Sunday, January 26, 2014

Fabric Mailbox and More Postcards

My daughters love the fabric postcards I've been making.  I toyed with the idea of making a fabric mailbox, but wasn't sure.

This week, my younger daughter requested a snowman postcard.  It came out so cute, I made a few more.  Now that my daughter had two of her very own postcards, I decided to try out a fabric mailbox.

I found a couple tutorials I liked.  I loosely followed this mailbox tutorial.  I had seen another tutorial that used a button for the flag and velcro at the door and liked those features.  

Fortunately I had the plastic canvas at home already as I hoped to make a fabric dollhouse at some point.  I determined the size by taking one of my 4"x6" postcards and making it a bit bigger.  Then, I shaped a mailbox shape and, along with a helper, traced the shape onto paper.  This became the front and back flaps.  Then I used the width of the flaps for the bottom piece.  

I laid everything out together with small spaces between the plastic and cut out some fabric.  I added thin craft batting to the outside layer of fabric.  The inside is felt.  I forgot to add the velcro to the top of the mailbox when I was sewing everything together.  It worked out fine to rip out a few stitches and insert it in.  That made it easy to get the right placement.

For the flag, I just cut some felt about the right size (2 layers) and then cut some plastic canvas a bit smaller.  I did a zigzag stitch around the outside.  For the button, I just cut a small slit in the flag through all the layers.  Then when I sewed the button on, I was careful to have every stitch go through the slit.  It was a little tricky, but made for nice stiff flag.
My girls love the mailbox and another has been requested.  We will see.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Sachertorte for German Class

My thirteen year old son came home with a recipe for Sachertorte. Even after studying German myself for many years complete with two trips to Germany, I had never had Sachertorte. I guess had I visited Austria, I would have definitely tried Sachertorte.

The recipe looked tricky with many different parts.  The teacher had included a link to the recipe on Epicurious

 The number of ingredients wasn't too many, it was just the method of adding them together that was very specific. 

I did need a few ingredients that I didn't have on hand:  high quality bittersweet chocolate and apricot preserves. In addition, I also did not have a springform pan or a candy thermometer. 

I learned we had a week before the cake was due in class for a cake baking competition. I read through the recipe many times and looked at some of the reviews. Someone recommended watching the accompanying videos to really understand the steps. The day we planned to make the cake, I watched the videos. They were helpful and even a little different than the written instructions, especially for the chocolate glaze. 

The first step was to take the butter and eggs out and bring them to room temperature. After dinner, we started on the cake. I wasn't sure if we would have time to also make the glazes or not. We melted chocolate with a large bowl on top of a pot of hot water, separated the six eggs and got out the standing mixer. The directions were very clear at that point and familiar. Everything seemed to go well. As the videos states, I added everything slowly and mixed in between.  I used the butter wrapper to grease the springform pan, placed the batter in and finally baked in the 400 degree preheated oven.  I set the timer for 45 minutes and waited. We peeked in a few times through the window and I did check it with 3 minutes to go. But a few places on the bottom and sides did get too dark. In the video, the chef suggests a 375 degree oven and I wonder if that would be better. Or checking it sooner. 

The cake came out of the springform easily and because it is a dense cake, it is easy to handle and flip over with cooling racks. It didn't take too long to cool and before long I was separating the tall cake into two layers. I followed the video's suggestions for separating the cake scoring first and then cutting and turning the cake.  I used a serrated bread knife. Handling the layers was easy too. I didn't feel they would crack or fall apart. I decided to try to trim off the dark areas and that was easy too. I just went slowly and used my sharp, serrated knife. 

It looked like we still had time to make the glazes. We cooked up the apricot preserves with 2 TB of water. Spreading it on was easy. I didn't strain the solids like the recipe states, as it hadn't been explained in the video. I think we would have had less bumps on the final layer if we had been more careful about a smooth apricot glaze layer. 

As that cooled, we made the chocolate glaze. We followed the videos instructions for boiling the sugar and water first and adding the chocolate at the end. I'm not sure it ever got as warm as 234 degrees, but the sugar water mixture did start to make a small strand between my son's fingers, and after adding the chocolate, we did see it getting shiny. 

Slowly pouring the chocolate glaze on worked well to cover every inch of the cake. All the drippings on the parchment we did collect for making hot chocolate. It was recommended a small amount of glaze heated along with milk makes a nice hot chocolate. 

Finally we added white chocolate piping for decoration. 

Now we wait, the whole cake is going to school for the competition and extra credit. Hopefully we will be able to try it at some point, or we may need to try it ourselves!

The next day...
After getting nice comments and strong positive memories of Sachertorte, it seems wrong that I hadn't had the chance to taste it. Also, one local friend sounded like she might like to have some too. I knew doing the recipe again would go quicker. Also, I had purchased a set of three mini springform pans which would be fun to use. That would make it easier for giving one away as well.  
Making everything again did go quicker. A couple different things happened too. First when separating the eggs, the smallest amount of yolk got mixed in accidentally. I hoped it would be ok.  Unfortunately, the egg whites just got white and bubbly, they never became meringue.  I needed four more eggs to try again, fortunately a neighbor could help us out. Second try with the egg whites yielded perfect meringue.
I purchased a different apricot preserve which had less solids and better ingredients. I had missed it my first trip to the store.  
When I was making the chocolate glaze the second time, I think I was more patient after adding in the chocolate and allowed the mixture to get back up to temperature.  This batch of glaze seems even shinier and no cracks. 
Working with the smaller cakes was easier too. They cooled faster and I could cut by turning the cake on its side.  Because the chocolate glaze had gotten hotter, I don't think I allowed it to cool enough before pouring it on the cakes. I ended up needing to spoon some glaze back on the cakes from the waxed paper. 

