Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year Calzones

The kids were asking for pizza for dinner; I offered to make calzones because it had been a while since I made them. Long enough that I forgot how long to bake them.

I used my bread maker to make the dough. Two pounds of dough is split into eight balls for eight calzones. 

I used 3 cups of white flour and 1 1/4 cups of whole wheat flour and got no complaints about it being too wheaty. 
The rest of the recipe is 1.5 cup of warm water, 2 Tb olive oil, 2 tsp salt, 2 tsp sugar, and 2 tsp yeast. 

For fillings we had frozen broccoli, frozen spinach, frozen peppers, pepperoni, tomato sauce, and mozzarella cheese. 

I used a fork and knife markings to distinguish the different fillings. 

We brushed them with an egg and a TB of water mix. 

They baked for 20 minutes at 400 degrees. 

Apple Muffins

Here's a recipe I made many years ago. Tried it again today with two three year olds and it came out pretty well.

1 egg 
1/2 cup applesauce
1TB oil
1/2-1/3 cup of brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla

1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup oats
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon

1 medium apple of peeled, chopped 
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup cider

Bake 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes for mini muffins 

Kettle Corn at Home

I found an easy recipe to make Kettle Corn at home.  I made a few modifications and it tastes great!

I use 2 Tablespoons of coconut oil
1/4 cup of raw sugar
1/2 cup organic unpopped corn

Salt after popping

It yields at least 10 cups when the popping goes very well. I had one time on a different stove where I yielded less. 

Everyone loves this at my house and it goes quickly. I based the serving size on what we do, you could have less to make it a healthier snack. 

Chicken Marsala Casserole

Baked Chicken Marsala Casserole
I love Chicken Marsala in restaurants and wondered about making it at home.  My main reason for trying this out was to make it as a gift for my parents.  Then I would pack it up in individual meal packets for their freezer to be eaten whenever they needed a quick meal.  I found many recipes and loosely followed one.

Most of the Marsala casserole recipes used rice in them, but I wanted to serve it over pasta.  This recipe yielded not much "gravy" for a whole box of pasta.  Using less pasta is better, or saving some of the box for my picky eaters works too.

Also I ended up doubling the amount of Marsala wine and half and half and that seemed to work better.  Other modifications, I used only 8 oz of mushrooms.

My version:
boil pasta, use about 2/3s of 16 oz box or save some after boiling
 in a small casserole dish

Begin with olive oil and minced onions and minced garlic
add 8 oz of mushrooms, cook for 5-10 mins
add 2 TB of flour
add 1 cup of marsala wine, 1 cup of half and half, stirring constantly until thickened.
add 1 14.5oz can of chicken broth

Place pasta in small casserole dish,
add chopped chicken on top (2 cups is ideal),
add mushroom, gravy mixture on top

bake for 20 mins in 350 degree oven

This was very saucy and tasty.
Leftover pasta for the kiddies

Monday, December 30, 2013

Vegetable Crustless Quiche

Because of the holidays and busy grocery stores, we are left with not much food in the house.  But I had bought a bunch of eggs for baking and just to have around.

I found a recipe that had mainly what I had around the house.  My veggies were mainly frozen.

First I started with a 14.5 oz can of chicken broth and softened chopped potatoes, along with some minced garlic and minced onion in my big skillet.  Once they were mostly softened and most of the broth had cooked away, I added 1 cup of frozen red pepper, 1 cup of frozen chopped spinach, and 1 cup of  frozen chopped broccoli.  I also had a 4 oz can of mushrooms which I added at the end.  As they thawed, I worked on the egg part.

I used 9 eggs, beated until fluffy and added 1/2 cup of half and half (we are out of milk), a 15 oz container of low fat ricotta (recipe calls for cottage cheese), 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp of baking soda, 1/2 cup flour, a 1/4 cup of dried parsley, and 1.5 cups of a blend of shredded low fat Cheddar cheese and Colby Jack cheese.

A 3 quart container was lightly sprayed with cooking spray and then first the vegetables went in followed by the egg mixture.  I mixed it gently in the dish, then topped with the remaining 1.5 cups of shredded cheese.

Baked at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, then 35 minutes at 350 degrees, then I added quite bit more time because it was still runny in the middle. I think for this quantity, a bigger, shalower baking dish would have worked better.  Being in the 3 quart dish, it was very thick.

It doesn't taste very eggy, which is good because I don't really like eggs much.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Doll quilts

My girls received doll beds for Christmas and they came with boring light blue bedding. I offered to make doll sized quilts for the new beds. 

