Friday, November 29, 2013

Foodie Friday: Easy Chocolate Torte

I need to start off by saying that I'm kind of phoning this post in and as a result there are no pictures. My apologies. I've been attempting to recover from some things for the last couple of weeks and instead of cooking, baking and taking detailed shots of the finished product, I've instead been applying vapor rub like a boss and eating organic spaghetti O's out of a can. Yeah. Paints a purty picture doesn't it? 

Anyway, here is an extremely easy and delicious recipe that my mom used to make for us. If you want to get fancy you can of course make the batter and whipped cream from scratch BUT then again you could just knock this cake out with minimal effort using mixes and look like a hero.

Easy Chocolate Torte

*Note: the cake mix requires additional ingredients that aren't listed below.

1 chocolate cake mix
2 packages (4 oz each) Baker's semi-sweet chocolate bars
3/4 c. unsalted butter
1/2 c. chopped, toasted almonds (optional but they add a nice crunch)
1 8 oz cool whip topping

Bake the cake mix in two 9-inch rounds. Once cooled, split each round in half. Melt 1 3/4 worth of the chocolate bars, butter and nuts (if using). Spread 1/2 of melted chocolate mixture on first layer. Place second cake on top and spread 1/2 cool whip topping. Alternate with remaining layers, ending with cool whip. Grate remaining chocolate bar and sprinkle on top with a few nuts (if using). You could even add fresh mint, strawberries, raspberries, cinnamon, etc. if you want to add a little extra flair. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Crazy Quilts and an Interesting Way to Fill a Large Wall

I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm terrified of quilting.  All those little pieces and the precision that is required would make me lose my mind. I do love crazy quilts though and appreciate the effort and diligence that goes into making one. This particular style makes me swoon and think of my grandma who had an especially beautiful one that resided in her living room all during my childhood.  

A couple of weeks ago I was in downtown San Antonio for a race and had the opportunity to visit the Riverwalk Vista Inn. It's an historic hotel right off the river, near the Alamo and within walking distance to a lot of other notable SA experiences. When I was inside the building I had the fun of wandering the hallways to look at the antique quilts that lined the walls. They had an impressive collection and I thought I'd share a few pictures as inspiration for any aspiring quilters out there (myself included)! 

Check out the website for more info on the Inn. If you're ever in SA, it's worth a stay.

The amount of hand stitching is extraordinary.

Look at all this blanket stitching and unique edging! 

Now onto the other very cool wall idea...

If you look rrreeeeaaallllyyy closely, you'll notice that these are all vintage matchbooks.

You can't tell by the picture, but each frame was quite large and housed hundreds of matchbooks. The frames were hung in a series of three and made an interesting compliment to the quilts that were on the walls nearby.

I love this idea so much in fact that I'm going to start collecting matchbooks from wherever I go to make a smaller scale version of this. It will probably take me 12.5 years to collect enough but that's half the fun!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Closet Flashback: My Childhood Apron

This week's flashback is another blast from the past. Back when we were wee little things (I think even before Rachel was born) Mom made my brother and I matching denim aprons. Each pocket has a red and white polkadot applique on it. Isn't it cute? Flash forward 30 years or so and I would say that Mom's handiwork has stood the test of time. Now my youngest wears my apron when he helps me cook. I have no explanation for this kid, except he's a little crazy. Whenever my kids give me a look like this, I can't help but remember the line from Shrek when they were trying to sell Pinocchio: "Five shillings for the possessed toy!"  :)

P.S. Belinda, this may explain our obsession with aprons?! We started early!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Foodie Friday: Pipian Verde and a Little Chayote Tutorial!

I have a good friend whose husband is from Mexico. This works out quite nicely because I happen to LOVE Mexican food. Oh, and my friend is pretty awesome too! :) Last time we went for dinner, she taught me how to make carnitas, which were delicious even if I had a slight complex about preparing Mexican food for a Mexican. But I digress. My favorite recipe she has made is for a mole (which is not a 'traditional' mole but they call it a mole and I'm going with it) served over roasted chicken or steamed vegetables. Here is the recipe, which apparently comes from a Rick Bayless cookbook, via Kitchen Addiction. The recipe is as follows:

Pepian Verde

1 1/2 c. pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1 medium onion, chopped
2-3 serranos, stemmed (I have used poblanos also)
3 cloves garlic
15 large sprigs cilantro (or a handful)
4 Romaine leaves, torn up a bit
2 large radish leaves, torn (I haven't used these)
4 c. chicken stock (homemade is best)
olive oil
Kosher salt

In a skillet over medium heat, saute pepitas with a bit of salt in about 2 TBS. olive oil, stirring frequently. You want to toast them without burning them. This should take about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly. In a blender, add onion, chiles, garlic, cilantro, romaine, radish leaves and 1 1/2 C. chicken broth. Blend until smooth. Add all but 1 TBS. pepitas and blend til smooth. Add another 1/2 C. stock if necessary. Heat 2 TBS. olive oil in a large skillet and add puree all at once. Cook and stir till thickened, then add remaining chicken broth and reduce to a simmer for about 20 minutes. Adjust seasonings as necessary. Top with reserved pepitas.

