Monday, April 21, 2014

Giraffe Shortall

I have started sewing for the clever baby!  Actually, I should probably now refer to him as the clever boy, as he recently had his first birthday.  I can hardly believe it!  How does time fly by so quickly??  Anyway, to celebrate his birthday, I made him a Giraffe Shortall/Romper/Jon-Jon.  What is the correct term for these things??  I am not sure, but I have become a bit addicted to them, so you will be seeing more versions from other patterns too.  I love the one-piece outfit for kiddos!

This pattern is from Stitch Magazine, Spring 2014.  Their pattern is called "Goldfish Shortall" however I vetoed the goldfish applique and decided on a giraffe one instead.  I am kind of in to giraffes for this little guy, as you can see here and here.  I actually used the same giraffe image for the applique as I did in the giraffe baby blanket, just much bigger.   And I learned something in the midst of this applique project!  I have done a decent amount of applique but this time, the fabric kept bunching up and it was not going well.  This may be because the outfit is lined, and both fabrics are cut on the bias, so maybe there was just too much going on.  Using a walking foot did not solve the problem.  So I brainstormed a bit and decided to use freezer paper.  Yes, indeed, I ironed freezer paper to the back of the fabric (so on the inside, on the lining) and then the sewing was a BREEZE.  Freezer paper to the rescue!  When I was done, I just ripped it off and I had a perfect (or perfect enough for me) appliqued giraffe!  So, note to self - when doing any sort of applique, go ahead and iron some freezer paper to the back side!  It provides a perfect stage on which to sew. 

I have some mixed feelings about this romper pattern.  The pattern itself does not call for the correct amount of material, and the cutting layout is also incorrect.  The pattern says to do everything on the bias, but the material amount and cutting layout is for doing so NOT on the bias.  So I had to return to the store and purchase more material, which irks me a bit.  Thankfully, I found the exact material I had already purchased, so it wasn't so bad.  Past that, the pattern was fine.  I found it to be a bit wide for  my little guy, so if I make this again, I will try to make it a bit more narrow.  He is in the low side of the weight scale for kids his age, so most things are a bit too wide for him. 

I made my own piping and I think it adds a nice touch, though I find sewing with piping to be a challenge!  Such a big bump in the seams!  I just need to practice more! 

Overall, I am thrilled as to how this outfit turned out.  The giraffe really makes it, in my opinion.  It was fun to finally sew something for my little man! 

I have already made another romper/shortall/jon-jon from another pattern, and will post that one soon! 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

TWD: Baking with Julia - Cantuccini

Today, Tuesday's with Dorie brings you Cantuccini.  Cantuccini looks exactly like biscotti, for the simple fact that it IS biscotti.  In fact, this is generally what you think of, when you think of biscotti.  As it turns out, the term "biscotti" is used for ALL cookies in Italian, and cantuccini are this particular form.  Ah, a bit of cookie education to start off the day!

These cookies are amazingly fast and easy to make.  There is no special equipment, and it is all mixed in one bowl, by hand!  You will likely be done preparing the cookies before your oven is pre-heated.  The dough is a bit sticky, so be ready to have some pretty darned messy hands, but I found that keeping my hands damp with water helped tremendously.  The recipe in the book claimed to make 8 DOZEN biscotti, and since I am not trying to open a coffee or tea shop here, I made 1/3 of the recipe and ended up with 18 cookies.  Perfect. 

Now, I will admit that at times my measurements for 1/3 of a recipe were simply pretty good guesses.  I did not take the time to weigh out the ingredients, I just approximated some of them.  So, my measurement for 1/3 of 1/2 of a teaspoon of cinnamon might have been a bit off, but I decided it was close enough!  If I make this again, I may change up a few things...  Instead of using vanilla extract, I would use almond extract (though a bit less as almond is more potent than vanilla).  Also, I think they would benefit greatly from a drizzle of dark chocolate.  How could it not? 

If you are looking for a good traditional biscotti recipe, I would suggest giving this one a try.  They are nice and crunchy, but not in the break-your-tooth family of crunchiness as I have found with some other purchased biscotti.  I had mine with a mug of tea, and it was a lovely complement.  Alas, I am not a coffee drinker, so I cannot attest to how the cookie pairs with coffee.  The recipe suggests serving with "vin santo", an Italian dessert wine.  That is definitely worth trying!