My younger daughter chose pink and purple and blue, but not green. She didn't have any other ideas, so I just tried things out. I started with a pink wonky star with 4" squares. Then I made a purple one. The two stars seemed to be enough.  I decided to add stripes in between and also on the sides. For the in between stripes, I sliced them into two pieces and inserted a white strip for something different. I like the pretty colors and the bright white. 

modern doll quiltmodern doll quiltShe also chose ladybug fabrics. I have two ladybug prints.  I suggested these would work well for the second bed in her bunk bed. We added red hearts and white. I snuck in a little blue and black also. I wanted to try wonky "flying geese."  I just started with a color and added a white strip on side and then another to form a triangle. I also made wonky log cabins (beginning with a 3" square) on the other side finishing with a strip of white. 

For my older daughter, I thought we might use leftover fabrics from her house quilt. But she requested that I match her bed quilt. Fortunately I was able to find all the fabric scraps and figured out the pattern again. I used a 4" square and 1.5" strips and a 1.5" mini square. I started with six blocks, then added another set, then added some more until I was up to twelve blocks. 

These small quilts were possibly even more fun to make than mug rugs. I also enjoyed planning out the quilting.  Beginning with the ladybug quilt, I tried triangles and lines around the flying geese. For the blocks, I did different things like zig zags, wavy lines, hearts, pebbles, and even drew a ladybug on the black.

wonky star
The pink and purple star quilt was next. Starting in the center white strip, I made swirls and a few pebbles. Looking at each section and trying different patterns was neat. Knowing whatever I chose I wouldn't have to duplicate on a big quilt was liberating and allowed me to do more dense quilting. 

After getting my older daughter's input for her doll's quilt, I incorporated swirls, zig zags, and wavy lines as well as some details for the mini squares. It was really cool working on this mini quilt replicating her bed quilt as hers was really my first real quilt. It was so easy putting this one together and knowing the many steps instead of figuring it out as I went.  I had also just learned free motion quilting and only quilted some of the parts of her quilt with squiggles and butterfly outlines while others I just outlined the rectangles. 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Cherry turnovers

My son's German teacher invited kids to bring in something German for their holiday party. After considering different recipes, I decided to try making some pastries. I remember them being called Handtaschen or hand pies. They seem to also be called strudel or turnovers. 

I read through a few different recipes trying to find one that yielded a lot of turnovers.  I learned about handling phyllo dough and how it is brushed with butter and layered. Most recipes suggest cutting the big layers in half. Then some cut that in thirds. Different fillings can be used.  I had more canned cherries and followed the cherry pie filling recipe on the can.

I ended up cutting the half sheets into five sections to yield the most turnovers and be small. I used three layers of phyllo and because I folded the triangles the short way, there weren't too many layers. I wonder if my filling would have stayed in better during baking with more layers. 

Another thing I forgot between reading through recipes and actually making the turnovers was to make vents in the tops. Some recipes call for a couple slits cut into the top for venting. This may help keep everything in too. 
These mini turnovers each had about four cherries on the phyllo dough before folding them up. 

I brushed butter on top and sprinkled sugar. I wonder if an egg wash would have browned the tops more. These baked for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Mini Mitt gifts

My sister in law introduced me to these small potholder mitts. I have made some in the past and wanted to make some more this year. I tried a slightly different size this time. I cut rectangles at 8"x5" and then curved the corners. The mitt part is just less than half and cut on the fold and then top stitched. Another new thing I tried was quilting the outside layer along with the thermal batting. I made four sets and used different quilting based on the fabric I was using. 
The musical mitts are for the band teacher. 

I often send a box filled with edible treats and snacks to my brother in law. Hoping he might be fond of mini mitts like his sister, I sought out fabric that might be right for him. I considered some New York Yankees fabric or even some navy, but there weren't many choices. The majority of navy fabrics were with patriotic fabrics. Then I saw this print with the United States sprinkled randomly. I found New York and it was actually near Colorado where he lives. Perfect. For the quilting, I sewed around both New York State and Colorado with white thread and then connected the two with what might be a flight path. For the rest of the quilting, I used navy thread and snaked around. 

The last two sets I made are for my sister in law. I had purchased the fabric before Thanksgiving and hoped to bring them along as hostess gifts, but that did not happen. She really likes these little mitts and appreciates multiple sets. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

No-Slip Headbands

No-Slip Headband
What often happens is I hear about something interesting once, then twice, as the third time comes around, I pretty much need to investigate.  A friend was singing the praises of her new no-slip headbands for working out.  They are really cute too.  I considered buying some as gifts for some of the girls in my life, but they start at $15 a piece plus shipping.  Finally after seeing more pictures of them, I did a quick search and found that there are tons of DIY tutorials about making these type of no-slip headbands.