This sauce is very good served over rice and roasted, shredded chicken or steamed chayote. Chayo-what? Well, I'm glad you asked. This is what it looks like:

They look ridiculous, don't they? The one on the left just needs some googly eyes and it would look like an old man without his dentures in. Again, I digress. This curious vegetable is similar to zucchini, but the texture is a more firm. First, peel them with a vegetable peeler. I will say here that they made my skin do very weird things. Like get all tight and crackly, but don't let that stop you! The second time I made this I used gloves.

Don't worry about peeling the crease. Its pretty much impossible, but the skin isn't really tough so you shouldn't notice a few bits here and there. Next, cut the chayote in half. The seed is fairly soft so the knife should go through it. 

Use a knife or the end of a vegetable peeler to get the seed halves out.

Cut into cubes and steam til tender. Salt if desired.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Framing on a Budget: Painting and 'Aging'

About a month a while ago, I wrote a post about framing on a budget. You may remember the lovely thrift store frame I found and what it looked like in its original glory:

You all know I couldn't leave it that way, didn't you?! I decided to paint it with a pretty turquoise blue I got in a sample size at Lowe's. Technically, you should probably sand or at the very least prime the frame first, but my theory is that frames don't really get touched much so there isn't a big chance of it getting scratched up with use.

 **Newsflash! Home improvement stores now carry sample jars of a lot of trendy colors for a couple bucks. These are great for small projects like this!**

You can see that the frame has lots of detail. You can also see that it still looks rather boring.

I used black paint to paint in the crevices and then wiped the paint away with a rag. It is a little nerve-wracking at first when you are hoping it turns out how you think it will.

And it did! I like the funky, aged look.

It goes along nicely with the funky armadillo look. I will post more about the artwork eventually. This scaly chap will be making his way to Texas to take up residence on Rachel's wall! 

I also spray painted the inner frame black, just to see how it looked. The frame was linen and wood and it took the paint nicely. However, we decided to leave it off. Now all I have to do is find a piece of glass to fit and it will be ready to go!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Super Comfy Knit Dress: McCalls 6785

My daughter has been asking me forever to make us matching dresses. Recently I discovered a fabric store that was going out of business and bought about 7 yards of this pretty purple knit. I figured it was a good choice that would span the ages and look good on both of us. I used McCalls 6785, view C. It was very simple, with raglan sleeves and a cowl neck. I also sewed up a pair of purple and white striped leggings from another pattern, which you can barely see in the photo. My only beef with leggings patterns, and now I know for future reference, is that they seem to run big. After carefully matching the stripes the first time around, I had to take them in a solid inch on each leg and they are still baggy. Oh, well! She loves them and she can grow into them. 

Isn't her hat cute? The farm I volunteer at sells handmade stuff in their gift shop and a knitting group made these for the shop. I bought 2 of them for $6 each. Can't beat that, especially since it would take me a year to make one myself! 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Back In Ye Olden Days

A long time ago, when I was a sophisticated 13 year old (ha, ha! does such a thing exist?) I started quilting. Looking back, I tore into it with a lot of gusto and exactly zero experience. This was also before the days of Google. Thus, information was not at my fingertips. I started off with a square of scrap paper, a few pins and all of Mom's fabric scraps. I cut each square out by hand, with scissors. The problem was that every so often I would shave off a sliver of the template and eventually the square would become so small that would deem it a lost cause and cut a new one. Also, being the math whiz that I am, I calculated the size I would need to cover my twin bed. I was apparently a bit over-ambitious because it came out sized for a king. Literally. Whatever. It was my first quilt. It lasted for 20 years (hypothetically because I was just 13 like last week) and I just recently put it to rest. One of my next quilts was even more ambitious, but this time my parents got me a rotary cutter and I was totally high tech! I chose the log cabin pattern and went to work. When I was finished, on a whim, I decided to send a picture of it to Quilter's Newsletter Magazine. Much later, and much to my surprise (!!) they published a picture of me with my quilt! I am pretty convinced that I made it into this well-circulated magazine not so much on my creative merit but more so because look! Its a quilter under the age of 50! We must encourage this! (This was back before DIY was the 'it' thing)

Anyhow, I ran across my copy of the (in)famous magazine and thought I would share it with you all.

I wrote a cheesy letter about how I was a freshly graduated whippersnapper who was teaching herself how to quilt. Apparently it worked. 

