the ribbon across, I tried an appliqué. Nothing looked right. I carried it around and decided it is a much better fit for a young girl and sent it to my niece for her birthday.

Now the weekend is over, and I still haven't made a bag for myself and I'm on to the next project. We'll see if I ever get a bag of my own.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Channeling Martha Stewart

Upon becoming a member to the Martha Stewart website, I was over come with crafty inspiration and signed up for the Easter Workshop 2008. I'm not one to decorate for every holiday that comes around. I can barely keep my house clean, let alone keep on top of where to put up decorations. Some times I wonder if I'm letting my kids down by not getting into the holidays more, so I'm going to give this a try.

There are 3 projects for this week. Egg Themed Stationary, looks cute and I'm pretty sure I can do that. Vellum Bunny Garland, I'm not sure I'll get to that one. Pom-Pom Chicks and Basket, those chicks are cute and the kids would love them.

I'll post my creations as I go along. Then we can compare them to Martha's!

I Heart Cupcakes

I was browsing the Martha Stewart site looking for this chocolate cupcake recipe so I could make some for my sister's birthday. I have made these before and think they are the perfect chocolate cupcake; rich, moist, dense, delicious. Many of the comments mentioned there was too much cocoa and thought they were inedible. I was compelled to leave a comment about how much I liked this recipe. To do so on Martha's site you have to sign up and I was so bent on leaving my comment, I ended up becoming a memeber and signing up for a bunch of emails and newsletters. I know, I'm a sucker.

The recipe calls for sourcream which produces a very dense batter. Using a cookie scoop to fill the pan made the process a lot easier and also helped to fill each cup evenly. The cupcakes baked flat, lending a nice surface for frosting. As they cooled, they shrunk up and the liners started falling off. I hadn't used liners for the mini cupcakes, so I just removed them all and called it good.

The white frosting accompanying this recipe is very basic; butter, powdered sugar, milk. I considered putting in some vanilla, but decided to try it as it was written. I really like how it looks stark white against the dark chocolate brown, and vanilla would have produced a cream color.

My kids usually just go for the frosting and leave the bare cupcake behind, but there was nothing left this time. These cupcakes are so good, I ended up making them a couple of days later to bring to our good friend Lane's birthday celebration. This time, I was short on sour cream and ended up using half butter milk. They had the same flavor, just a touch lighter in texture, and didn't shrink up as much when cooling, bonus!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Make Your Own Pizza Night

A while back, our friends had us over for dinner where we each got to make our own pizza. What a great idea! We have adopted the tradition and do it quite often. Especially since we use this wonderful white whole wheat pizza dough recipe from 101 Cookbooks. This recipe was adapted from Peter Reinhart's Napoletana Pizza Dough recipe. The white whole wheat works wonderfully in pizza dough. I'm not a big fan of regular whole wheat used in pizza dough, it stands out too much.

It's really quite fun. The kids usually use the same toppings every time, but I love trying something new. For one that turned out especially delicous, I prebaked the crust for 5 minutes and then spread the entire crust with a thin layer of chevre. Then I put on some pizza sauce, kalamata olives and roasted redbell peppers.

The recipe makes enough dough for my family to have pizza twice in one week. Next time I think I will use half the dough and make bread sticks for another meal to see how that turns out.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A Present for Lane

I have been wanting to get some practice sewing dolls. This guy would actually be called a softie, or a plushie. He's a green monster with long limbs. I like the dolls and things that I have seen with elbows and knees which look to me like a line sewn across the limb. I stuffed the arms and legs and sat down in front of my sewing machine. As I was trying to figure out how I was going to get this puffy limb under the foot of the machine, I realized that it might have been easier to stuff the end, sew across, and then finish stuffing the rest. I managed by pinching down where I wanted to sew and then shaking the heck out of the limb until it would fit. I'm not sure how it's supposed to be done. I mean, that could be the correct method. I can just imagine the directions "shake arm vigorously until desired thickness".

I think he turned out pretty cute though. If he were mine, I would name him Clyde. But we will have to see what Lane names him.

Which brings me to something that I've thought about a lot, giving a name to a creature I've made for someone else. It's very common, the creators name the object they have created, even giving it an elaborate character bio. This may help with endearing someone to buy it. It could also be fun. But I often wonder if it takes away from a child's experience of being able to fantsize and create their own name and elaborate story. Or it could be the start of the story that they can expand. I usually leave the creatures unnamed. In the case of my own children, almost everything ends up being named after themselves. So narcissistic!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Great Brownie Search recipe #1

I love brownies, and I'm on a mission to find the best recipes out there. I must clarify that I'm actually looking for the best recipes using cocoa powder. I don't have the patience at this point to be melting chocolate when you can use cocoa powder and get great results. Some would even argue that cocoa powder makes a better brownie because using butter to replace the lack of cocoa butter from the chocolate mixed with the granulated sugar creates a soft center and a crusty top.

There are a lot of recipes boasting 'best' or even 'best ever'. Today I am trying King Arther's The Best Fudge Brownies Ever recipe that is featured on the back of their unbleached flour bag. I looked on the recipe page and they have quite a few listing for brownies, but this one is not in their data base. So you must go out and purchase a bag of flour to get the recipe.