Along with the three mini springforms, I made five tiny square cakes.  If I had more mini springform pans, I might have filled one or two more. I baked them about 27 minutes at 375 degrees. The tiny squares got a little too dry on some edges. The mini springforms seem perfect.

We made up some whipped cream for dipping and tested the minis, they have a nice flavor.

I did get a slice of the first big cake after traveling around school and it was pretty good.  I bet it is slightly overcooked, but not too bad.

The mini springform cakes were delicious!  I think they were baked perfectly.  The topping was better too.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Fabric Postcards

At my local Modern Quilt Guild meeting, I learned about fabric postcards.  Back in 2010 when I had my third baby, I actually received a fabric postcard from a friend and was quite impressed with it.  The details, the ability to travel in the mail and the cute factor stood out to me.

I never really considered making my own fabric postcards until at our meeting we decided to draw names and make and send one postcard out for Valentine's Day.  Once I got started with making the one, I didn't want to stop.  They are fun to make and due to their size, a small canvas for trying new things.

For this project, I did purchase Peltex, a stiff interfacing, and a postcard rubber stamp.  Both items I found at Hobby Lobby.  The Peltex they had is fusible on both sides.  I read later that this might be a disadvantage, but it seemed to work well for me.
I did a combination of sewing parts together and also just layering fabrics.  Then after fusing the top layer to the Peltex, I quilted on top to hold everything together.  Finding ribbons and small scraps of fabrics for embellishments was fun too.

After completing the top and quilting, I cut a piece of white fabric and fused it to the back of the postcard.  If I didn't iron too long on the front, the fusible back didn't seem to get activated until I ironed on the back.  Once all the layers were together, I did a satin stitch around the outside once more slowly and a second time faster.  Then using my new rubber stamp, I stamped "Postcard" on the back.

I have read different things about how to mail these.  First class postage seems to work ok, hand stamping at the post office is often recommended.  Some use thin cello bags to protect the mini quilts during shipping.  Because I didn't use any beads or sequins, I think sending them alone may be fine.  Hopefully they will all reach their destinations!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

White Chicken Chili

Ground Turkey Chili was part of our regular rotation until the family seemed to tire of it.  I looked around for a white chili recipe.  After considering different recipes, I tried this one by Cooking Classy with minor modifications.

Beginning with a whole routisserie chicken pre-cooked from Wegmans saved some cooking time, but did take some time to prepare.  The whole chicken yielded almost 4 cups of chicken.

Into the pot went a bit of olive oil and minced onion and garlic flakes, then a whole 32 oz box of chicken broth, the chopped chicken, and green chilies.  The only spices I used were cumin, oregano, paprika, and black pepper.  After a bit I added the room temperature Neufchatel cheese sliced.  It did melt in nicely and gave the soup a creamy texture.  Per the recipe, I did mash up about a cup from the 2 cans of rinsed Cannellini beans with a potato masher.  Pre-heated frozen corn was also added.  Once ready to serve, we added shredded Mexican blend cheese.

While the chili was simmering, I started on the cornbread muffins.  I had tried some variations with the Jiffy mix, but tried a new mix, Wegmans Gluten Free Honey Cornbread Mix.  It has no added oils in the mix and also has fewer ingredients.  The instructions are to add one egg, 1/3 cup of oil and 3/4 cup of milk.  I added 1 egg, 2/3 cup of plain Greek yogurt, some skim milk to make up a mixture of yogurt and milk totaling about 1 cup.  I'm guessing it was about 1/2 cup of milk.  The mixture seemed dry until I added a can of creamed corn, then it seemed perfect.  Because of the additional ingredients, it yielded a bit more than the 12 muffins the box states.  I got 12 muffins and 16 mini muffins.  They baked 18 minutes for the regular size and 13 minutes for the minis at 400 degrees.  Everyone loved the muffins.  They came out moist and tasty.

The chili was enjoyed by everyone who tried it. It isn't spicy, but the green chilies do stand out.

1/17/2014 - Tried smashing more of the beans and added more corn ~2 cups.  I liked this version better.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

More Doll Quilts

After making doll sized quilts for my girls and seeing how much fun a tiny quilt is to make, I decided to make another and then another to sell.  There is more flexibility in these sized quilts than a mug rug, but they are still quick to complete.

First I copied the wonky star quilt and used all the colors of my choosing.  This quilt ended up being about 13.5" by 20.5".

I enjoyed more dense quilting as you can see on the back of the quilt.
Back of Wonky Star Quilt

Then I used the doll fabric I thought I was going to use for my older daughter's doll quilt and just added strips here and there to make up the size.  This quilt ended up being about 14" by 20".

Back of Doll Quilt
This time I made swirls in the white and used a verigated all over the rest.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Doll Pajamas

I remember another daughter requesting pajamas for her dolls and at that time I made them too. This request was pretty easy to fulfill. There was a set she wanted to match.  So I used the top and bottoms as patterns and a short time later we had a new set of pjs for the doll.

The purple set is what I made, the green set had been purchased and I used as my pattern.