Stir Frying

Weekday dinners are all too often chicken nuggets, avocado toast or hummus & chips in my household. While that’s not the worst, its not the best. We try to east as many fresh veggies as possible and this guide has been really helpful and inspirational during the middle of the week when I’m tiered and would rather do anything else than make dinner.

Based on availability in my fridge, I usually use an onion, a couple bell peppers, frozen peas & zucchini (or any other veggie in the fridge flirting with expiration), as long as you have soy sauce, corn starch, rice wine vinegar you are in good shape. All the sauces are really good-Enjoy!

Marshmallows

Ever since I had my first homemade marshmallow at the very trendy and hipster café, Cured in Boulder, Colorado I have had my sights set on making my own. I was really intimidated because it seems like it would be really difficult and complex. I was really surprised to find that it was way way way easier than I had originally thought! Although this recipe isn’t quite as good as Cured’s, it was pretty good! I used this recipe from Alton Brown.

Ingredients!

3 packages unflavored gelatin
1 c ice water, divided
12 oz sugar
1 c light corn syrup
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 c powdered sugar
1 c cornstarch
Nonstick spray

Directions!

  1. Combine the gelatin with 1/2 c water
  2. In a small saucepan, combine 1/2 c water with the salt, corn syrup & sugar & over medium heat, mix in to dissolve, cover & cook for 3-4 minutes (if you have a candy thermometer, take the cover off once it reaches 240F), uncover and cook for 7-8 minutes then immediately remove from heat.
  3. Slowly pour the mixture from the stove into the gelatin mixture while whisking on low and increase the speed to high for a 15 minutes, the mixture will double+ in size. In the last minute add the vanilla
  4. Combine the powdered sugar & corn starch
  5. Prepare a 9×13″ pan, sprinkle the sugar/starch combo on the bottom and sides of the pan to coat, the pour the mixture into the pan and let sit 4 hrs + (I did overnight).
  6. Turn the marshmallows onto a cutting board, dust with sugar/starch combo & use a pizza wheel to cut into smaller squares. Toss the squares into the sugar/starch combo &  roll until coated. Alton says you need to consume within 3 weeks if packed in an airtight container, but I found the sugar/starch combo is soaked up by the mallows within 4 days.

 

 

 

Cauliflower Gratin with Turmeric and Hazelnuts

I have been enjoying cooking out of my cookbook, The French Market Cookbook for the past year, its organized by the season and availability of produce so you can really enjoy fresh and seasonable dishes. The name is deceiving as the author lives in France but draws her inspiration from many culinary cultures. I am working my way through the winter section right now and although I don’t enjoy cauliflower, I gave this recipe a try and it is fantastic! It serves as a hearty side or we just ate it for dinner alone which was filling and pretty healthy.

Ingredients!

1 lg head of cauliflower (about 7 c)
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 c hazelnuts (toasted and roughly chopped)
2 T plain breadcrumbs
Bechamel Sauce
2 T butter
3 T flour
1 1/3 c milk
1/2 tsp turmeric
Nutmeg
Black pepper

Directions!

Cauliflower Gratin
Break the cauliflower into manageable chunks and steam until tender (microwave or stovetop).

Arrange the cauliflower into a shallow baking dish, season with salt and a touch of nutmeg. Top with hazelnuts (I was actually out of hazelnuts and used a mixture of almonds and walnuts, hazelnuts would be better though)  and half the grated cheese.

Preheat over to 350F

Pour the Bechamel Sauce evenly over the cauliflower and sprinkle the remaining cheese and bread crumbs. (I also put about 2T of butter in small chunks on top of the breadcrumbs for more flavor)

Bake until golden, 20-30 minutes, switch to the broiler setting for the final few minutes for optimal browning.

Bechamel Sauce 
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over the stove, once liquid add in the flour and whisk it for 3 minutes stirring constantly.

Slowly, add the milk while still whisking watching out for any clumps on the bottom. Bring to a simmer still stirring as the mixture becomes creamy.

Add turmeric, season with salt, pepper and a whisper of nutmeg.

 

Enjoy!

Nutella Cigars

I really love eating these Nutella Cigars and they are the perfect dessert to bring to a BBQ or party since they don’t require plates, cutlery and are easy to grab and eat. Also, they are pre portioned so you won’t hear guilty voices saying “Oh! Give me the small piece!”- they can just guilt free enjoy the amazing dessert you brought.