You can find the recipe for Cantuccini on pages 313 - 314 of Baking with Julia, or by going here

Saturday, April 12, 2014

More Waffles

I recently decided to try out a new waffle recipe.  Why not spice things up a bit and see what else is out there?  Now, normally, I make this recipe.  But then I fell upon a recipe entitled "Waffle of Insane Greatness".  How could I NOT give this one a try???

Ok, seriously, this really is one amazing waffle.  Mr. Clever Mom's words were, "this is the BEST waffle I have EVER had".  Why?  I asked.  It was all about the texture. It is very light and crisp, not as heavy as other waffles tend to be.  Plus even after they were cooked and sitting on a plate ready to be eaten, they didn't get soggy right away as other waffles tend to do.  Winner, winner, chicken dinner.  Or something like that.

The only sad thing about this recipe is that the batter has to sit for 30 minutes before you start cooking.  That is a long 30 minutes when you are anticipating waffles of insane greatness!  But we can all find ways to occupy our time in the  morning for 30 minutes, can't we? 

Waffle of Insane Greatness
adapted from Foodnetwork

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup corn starch
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine the flour, corn starch, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl and mix well.  Add the remaining ingredients and mix well.  Let the batter sit for 30 minutes.

Preheat a waffle iron.  You should not need to butter the waffle iron, the oil in the batter should be enough to release the cooked waffles.  HOWEVER, when I made these, Mr. Clever Mom was being helpful and went ahead and buttered the waffle iron.  Obviously we did not have a sticking problem.  But I can't vouch for what happens with no butter.  I'll try that next time!

Cook the waffles per your waffle iron's instructions.
Printable Recipe

Next time, I will double this recipe.  We could have eaten more.  If I could 1 1/2 it, I would do that instead, but doubling it will simple make us enough for breakfast and some left over for another morning! 

Check out this Waffle of Insane Greatness. With a  name like that, how can you go wrong?

Monday, April 7, 2014

TWD: Baking with Julia - Potato Lefse

This post was supposed to happen last week.  However I just didn't get around to making the recipe until this past weekend, so I decided I'd post my Tuesday's with Dorie week as soon as I got to it, and not stress out about the whole thing.  No need for extra stress!
Anyway, the recipe was Potato Lefse.  Have any clue what that is?  Don't worry, I didn't either.  Essentially, a potato lefse is what you get when mashed potatoes and crepes get together and have a baby.  You get a potato crepe.  Now, I am not a huge fan of crepes.  That is not a good thing in my house as my daughter loves them and my husband enjoys making them for her.  I just find them to be a bit too sweet in the morning (of course all of the fillings is what makes it sweet) and there is something about the texture that I don't like.  It all comes down to the fact than when I was a little girl I happened to get ill one day that I happened to make crepes for breakfast.   Take that in whatever direction you care, and you'll understand, I am certain. 
I have to admit, I find potato lefse to be highly superior to crepes, but they take MUCH more time.  As in you have to make the mashed potato mixture and then let it sit overnight in the refrigerator.  That's a lot of pre-planning.  They are also way, way, WAY messier, as instead of pouring batter (as in crepes) you are rolling dough (like a pie crust).  You could get all fancy here and buy some SPECIFIC lefse tools for this, but I did not.  Instead of having an official lefse canvas round, grooved rolling pin, and lefse stick, I used a silpat, rolling pin, and spatula.  I think it all worked out fine.
I did, however, take this as a great reason to purchase a potato ricer.  I mean, the book even says that it is an "old fashioned, inexpensive, effective utensil".  Obviously  I needed one.  I am certain I could have made these by making sure I mashed the heck out of the potatoes so there were no lumps, but I agree with the book, a ricer is a tool that I won't regret.  Plus it was super inexpensive. And since I was already late in making the potato lefse for the TWD post, why not just order a ricer and get on with it??  Yee-ha, Amazon Prime!  I mean, is there anything you can't find on Amazon these days?  I love shopping without leaving my house.  That is the perfect shopping experience. 
But I digress.  Here is the lowdown on making potato lefse:

First  you boil some diced potatoes until they are soft but not mushy, then set them out to dry a bit.  I am not sure why this picture looks like cheddar cheese, but trust me, it is actually diced potato.

