Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Burrito Lasagna :: from Cookies and Cups

I love to cook and bake, read cooking blogs and magazines, watch a lot of the cooking competitions, own well over 200 cookbooks and I work in a wonderful retail kitchenware | cooking store. And I'm always looking for great new recipes to try ...

So this morning when I saw Cookies and Cup's Burrito Lasagna recipe, I drooled, made up my grocery list and put together the dish for dinner tonight. It's easy to make, delicious and will feed a small army. I used a pound each of ground beef and ground turkey in ours. It's a thing of beauty in my big Emile Henry lasagna dish.

Shelly at Cookies and Cups specializes in sweets and desserts but, boy howdy, every now and again she thrills me with something dinnerish. This dish was amazing and I highly recommend that you visit her lovely blog and see what's cooking.

Shelly, my family thanks you for the inspiration and full bellies!

Happy cooking!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Peach Kuchen Recipe

Sweets are my favorite thing in the world and I've always loved to bake. It's so satisfying to make something with your own two hands that makes the lucky taster say, "Yuuuuummmmmm..." and roll their eyes in bliss.

I was chatting with a friend about springform pans and remembered a great recipe that I haven't made for a few years. It is so easy to make, looks beautiful and tastes fantastic. Kuchen is the German word for cake and this particular version is a very pie-like pastry. The one special piece of equipment you need is a 9" springform pan, which is a 2-piece pan where the side snaps shut and the bottom is removable. The silver you can see underneath the kuchen in the photo is the bottom of the pan. It's a great dessert to make for company ... if you decide to share!

Peach Kuchen

serves 8

2 cups flour

2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
8 peach halves, canned (29 oz. can, drained) or fresh
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 egg yolks
1 cup heavy whipping cream

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease 9" round springform pan.

Put flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together into mixing bowl. With pastry blender or 2 knives, cut in butter to consistency of cornmeal. Sprinkle mixture into prepared pan and press into place against sides and bottom with knuckles.

Place peaches, cut side down, over dough. Combine brown sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over peach halves. Bake for 15 minutes.

Combine egg yolks and cream in small bowl; pour over peaches and bake for an additional 30 to 35 minutes, or until browned. Cool in pan. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream, if desired.

And in the category of You Can Teach An Old Dog New Tricks, one thing I'd never made before in all my many baking years is soufflé. Not withstanding how utterly amazing it looks all steamy and puffed up right out of the oven, it even sounds intimidating. Slap on your beret and say it with me in your best snooty French accent: "Soooooooflaaaaaay!" 

Well, I took the Soufflé Workshop at Sur La Table recently ~ So Much Fun ~ and, people, I no longer fear the soufflé. 

In fact, the very next evening, I made lemon soufflé with raspberry cream for my hubby of 28+ years and he said to me, "If we weren't already married, I would propose to you right now." Now that's what I'm talking about!

Happy baking!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Happy Little Sewing Project - Dog Under My Desk's Circle Zip Earbud Pouch

If you can have a crush on a sewing project, then I am totally going steady with Dog Under My Desk's Circle Zip Earbud Pouch! This has been my absolute favorite thing to sew recently and I am now covertly watching friends and family members to see who uses earbuds.

First, I made a black & white zebra striped case with red polka dot lining for the granddaughter ..

Because I'm working on a 45-year-old Bernina sewing machine, I've had to make a few adjustments to the instructions. Ashley's had a layer of flannel to pad the case and I really struggled to top stitch around the edge of the case -- obviously. 

I made another one the next day for my youngest daughter. I could not make it all the way around on the top stitching. My machine just doesn't have enough clearance under the foot to go over all of the layers.

And I would suggest that you not try to quickly make one while getting ready for work, eating breakfast, making lunch, putting on makeup, etc., because you know, The Hurrier You Go 

The odds go up that you'll put the bottom on upside down so the lining is on the outside. Ahem, lesson learned.

The next one was made to match a tote bag given to a friend in January 

On this one, I switched from flannel padding to fusible interfacing (Pellon 809 Décor Bond), which I ironed on to the outer fabric. I also tried using my serger to finish the inside seam but didn't like the way it worked enough to do it again.