These require very few ingredients and only an hour or so to make them yet they seem so much more impressive than the output required.

ingredients

Ingredients:
1/2 cup of Nutella (ish)
1 package of phyllo dough (you will only use half of the package this time- the rest is for your next impromptu gathering where you need to bring something sweet)
1/4 cup of butter- melted

 

Clean off your workspace, you will need a bit of counter room. If you haven’t ever worked with phyllo dough, its tricky, but very doable. The trick is ensuring that the phyllo dough you aren’t working with doesn’t dry out. I use a slightly damp rag or paper towel and set it on top of the dough that you aren’t working with. You don’t want to get the dough wet, but just don’t want it to dry out. This is actually a really good ‘beginner phyllo dough recipe’ so you can make spanakopita after you master this. Then call me to come over and share :)

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Lay out the stack of phyllo dough with your damp cloth over it, then grab two pieces of phyllo dough and put it on your clean counter space. Use a brush (kitchen or unused paintbrush) to spread/blot butter over the entire surface (I was careful around the edges so the dough didn’t tear) then spread your Nutella on the bottom of the piece of dough. I spooned the Nutella into a corner of a sandwich bag and snipped the end for easy spreading.

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Roll the dough up from the bottom to the top and place on your baking pan. Repeat that for the rest of the bag, cut each roll into thirds and you should have about 30 cigars on your pan. Brush your rolls with a healthy dose of butter then bake at 400 degrees for 10 min. Sprinkle with a bit of salt before service and enjoy!

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Simple! Now you are ready to make some more complex phyllo dough recipes!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paper Flowers

I was obsessed with giant paper flowers for a while, I pinned and I read and searched all of Instagram. There’s some great articles out there. I believe I combined the best concepts(greatest result for the least effort) and compiled in my Snapchat tutorial that I eventually uploaded to YouTube.  I think in all it took me 8 hours to make all the giant flowers in the video, I took my time and didn’t rush. With something so beautiful and individual, you should really give yourself the time to enjoy creating these if possible.

 

Materials Needed:
Tissue Paper
Pipe Cleaners or other wire
Floral Tape
Zip Ties
Something to tie them to, I used branches fallen in my yard, you can use a dowel or if you want to do a whole wall/space, you can use chicken wire.
Hot Glue
Scissors
Craft Moss (not necessary)
Imagination

 

Crafty Summer Part 1: Polar Fleece Rag Doll

So every summer I binge on the crafting that I can’t do the rest of the year while I teach. Several people wanted to know how I did a few of those crafts so over the course of the next few posts I will share some of these crafts!

The first project was a doll for Wyatt’s best friend Lillie. She was about to have a baby brother and I knew she would want to get in on the action and care for a baby as well. I was just going to go to Walmart to buy a little baby doll when I discovered that Walmart thinks all babies born are blonde haired and blue eyed. Well, Oliver was not going to look like that so I decided I better take the logical next step and make her a doll.

I chose to work with polar fleece which was the best decision I’ve ever made and I’m really shocked that more people don’t use polar fleece for doll creating. It is soft, comes in a variety of colors, the material doesn’t fray, and is super easy to work with.

Size was the first thing I need to workout. I decided that if the doll fit preemie clothes that would be easy. I wouldn’t have to make clothes, I could just buy preemie clothes. Bam done! Well not so fast. I bought a preemie sleeper and then tried to figure out what size doll could fit. I measured and did all sorts of things and then decided to go a very strange route that worked.

I drew a quick silhouette of the sleeper on a piece of cardboard, it happened to be a Nike shoe box. Then I eyeballed how long the arms and legs were and bent them, not physically I just redrew it right over the top with bent arms. I really should have taken pictures of this part of the process! I kept redrawing and redrawing until I thought it looked about right. I then cut out the cardboard and tried to put the sleeper on it. It was too tight so I cut a bit here and a bit there and tried it on again. The body was too wide. So I cut down the middle, overlapped the cardboard, taped it back together and tried on the sleeper again. I did this many times until it seemed just right. Then I cut two of the bodies out of the polar fleece.

I then began the face and hair. I used felt to create the eyes. I made the white part almond shaped and decided he would look to one side. I then made little brown circles sewed them together. Then of course I added a little reflection point. I did this with thread just zigzagging back and forth. Polar Fleece Rag Doll  Polar Fleece Rag Doll

 

Polar Fleece Rag Doll

 

After I had made the eyes, then I cut out the face which I decided would be an oval. In retrospect I would have made it more of a circle because when I sewed the head to the neck I lost even more height to the oval and I feel like it became too wide without enough height.

I also cut out the hair. This was just a piece of polar fleece that I satin stitched to the face oval. The back of the head was just another of the face ovals with hair almost covering the entire thing. I forgot to take a picture of the back.

Polar Fleece Rag Doll

 

I then hand sewed the eyes down and the nose and the mouth. I used a technique that Emily shared when we were making a quilt for Granny:

Hand Embroidery

I was pretty happy with how it turned out. I then used a satin stitch and flesh colored thread and attached the head to the body. Then I turned right sides together and used my serger to sew the front to the back leaving the side open. I turned the whole body and stuffed him. Then hand-sewed him up. I love working with polar fleece this part was a breeze!