On with the review. I have the pan in the oven as I'm writting, at 350 for 28-30 minutes. As far as time and temp go, the temp is standard, but I'm a little skeptical that these will actually be done in 28-30 minutes. In my experience, brownies have usually taken more time than called for and this time frame is on the short side at that.

not everybody likes nuts

This recipe calls for a 9"x13" pan, where most brownies recipes call for a 8"x8". Bigger yeild, that's good. When comparing the ingredients, the amounts of butter, eggs and cocoa powder all seemed to be comparable to other recipes, if not a little more. But the amount of flour called for was a little higher than what I'm familiar with. So the question will be if the ratio of butter, sugar, egg, cocoa to flour makes for a delicious fudgy texture, or as the recipe boasts, the best fudge brownies ever. Or if they will end up being too cakey.

After all was said and done, the brownies ended up taking about 37 minutes, not too bad. Brownies are best if you let them cool a bit, this is always hard for me because I'm usually ready to eat them right out of the oven. I'm taking these to share with friends though, so they will have ample time to cool and set which will make for easy cutting.

These brownies had a thin crust on the top, but nothing very crunchy. I'm assuming this has to do with the step in the recipe where it has you cook the melted butter and sugar a touch more after stirring them together which says will yeild a shiny top crust. The texture was chewy, not cakey, but not fudgy. It was moist, not too sweet, but also not rich enough for my taste. All in all, a good brownie, but I'd say not the best fudge brownie ever. I really like a rich fudgy brownie, one that packs a large punch where you can't eat more than one or two or else it's an overload of chocolatey richness. This brownie was a little too easy to eat, I found that I wasn't satisfied eating just one or two and had to stop myself at three and four! So, it was tasty, but my search is still on.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Good Find at 'The Bins'

I got to go to 'The Bins' on Sunday. I haven't been for years, so this was a treat. I was on a hunt for wool sweaters for felted projects and I found 6. Two of them didn't felt, even though the wool content was 100%, 4 out of 6 is worth the trouble though. They are roughly $6 a peice at the regular Goodwill stores and I paid $1.49 lb.

I also found this great 80's craft book. It has a lot of dolls to sew that I can get ideas and patterns from. They are quite dated and rather funny. Here's the cover,

What a fancy satin bear!

Check out these enormous dolls!

I really like this mobile made out of craft sticks and clothes pins.

And we are totally making this desk/seesaw!

Such great colors in this doll house.

And in the back are these great 'fantasy play lands' where they use super hero figures.

And this elaborate 'space station' using Star Wars figures.

There are many many more great pix I could post, but that would make it quite long. I have this feeling of familiarity when I look at this book and must remember to ask my mom if she had it. Wren has already told me which toys he wants me to make for him, which means basically all of them! I will have to post the pictures from the book and my end result when I get around to making some.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Meet the Girls

We decided to get chickens when we bought our house last year. They are quite fun and now they are laying eggs!

Say 'hello' to (from the bottom up) Fast Forward Ruby, Red Hot Mama, and Rosie Schmosie.

This is Red Hot Mama coming up to see if what I have in my hand is food. She is quite the nosy one and is always the one who pecks at the kids and makes them cry! Ouch.

And here is a nice shot of Fast Forward Ruby. I know, you are trying to figure out that name. You see, originally we had 3 Rhode Island Reds and one was name Ruby Vroom. Well, Ruby turned out to be a rooster and we had to replace him with this nice golden colored Buff Orpington. I was pushing for 'Honey' or 'Sunshine', but Wren just couldn't let go of Ruby and deemed her 'Fast Forward Ruby'. I'm sure there is some sort of logic in that name, I'm still trying to get it.

And here are the eggs. We get 2-3 a day. I'm having a hard time getting a good shot of them, sorry this is fuzzy!

I like the oblong shaped one.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Where I make dolls

I saw these dolls at Wee Wonderfuls and had to make them. They are part of a Make-a-long Story and are named Olive and Archie. Those are cute names, especially Olive, but my kids name everything after themselves. I was going to make Wren's with brown hair, but he insisted on 'yellow'. I think he identifies himself as being a blonde. Wren picked the 'fire shirt' and Violet chose the sun pattern from Kaffe Fassett.

They were placed here by the kids. Open cupboard? Nice place to put these dolls. Maybe they are picking out something they want to bake?

These were so much fun to make. It was my first try, I love it. Now I want to sew everything! Toys, clothes, pillows, the list goes on. Where am I going to find the time?

Latest Obsession

We have been watching Daft Punk on YouTube over and over. The top two have been Around the World, and Daft Hands - Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger. Then we end up watching all the other related videos until I just can't stand it anymore! But I love that Wren is digging Daft Punk! They are one of my top music picks and I can't listen with out moving in some way. I don't have a picture for this post, but watching those videos should be visually entertaining.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

I can't stop!

I made sock and glove monsters with the ladies at Family Stories for a craft day, and I can't stop! I made the pink one and then Wren told me he too needed a worm and that it should be green and long and have big eyes.

Which way is right side up?

Then I needed to make this one. "Is it for me?" asks Wren. No, this one is for me! They don't get to claim all of them. I will hug it and squeeze it and call it George.

And here is Violet 'helping' me. I like how she needed to try on the materials while working with them. She is intently cutting up a piece of glove. I got upset when I realized all the damage she was doing and had to remind myself that they are replaceable, and that she was thoroughly enjoying herself.

I call this 'Body Parts'.

I even made a special trip to Target to get more gloves, but all they have left are mittens. I guess these are a seasonal project. So now I am inspired to actually make something from my Stupid Sock Creatures book that I was given so long ago.