One trick I've found is to use a plastic lid to trace the 4-1/2" circles for the pattern. Many of the food containers we buy -- pretzels, nuts, candy, peanut butter -- come with a 4-1/2" lid. You can use a small rotary cutter to cut out the pieces around the lid.

However, what works best for me is to double my piece of outer fabric, lay the lid on top and draw around it with a chalk pencil, pin the two layers together, then cut them out with pinking shears just outside the drawn line. Do the same with the lining fabric. 

And again with the fusible interfacing but cut with regular fabric scissors right on the line. This makes the interfacing circles slightly smaller than the fabric circles and helps reduce bulk in the seams.
Iron the interfacing circles to the outer fabric circles before cutting the top piece in half. 

Since the inner seams are pinked, I'm not worried about them fraying and I don't do any top stitching on the outside. I use a wooden turner to really push those seams out and then press them well for a crisp outer edge.

These make the best birthday gifts! The friend I made this one for said she was going to tell her kids this is a coin purse so they'll quit swiping her earbuds (if they can't find them, they can't take them) …

Here's the one I made recently for the granddaughter's friend …

She has a cat named Nana and the kids call me Nana so it was doubly appropriate to make her one with kitty fabric. The lining is black with tiny white polka dots.

You seriously have to make at least one of these cases. Bet you can't make just one. Erin at Dog Under My Desk rocked it with this tutorial but if that wasn't enough to bring on adoration, said Dogs under her desk are 

So many projects, never enough time ...

Friday, June 27, 2014

My Most Used Cookbooks

While reading all the lovely blogs I enjoy, I saw that Kristan of Confessions of a Cookbook Queen was asking what our four favorite cookbooks are after listing her own. If you haven't seen her hilarious, truthful, full of recipe goodness blog, you are so missing out. 

Of the four she listed, I've only cooked from one: The Pioneer Woman Cooks, which is an amazing book of fantastic photography, great stories about ranch life and, of course, delicious recipes. Although we didn't get to meet her, my youngest daughter and I went to her book signing at Changing Hands Bookstore a few years ago. We stayed over 5 hours and didn't even get close to her but she signed our books and left them for pick up.

My favorite PW recipe is Comfort Meatballs ... and they're going on my To Make List ... yum!
It's just plain impossible to choose my four "favorite" cookbooks. I have over 200 - on a bookshelf in the garage and on the bottom shelf of my kitchen baker's rack. Whatever I'm cooking from most frequently of late is rotated through to my baker's rack. While I can't choose absolute favorites, I figured the books with the most bookmarks/sticky notes were the winners today …

Pictured from top to bottom, they are:

Happy Holidays from the Diva of Do-Ahead by Diane Phillips ~ Exactly what it says, recipes that can, all or in part, be prepared ahead of the meal so you can enjoy time with your family and friends. Love the Roasted Red Smashed Potatoes with Olive Oil and Rosemary and all the compound butters.

The Mac + Cheese Cookbook by Allison Arevalo + Erin Wade ~ One of the newer books on my shelf, this one features a basic béchamel sauce that is the start for 50 mac and cheese recipes from the Homeroom restaurant in Oakland, California. The Spicy Mac recipe is ridiculously good!

The Cake Doctor by Anne Byrne ~ Over 150 dessert recipes that begin with a mix. So many great recipes, but I've made the Peanut Butter Frosting to ice chocolate cake many times.

The White House Cook Book by Hugo Zieman (Steward of the White House) and Mrs. F. L. Gillette ~ Published in 1907, I may never make a single recipe from this book but for sheer entertainment value, it can't be beat. Gifted to me by my baby sister, my copy is full of handwritten notes from a previous owner on yellowed pages. This one may be hard to find, but would be well worth the search.

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Sewing Geisha Girl Potholders

Having a lovely domestic kind of day ... reading cookbooks, making pesto butter to melt over barbecued steaks tonight, enjoying grilled cheese sandwiches with the granddaughter for lunch along with the latest episode of Master Chef, and finishing up the binding on a couple of cute potholders for a friend at work.