Coupons in hand, I headed off to Hobby Lobby.  They seem to have a better selection of ribbon and according to their website, carry a variety of velvet ribbon.  The construction of these headbands is quite simple.  On top is a layer of decorative ribbon, on the bottom a layer of velvet ribbon which provides the grip, and a 5-6.5" length of 3/8" elastic on the back.  I found many ribbon designs I liked, but restrained myself as the ribbon wasn't on sale this week.  I bought three decorative ribbons and two velvet ribbons.  All of the ribbon was 7/8" wide.

I had measured my daughter's head in the morning all the way around and also from earlobe to earlobe across her forehead.  She is 9.5 years old and I went with 15" of decorative ribbon and 5.5" of elastic.  Using a 1/4" seam allowance I sewed the elastic between the right sides of each end of the ribbons.  Then turning the ribbon so it's wrong sides touching, I top stitched the two ribbons together on the long sides.  Done!  I did experiment with using iron on adhesive tape, but just holding everything together worked fine for me.

These headbands go together very quickly.  I made a couple as gifts, some for my older daughter, some for my younger daughter (13" ribbon, 6" elastic), and one for me (16" ribbon, 6" elastics) to try and soon all the velvet ribbon was gone.  I did dip into my ribbon stash from my hair bow making days for some of these.  I found that if my ribbon was too narrow compared to the velvet, layering two decorative ribbons together worked fine.
Layered Ribbon No-Slip Headband

Next up is another trip to Hobby Lobby.  They had many more ribbon options in the 1.5" width.  I will try sewing two layers right sides together and then flipping.  I probably don't even need to top stitch.  The ends will be a little different and need top stitching to hold the elastic in place, but generally that part doesn't show much.

As far as not slipping, my older daughter was amazed, they really don't slip due to the velvet layer.  Even readjusting the headband tugs at your hair if you're not careful.  To date, my younger daughter won't leave anything in her hair all day, but so far these headbands stay in much longer than anything else.  They are comfortable and stay put.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Pillowcase Present

My daughter was invited to a birthday party. This particular child often requests donations instead of gifts for her birthday. I like to make a little something for her too. This year I thought to make her a pillowcase. I thought it would be a nice gift because they are a cosleeping family and that usually means your bedding is more neutral. But pillowcases are a nice way to personalize a shared sleeping space. Because I thought this child might really appreciate and understand, I purchased enough fabric to make two pillowcases. One will go to the birthday child and the second will be donated to the Conkerr Cancer project. Pillowcases are offered to hospitalized children. The children may choose one for themselves to use at the hospital and then take home.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Mini Cherry Pies

After making Cherry Cheese Cakes and having leftover cherry pie filling, it did make sense to finally make some cherry pie for the boy.  But I didn't have enough for a whole pie.  I looked around a bit at some mini cherry pie recipes and many were made in muffin pans.  I thought that seemed like a great idea.  To this point I had never made pie crust on my own.  Many family members make pies for holiday gatherings and pie crust isn't my favorite either.  But the boy really enjoys pie.

I found a super easy recipe for pie crust.  Mixing with two knives and then my hands, it went together very well.  Some recipes suggested chilling the dough before rolling.  This recipe did not, so I went ahead and rolled it out.  It rolled well.  I used an almost 4" metal bowl for cutting circles.  I might try a larger size the next time.  This recipe was just enough for my leftover cherries. 

Seeing that I had a tiny ball of dough leftover, we brainstormed how else I could use the dough and decided on blueberry pie as we have blueberries in the freezer.  I found a blueberry pie recipe quickly and decided to quarter it using 1 cup of blueberries.  That worked out perfectly.

For the tops I had enough to make lattice tops.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Cherry Mini Cheesecakes

Holiday time means lots of parties and baking.  I needed something to bring to a mom's night out.  Chocolate seemed to be pretty well covered already.  My son had been asking for cherry pie, so I had cherries on hand and some low fat cream cheese.  I sought out a recipe for cherry cheese cake.

I found a nice low fat cheese cake recipe, but did keep looking a bit for mini recipe for baking instructions.  I did use her crumb mixture for the crust.  It calls for 1 cup of each flour, oats, and brown sugar and a 1/2 cup of melted butter.  It yielded a lot.  I could fill 72 mini muffin cups and still had some left over.