And there you have it! My 15 minutes of fame.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Closet Flashback: Loomed Bracelet

 I was very into beading when I was in junior high. I took some classes and bought all of the supplies and really went crazy with this particular hobby. I made this bracelet during that phase and I just recently found it again. I used a simple loom to quickly weave the beads together and finished it off with a very basic lobster clasp. Green is still one of my favorite colors so I was happy to find another piece that will match almost everything in my wardrobe! I also like that the beads are slightly uneven because it makes it look more unique.    

Friday, November 15, 2013

Foodie Friday: Pork Chops

Alright ya''s time to talk about the infamous pork chop. In my experience, it's a love or hate kind of meat. Most of my life I hated them due to a traumatizing pig experience as a kid and because let's be honest, who hasn't eaten a dry, overcooked chop at some point? Lately, my husband and I have been really consistent about trying several new recipes a week to keep the 'ol palate from going into a flavor coma. This means we've really started cooking outside our food comfort zone and delved into a whole new world of ingredients starting with the oft mistreated pork chop.

I looked around for interesting recipes and found a site (I can't remember which one...if I find it later I'll come back and add it) that listed this Cook's Illustrated cooking method and I've adapted it for a two person dinner but it's easy to modify for more people.

First off, I can't stress this quality meat. Go with all natural, bone-in, center cut rib chops that are about 7 oz each (I've used smaller ones and reduced the cooking time).  Pat them dry and slit a couple of times through the connecting tissue across the short side of the fat.

I have an electric stove so before I season the meat I turn the burner to medium. 

Now, rub both sides of the pork with salt and pepper. Then take a few pinches of organic cane sugar and sprinkle one side of each chop evenly with it making sure to avoid the bone.

Slap each chop into the pan (sugar side down) making sure to press each piece into the pan (with the bony ends toward the center of your skillet). Cook for 4-9 minutes depending on the size of your meat. You should hear a nice sizzling sound within a minute or 2 and you'll know it's time to turn when the sugared side gets a beautiful light brown color (see picture above). 

On the second side, turn the heat to low and cook each chop until they hit 140 (start checking the temp at 2 minutes). FYI - the second side will BARELY brown before it's cooked through.

Take the chops out of the pan and tent with foil for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes take any juices left from the pan and platter and reduce adding a little salt and pepper to taste. Pour the juices back over the chops (sugar side's all about presentation!) and serve immediately.

In the picture above, I served them with sauteed zucchini and blackberry, chipotle sauce. Delicious!

Sneak Peak: Etsy Goods!

Here is a sneak peak of some of the things I have been working on for Etsy:

I have been having lots of fun picking out fabric and trim combinations as I am sure you can see! 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Closet Flashback (A Day Late)

On Halloween this Western shirt made a reappearance. I originally made it back in 2011 for my oldest. This is one of my favorite boy sewing projects I've ever done. The embroidery was so fun to do and it got a ton of use. I actually ended up making him another one from the same fabric, minus embroidery, in the next size up. When my youngest declared (after changing his mind a few times) that he wanted to be a cowboy for Halloween I jumped on it! After all, my oldest has dressed up as a cowboy for the last...oh, 6 years? Therefore I had only to shop in the closet for his costume. Woo! Just don't tell him that his brother's name in on the back!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Hello and Welcome! (Plus A Foodie Friday Post)

Welcome to our new blog! We have changed the name to match our up-and-coming Etsy shop. Fancy-schmancy! Don't forget to change our address in your blog reader so you can keep up with new posts. Gracias!

Now, on to the recipe. It involves Garlic Gravy. Need I say more?

Pasta with Garlic Gravy and Cherry Tomatoes
Adapted from Goddess of Scrumptious 

1/4 C. unsalted butter
2 TBS. extra virgin olive oil
4-6 large garlic cloves (yeah baby!), finely minced
2 TBS. flour
2 1/2 C. chicken stock
2 TBS. fresh basil (chopped)
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 C. fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 C. grated parmesan cheese
2 C. halved cherry tomatoes

Heat butter and oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add garlic and saute until soft but not browned. Add flour and cook for one minute. Add chicken stock and simmer until thickened. Stir in tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper. Toss with your favorite kind of hot, cooked pasta. Sprinkle with parsley and voila! You have yourself a delicious dinner that didn't take too much effort along with a wicked case of garlic breath! (My theory on garlic breath is that if everyone has it at, how could it possibly be offensive?) 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Elephant Dress With Heart Cut-out

My kids are back in the farm program and that means I've got time to make up for. This dress was originally intended for Etsy but I wasn't satisfied with the fabric I used. It is still fine and no one will notice but it still bothers me. (The fabric is on the thin side)

Note the rick rack at the waist! I just can't quit.