Polar Fleece Rag Doll

The legs are pretty wide set but they make putting on a diaper so easy for little hands. This is the sleeper I used to create him!

Polar Fleece Rag Doll

 

After this I made a few diapers just by cutting them out and sewing them right sides together and then sewing velcro on them. Here I am sewing them while illustrating the perils of sewing outside of nap time.

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Then I made this carrier using a blog I found on Pinterest.

Here’s the link but I’m also posting the directions in case she ever takes them down Baby Doll Carrier

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Baby doll carrier tutorial

While looking for a baby doll carrier tutorial, I came across a couple of rather interesting ones and deconstructed some actual baby carriers. What follows is my own simplified version, which did not have too many buckles, ties and fiddly things for my two year old to deal with. Though it is not rocket science, I thought I would make a more explicit tutorial.

Warning: this is not to be used for a real baby, but for toys only!

Here is the template as pdf. From the printout, cut on the outer edge of the pattern. Once you have cut out your template, add an extra 1/4 inch all around when you cut the fabric. Sew with a 1/4 inch seam.

Materials needed:
This of course depends on the size of the doll and the size of the child. Adapt accordingly when drawing your template, so that you can have a better idea as to how much fabric you will need.
In this instance the doll is 12″ (30 cm) from top to toe and is 4″ (10 cm) around the belly. The child is an average two year old.

  • 2 pieces of cotton fabric 10″ (25 cm) x 13″ (33 cm) for body
  • 1 piece of cotton batting also 10″(25 cm) x 13″ (33 cm) for body
  • 2 strips of cotton fabric 27″ (69 cm) long and 4″ (10 cm) wide for straps
  • 4 buttons
Here is the template I drew up inspired by a well known baby carrier and others out there. You can see the proportion compared with the dolly. In this instance, the template measures 8,5″ (22 cm) across at its largest and 3,5″ (9 cm) at the bottom of the tail. The length is 11″ (28 cm).
There are three layers here starting from the top: the exterior decorative and the interior prints right sides facing each other and finally the cotton batting. Polyester batting would probably work just as well or even some denim – anything to stiffen it up a bit. Sew around, but leave openings for the straps that will be added in the next step. There are three openings. If you think of this template as a fish, then you would not sew the bottom part of the “eyes” and the end of the “tail”.
If you will notice the pins on the bottom of the carrier and almost on the top – this is where I left openings to insert the straps.
You will need two straps, which in this case measure 27″ (69 cm) long and around 1,5″ (4 cm) – 2″ (5 cm) wide finished. Simply cut a long strip with the appropriate length,  but 4″ (10 cm) wide and fold it lengthwise with the print facing in. Sew down all the way, pull it right side out and top-stitch up and down to strengthen a bit. Since my daughter is still rather small, I inserted the straps so that there is still some length of strap to pull out when she grows bigger.
Here you can see how there is a flap on the top that is to be the optional head support for the doll. Kindly note that this section is not to be attached to the straps in any way.
On the back, the straps are criss-crossing. Please make sure that the straps are not twisted before pinning and sewing.
After top-stitching all around, including the strap openings, I made two button holes in the head flap and sewed four buttons so that the flap can be kept down …
… or up. The button holes should fall nicely on both the straps and the bodice, so that they will catch both pairs of buttons. Check this before making the button holes.
The carrier is put on over the head, which does require some assistance for the little one. But once on, it is all hands free carrying.
Here is the carrier with the flap down
And here it is with the flap up to support the doll’s head.
Big brother got a bit jealous because he thought his sister got a pretty nifty toy. Perhaps another one needs to be made for my son and his trusty pal Paddington.
Next item in this project – bibs.
Have a nifty day!
Christine

PS: Feed-back on this tute are very welcome. Thanks in advance.

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Here he is in his cute little carrier!

Polar Fleece Rag Doll

 

 

 

 

 

Quilting for Cheaters

I have been quilting for a year and am loving it. There’s an element of problem solving and a sense of completion, its great. Since I have been quilting, I have heard about this mythical ‘paper piecing’ on blogs and in conversations. It sounded so complex and every finished work I saw associated with paper piecing looked amazingly technical and difficult.

Well, I’m here to tell you. Its cheating. Its amazing. I’m a convert.

All of those pieces with perfect points are now attainable and its all thanks to this tutorial:

SO EASY! Right? You just sew on the lines!!?!??! Fantastic. The only pain is when you make a mistake, its much harder to rip out because your stitches are so small.  I found this pattern on this blog post and am making some progress on my next quilt!