Next rice those potatoes into a bowl. See my new ricer?  Very pretty, isn't she?  It totally reminds me of those things I used to use with play-doh to squish out "spaghetti" or "hair".  You could probably actually use that play-doh gadget, but it sure would take a while since it is so small! 

Mix in some melted butter, heavy cream, sugar and salt, get it all smooth and stick it in the refrigerator so it dries out overnight.

In the morning, mix in some flour and get ready to make a giant mess.  Well, at least it was at my house.  This needs TONS of flour on the rolling board and pin or else it sticks, thus I had flour everywhere.  Ah, well.  Roll a small portion out into a super thin sort of circle shape (mine were totally NOT circles, more like abstract blobs), roll it onto the rolling pin, and then place on a hot griddle.  I used my pancake griddle, which stretches over two burners, so I was able to cook two lefse at once.  Cook it like a pancake and then off it goes, onto a terry cloth towel.

Serve these warm, brushed with butter and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar.  Mmmm.  According to the recipe, you could also put a hotdog inside and brush then with butter and mustard.  Then they are called potato lumpa.  I did the cinnamon sugar kind and it was very nice.  It has more oomph than a regular crepe, and a way better texture.  They are kind of like fresh flour tortillas...mmmm.  The next time you have some mashed potato leftovers, keep this recipe in mind.  They take a bit of work but they are quite nice!  Oh, and in case you have a tiny person at your house, the clever baby enjoyed these as well!

You can find the recipe on pages 165-166 of Baking with Julia, or here.  Check out what my fellow TWD bakers thought by visiting the TWD blog.  

Friday, March 28, 2014

Salted Browned Butter Blondies

Lately, I have been in the mood for blondies.  So I whipped up a batch of these Salted Browned Butter Blondies that I found over at The Spiced Life.  Yum.  Let's think of the components here:  browned butter - yum.  Light and dark brown sugar - yum.  Chocolate chips - yum.  Sprinkle some coarse salt on top of that and you are guaranteed a good dose of yummy goodness!   These blondies take the best aspects of blondies - the butterscotch-y rich flavor and throw in chocolate and salt for good measure.  Delish!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Grown-up Grilled Cheese with Roasted Tomato Bisque

Friends, the photo here does not do this meal justice.  This is some seriously amazing Grown-Up Grilled Cheese, with Roasted Tomato Soup.  In my ongoing quest to find good, "relatively" healthy, quick weeknight dinners, I found these recipes on Food Network, by Jeff Mauro, the "Sandwich King".  I happened to watch the "Next Food Network Star" show when he competed, and thought that he had good personality and some good ideas, so I thought this recipe could be a hit. And Mmm, mmm, it is. 

It starts out with some caramelized onions.  Now, personally, I think that anything that involves caramelized onions is likely going to be delicious.  They are magical.  Raw onions?  Not so much.  But cook the heck out of those onions with some oil/butter and KA-POWIE, they are delectable!  Add some gruyere cheese to that and you have bliss in a sandwich.  So, this recipe isn't totally "quick" if you don't plan ahead with the caramelized onions, but here is a tip for that.  Some time, when you are home for a bit, make up a GIGANTIC batch of caramelized onions.  Use a zillion onions.  They cook down a lot, so you certainly (unfortunately) won't end up with a ton of caramelized onions.  HOWEVER, if you find that you have more than you could possibly need for whatever your initial intended purpose, you can FREEZE them in smaller amounts that you can then USE LATER.  Pull out a portion, let it thaw in the refrigerator, and you are ready.  No sweat.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Mocha Brownie Cake

Do you know the Shel Silverstein poem called "Jumping Rope"?  In case you've forgotten, or possibly don't know the poem, here you go:

Jumping Rope
This started out as a
jumping rope
You prob'ly think that
I'm a dope
But this started out as a
jumping rope
And now I fear there is
no hope
But this started out as a
jumping rope.

Throughout much of the creation of this week's Tuesday with Dorie recipe, Mocha Brownie Cake, this poem was running through my head.  You may wonder why.  Well, I'll tell you.  I had this great idea to make half of this week's recipe, in a cute little 6-inch size.  We just don't need a big, rich chocolate cake in our house right now, and we were about to leave for vacation (hip-hip-hooray...that is where I am right now!) so I THOUGHT I'd be SMART and halve the recipe.  What you see above is my cute little 6-inch Mocha Brownie Cake.  Ahhh.  BUT.