A few years ago, I picked up the Summer 2012 issue of Quilts and More magazine and just had to make the Classic Carryall Tote Bag featured on the cover. This bag provided a lot of firsts for me including half square triangles, chain stitching, using cotton webbing in handles, and grommets. Boy, did grommets scare the daylights out of me. Cut a hole -- even worse, 4 holes -- in this beautiful bag I just painstakingly stitched together? But they work and they're amazing.

I had picked up a small fat quarter bundle of Asian inspired fabrics at Joann's and used them for this bag, adding a few additional fat quarters and some gorgeous blue batik for the lining. Here's the bag 

So I've been carrying this tote to work -- loaded with my lunch, water bottles (love the big pockets inside), the occasional real paper book -- and one of my sweet co-workers raved about how cute it is and how much she loved the fabrics. I told her if I had any left, I'd make her a potholder. I was happy to find that I had enough to make two.

I started by fussy-cutting two of the remaining Geisha Girls out of my tiny piece of leftover fabric to use as the center. I went with a 3" square and laid out the other fabrics to see what looked good.

I cut strips 1-1/2" wide and started building out from the center square.

Once they were pieced, I ironed lightweight fusible interfacing to the backs of each. Then made a quilt sandwich with 3 layers of flannel inside and quilted around the edge of each square. I'm sure glad I was able to buy a walking foot for my wonderful old 1969 Bernina. She's a workhorse and I love her!

Trimmed the potholders to a nice even square …

Decided to make a hang tab with a small strip of fabric. Stitched them on the top corner and snipped off the extra fabric …

Since I had yardage of the batik fabric, I used it for the back and the binding, cutting the binding strips 2-1/4" wide.

Hand-stitched the binding on the backs of each one …

Ready. To. Use.  Thick, sturdy and completely cute, the finished size is 10-1/2" square. Love 'em!

Wrapped in my favorite tulle ribbon for giving with a sweet little layered tag …

So many projects, never enough time ...

Friday, June 20, 2014

Pincushions as Wall Art

Does anyone out there enjoy ironing? Seriously, if ironing is your happy place, I'm a little concerned. I have to admit that ironing is one of those chores that I put off for as long as possible, then once I've been steaming and pressing away for about 20 minutes, all of a sudden I'm in the zone. I listen to the TV -- Rizzoli & Isles, Law and Order SVU, Grey's Anatomy -- and breathe in the steam and lovely fragrance of spray starch. First you couldn't pay me to iron ... next thing you know, I'm ironing everything in the house.

This go round, I started with table runners, a couple of blouses, fabric squares to embroider on and aprons that I wear at work. I do love my Black & Decker iron!

I was able to give my daughter her happy little house pincushion over the weekend. She said she'd like to hang it in her workspace so I stitched a loop of ribbon onto the back. Then I decided I wanted to be able to hang mine as well. I like that I can enjoy it as artwork on the wall but take it down and use it as a pincushion if I need it. She sent me a photo of her pincushion hanging at work. And here's a picture of mine hanging in my craft studio over the thread rack.

Once I had some little fabric squares ironed, I was ready to trace the design for the Garden Delight Needle Book from Patchwork Loves Embroidery. I used painter's tape to hang the printout on the back door glass, taped the fabric square to that, then traced away with a water soluble pen.

I'm a big fan of jewel tones and rich colors and this little piece of fabric in my stash is just begging to be made into a snazzy little needle book. The print has a black background featuring flowers, vines and leaves in burgundy, pink, green and metallic gold. Matched some embroidery floss to it for the design.

I really enjoy hand-embroidering in the evenings while watching TV with hubby. Peaceful!

So many projects, never enough time ...

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Zucchini Muffins

I've always been a fan of zucchini bread, but sometimes muffins are just easier -- to share with co-workers, to eat on the go, even to freeze for another day. This is my favorite, easy, healthier recipe (using applesauce rather than oil) ...

Zucchini Muffins

(Makes 24)

3 eggs, well beaten
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 cups sugar
3 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
3 tsp. vanilla
3 cups flour
2 cups raw grated zucchini
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients in order as listed. I use my KitchenAid stand mixer with the paddle attachment.

Grease and flour muffin pans or use cupcake papers. Fill about 3/4 full. Bake at 350 degrees for 17 to 20 minutes.

Happy baking!