For the cheese cake, I used this recipe, but made some modifications.
First I made it up for one block of low fat cream cheese and then after buying 2 more, made a double recipe.  I needed it all!  The double recipe with two 8oz blocks of cream cheese yielded 24 pretty full mini muffin cups.
For 2 blocks:
2 8 oz blocks of low fat cream cheese softened
1/2 cup of sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp of vanilla
1 TB of lemon juice

I have a hard time with the bright red cherries in the cherry pie filling.  So I purchased canned Oregon Red Tart Cherries packed in water and followed their instructions for making pie filling.  It was very easy and thickened like magic.

Due to my exceptionally large yield of mini cheese cakes, I only brought 1/3 or so and froze the rest.  I froze the cheesecakes without topping which left me with extra cherry pie filling.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

House Quilt Twinsies

When I was picking out fabric for my daughter's friend's farewell quilt, I made sure to have enough for a second quilt. Then Sydney could have a matching quilt and they would feel even more connected.

This quilt does have three different coordinating prints in it. And I decided to put houses into the blocks instead of the back. For the back I chose a cuddle fabric. It is very soft and the kind of fabric my daughter loves. 

My daughter helped sew quite a bit on this quilt. She put together the majority of the twelve blocks. She asked me to sew them together into the rows as she felt they'd be too long for her. I did assist with all the pinning and ironing. 

For the quilting, my daughter requested verigated thread and for me to make hidden hearts in the squiggles. I used my sit down HQ Sixteen quilting machine. It seemed to start out well, but quickly it became very challenging. My upper thread kept breaking. I changed the needle, cleaned the lint out, and checked the threading. I wondered if the plush cuddle fabric was causing problems. I had used a thinner batting hoping it would all even out. 

Finally I located some sewing machine oil, oiled, and decided to try a different brand needle. It blows my mind how finicky the HQ16 can be sometimes. It is frustrating. But after all those changes, it finally sewed amazingly well and no more thread issues. I was able to do the second half probably four times faster than the first half. 
I did "hide" a bunch of hearts and the word "Sydney," "friends," and heart "mom."  She loves it!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

I was asked to bring a veggie tray for Thanksgiving. Recently I had seen a turkey looking veggie platter and thought I'd try to make something similar. I bought vegetables we enjoy and went to work. The cucumber had an interesting end which worked well for a turkey head. Placing the veggies in the tray as I cut them worked well and was surprisingly easy. I used cut toothpicks for the carrot beak and pepper wattle. The raisin eyes are cut raisins that just stuck on.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Neighbor Farewell Quilt

There had been murmurings of a potential move for some time, but we never heard of any new jobs or move dates. Then just after Halloween we noticed a for sale sign with a sale pending.  As the month continued to fly by, I finally caught up with the mom and found out they were leaving in five days!  My daughter has spent many afternoons with their daughter and is sad they will move six hours away.

After hearing the news, I looked around the internet for a going away gift idea. One idea was a luggage tag. I liked that idea, but also wanted something with which my daughter could help. My next go to was a quilt. I wondered if my daughter would like that idea.  While my daughter slept, I was already forming a quilt in my mind. I hoped to find prints of houses, because we live in the same neighborhood and of bikes, because they ride bikes together and of dolls, because they both enjoy playing with dolls.

I needed something fast and easy.  I considered Road Trip pattern and Layer Cake Lemonade Pattern. Finally I found this Big and Tall pattern and decided it would be quickest to purchase the pattern. This would be my first quilt pattern purchased. 

The cutting for this quilt went quickly and the sewing went very quickly.  I decided to do nine blocks instead of the recommended twelve.  Each block has six components.  After we formed the blocks, my daughter and I spent some time rearranging them until the colors seemed mostly balanced.  After stitching together the blocks and noting that the quilt really goes one way, it seemed more rectangular than square and wider than taller.  The next morning, I decided to add a top and bottom strip of purple to make it more a square.

I had considered making houses for two of the front squares, but I also wanted to put everything together quickly.  I had found a wonky house pattern for paper piecing and studied it a bit.  Finally I decided to just wing it.  
I started with 3" wide door, a 3" x 3" window, and 3" strips to fill out the house.  I ended up trimming the middle and sides. The roof was next, I cut a triangle and then added the sky to one side, then the other.  Finally I added sky to the sides of the house and put it together.  The last step was to cut the house on an angle and add grass.
The first house was pretty big, for the second house I started with a 2" wide door and based everything else off that. I wanted it to appear that one house was close and one far away.

Surprising to me was that the piecing of the back took much longer than the front.  I used up scraps to frame houses and make up a 60" x 60" back.

For the "label" we just rubber stamped on the grass of the smaller house and hand wrote the date and location in permanent ink.