Finished with a twirly, swirly circle skirt! I also used a different bodice this time and it is a little too wide for my liking. Live and learn!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Peacock Embroidered Journal

Despite the fact that I have been pretty radio silent lately, I have managed to churn out some projects. This journal will be making its appearance in our up-and-coming Etsy shop! This design started out in my sketchbook and I decided it would transfer well to felt. 

There are little bugle beads sewn on the feathers. It is made with wool blend felt. 

The edges are finished with a blanket stitch, adding a bead to every stitch. I really like the look of this edging even though it takes a bit longer.

P.S. Keep your eyes on Friday as we will be making the move to our new blog! We will continue to keep this blog active for the time being, but will not be adding new posts. It should redirect to the new site, where we have transferred all our existing posts. If that sounds confusing, imagine me trying to figure out how to do it all! I haven't had a computer class since high school, where we learned DOS commands and how to save onto a floppy disc and played with our pet dinosaurs. 

Itty Bitty Baby Dress - The Stars at Night Edition

I posted last week about the first version of this dress that I made for my cousin (see here). This is the other Texas themed one that completes the set!

The stars at night are big and bright
Deep in the heart of Texas!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Closet Flashback: Kitchen Attire

I admit it...I hoard aprons. I sew them up then forget about them in the back of my kitchen closet. It's sad because they are so fun to wear! I decided to dig one of my favorites out and put it to good use for Halloween cookie making. It's a pattern by Amy Butler from one of her books (I think it's in "In Stitches") and sews up beautifully every time.
Here's an action shot :) 
I like how you can tie this half apron high on your waist or low on your hips depending on how you like to roll...(bad baking pun intended)

The waist is accented with little pleats.

I don't think the mini pocket really serves a purpose but it's cute anyway!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Foodie Friday: Get Your Turkey On!

 Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I have a binder that is specifically for this day and houses, recipes, tips, seating charts, furniture layouts and even my annual turkey day pre-meal running mileage log. I start fantasizing about my menu 6 months in advance and literally (every year) start dreaming at night about cooking my turkey a month or so before the big day. 
Anyway, in honor of my favorite day, here is the turkey recipe that I've used for the last 3 years! It has been adapted from Bon Appetit magazine (Nov. 2009 edition).

Sage Butter Roasted Turkey
16-18 lb turkey - rinsed and patted dry with all the goodies removed from the inside (I've used smaller and larger birds and adjust the ingredients as necessary)
3 TBS course kosher salt
1 TBS dried sage (I used dried from my dad's garden)
1/2 stick butter (don't skimp on the butter...after all, this day only comes once a year)
1/4 C fresh, chopped sage (I pick it from my dad's garden the day of)
3/4 C fresh apple cider or apple juice
*****Do this the night before*****
Mix salt and dry sage together and sprinkle evenly all of the turkey (make sure the bird is already in the roasting pan). Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and chill overnight.

*****The day of*****
Preheat the oven to 375 and while it's getting to the proper temperature, take your beautiful birdie out of the fridge and tuck those delicate little wing tips under and tie the legs loosely together. Then either mix the chopped fresh sage with the cold butter and rub UNDER the skin or melt the butter and mix with fresh sage then brush all over the turkey. (I've tried both ways. I happen to like the cold butter under the skin method best but both work.)

Once you've slathered a year's worth of butter calories onto your fowl (seriously, remember this is a special's all about moderation ya'll) nip it into the oven, basting after an hour.

Now, turn the heat down to 350 and roast for another 45 minutes. At this point pour 3/4 c. apple cider and turn the pan around in the oven. Continue to roast until the meat registers 165 turning and basting periodically for even cooking. It pays to have a thermapen for this part!

Once it reaches the appropriate temperature, loosely tent (there is some debate about the effectiveness of this method...I'm not here to quarrel about it) and allow to rest 30-45 minutes. Now carve and devour with your favorite gravy and fixin's!

(Here is an action shot of me prepping the bird. It's a nice pre-coffee, pre-run and pre-fancied up picture. All I can say is that game day means bird before beauty!)
 Perfectly crisped skin, MOIST Hank Hill would say while pretending not to cry, "It's so daggum beautiful".

This is a sneak peak at my Tday binder...I read it like a book throughout the year. I don't know if that's normal.
...And now having written the longest Foodie Friday post ever, let me leave you with a funny story.
I used to work with some Austrians when I lived in Jersey. At Thanksgiving the American team sent around an email that said "Happy Thanksgiving...Gobble Gobble!" One of the Native Austrians popped out of his office and asked..."Vat ess gooble gooble?" Someone replied, "that's the sound a turkey makes." The Austrian shook his head and said, "that's not the sound a turkey makes in Austria!!"