Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Poncho Tunic

One of my dearest friends just had a birthday, and I wanted to make her something cute. She lives too far to be my model, which is too bad because she will rock this piece when she wears it! 

I followed my own Poncho Shirt Tutorial to make this, but made a few changes because of the length. I will walk your through it all. No biggie, I promise!

To begin, you will need 1.25 yards (45 inches) of 60 inch wide fabric. I suggest a knit fabric so it will stretch nicely. Also, many knits roll nicely on the edges, so you don't have to hem. 
You'll also need elastic thread, and all-purpose coordinating thread

1. Fold the fabric in half so it is 45" long by 30" wide (folded). 

2. Cut along the fold, making two pieces, each 45x30". Lay it out with short sides on top and bottom.

3. Follow the instructions in Steps 2-7 of the Poncho Shirt Tutorial for making the neckline and shoulders. 

4. Hem the neckline.

5. Cut a curve on each side of the base of the tunic, as shown. I cut one side, then folded it in half and used the cut side as a guide for cutting the other side.  I also trimmed about 1.5 inches from each side of the tunic because I decided not to do a rolled hem. If you need to hem your edges, do that now, all the way around the bottom and sides.

6. Beginning 9 inches down and 4 inches in, pin through both front and back, 18 inches down the tunic, on both sides to make the arm holes and give shape to the piece.

7. With elastic thread in your bobbin, stitch along the pins, removing as you go. Tie off with a back stitch or two at the beginning and end.

8.  With iron on lowest heat for fabric, press along the elastic to draw it up further, if desired.

With the fabric I chose, I liked the look best with a belt. I tried it with a jean jacket--also super cute for fall!  So many possibilities here! And so easy to make!

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Monday, September 29, 2014

Caramel Chocolate Bacon Maple Bars

I had to make a late-night run to the grocery store on Saturday night. We were out of milk, and my family doesn't think they can survive a Sunday morning without milk. I don't know what got into me, but when I saw Rolos, a maple cookie mix, and remembered the bacon I had bought earlier in the week at home, I decided to make this treat.

I made my first batch into cookies. They turned out very, very good, and I photographed them to put here on the blog. We gave a bunch of them away to friends, so I told my poor, neglected family I'd make another batch. I was sick of being in the kitchen by this time, so I made this batch into bars. The bars were INCREDIBLE. A superior creature. The way this recipe was meant to be baked.

See that pocket of caramel there on the upper right side of the bar. Mmmm... The caramel in Rolos doesn't get too runny, but it is spreadable when heated. And it sets up well as it cools. Perfect.

Bacon looks more and more normal on there the longer you look. :)

Caramel Chocolate Bacon Maple Bars
Makes one 9x13 inch pan

1.5 sticks butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons maple extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
30 Rolos, unwrapped and cut in half
6 pieces of bacon, cooked and torn/cut into small pieces

1. Preheat oven to 350°.  Prepare a 9"x13" baking dish with cooking spray or parchment paper. 
2. Beat butter and brown sugar in a large mixing bowl. I used my KitchenAid with the paddle attachment. Add the egg and extracts and beat well.
3. Mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl, then add to the wet mixture. Stir well. 
4. Press evenly into prepared dish (it will be thick). Be sure to press it all the way to the corners. *Cold water on your fingers will help keep the dough from sticking to your hands as you spread it in the dish.
5. Place in center of oven and bake 15 minutes.
6. Remove from the oven, place halved Rolos all over the top of the bars, and return to oven for 2 minutes.
7. Spread the melted Rolos over the bars. Sprinkle evenly with bacon, pressing pieces gently into the melted chocolate/caramel. 
8. Cool and cut into bars. 

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Friday, September 26, 2014

Easy-Sew Pumpkins

I made these fun pumpkins last year (before I began this blog), but I decided I should share them anyway! I used a super tutorial found here on Positively Simple.  Here a few little tips I learned while making these:

  • I found most my fabric on the discount table at JoAnn's. They had a bunch of decorator samples (about 16"x16") for $0.50 each. Score! So check there--I have seen those samples on sale often.
  • I played around with the pattern to get slightly different shaped pumpkins. On one pumpkin I made the teardrop shapes more wide, on another I made them more tall.  I loved the simplicity of this design that allowed for tweaking here and there to get the shape you want.
  • Use needle nose pliers if you have trouble pulling the needle through the pumpkin center. I was frustrated until I figured out this little hack.
  • I skipped hot gluing the cinnamon stick. I tend to skip hot-glue whenever possible. I am usually disappointed with its durability in the long run. I liked the look of just the ribbon. (Obviously this is just my opinion. :))

I made two Dora pumpkins for my daughter to decorate her room with. She adores them!

I loved how the two-tone orange turned out on this one. Both of these fabrics were from the discounted samples swatches I found.

I did some simple embroidery on felt to make this leaf and stem. The stem is stuffed with a couple pieces of felt, then whip-stitched on the edge. I sewed them into the middle instead of hot-gluing. 

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Monday, September 22, 2014

Cinnamon Chip Pumpkin Waffles

Happy Fall!  One of my favorite Fall traditions is the baking I always do--especially the pumpkin recipe baking! I remember coming home from runs with my dad as a kid and smelling my mom's hotcakes. That was the smell of comfort, of love, of home. 

I recently bought a package of cinnamon chips on a whim. My oldest two went on a run together Saturday morning, and I decided to make pumpkin waffles with the cinnamon chips while they were out, in hopes that they could come home to something delicious. The result?  All I can say is WOW.  My family LOVED these. They are bursting with rich, warm flavor even before you add butter and syrup. The only hang-up is getting full.  

If you've never bought cinnamon baking chips, now is the time to find them (they are seasonal)! Check you grocery store, or you can find them online (Amazon or The Prepared Pantry are options).

Here's the easy recipe:

Cinnamon Chip Pumpkin Waffles
Makes 12 large waffles

4 eggs
1/2 cup oil
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 tablespoon  vanilla
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon cloves
3 cups flour (I used half whole wheat)
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
13/4 cups milk
1 1/2 cups cinnamon baking chips 

1. Using an electric mixer, beat eggs, oil, and sugar together. Add pumpkin, vanilla, and spices, then beat well. 
2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Alternate adding the milk and flour mix to the wet mixture, beating after each addition until it is all added and incorporated.
3. Stir in cinnamon chips.
4. Bake on greased waffle iron. Serve with your favorite toppings. We had butter, maple syrup, and some homemade apple pie filling. Mmm,mmm.

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Friday, September 19, 2014

Fall Table Runner

I tend to lean on the side of contemporary--rather than country--in most of my decor, except when I am decorating for fall. Then, I pull out the burlap, the wood, the leaves, and the twine.  I love the cool air and earthy smells of fall. I LOVE the warm colors. And I LOVE this table runner.

It is fun and easy (though not quick--I'm not gonna lie).  I had it in my mind as a concept, so I wasn't entirely sure how it would work. It will be considerably faster for someone following my tutorial, than it was for me figuring it out as I went!

This is a highly customize-able craft. Once you see how it is done, you can create your own design and make it fit your aesthetic desires. 

You will need:

  • 1 plain burlap table runner. I made mine by hemming the sides of a strip of burlap to fit my table. 
  • 1/4 -1/2 yard of burlap in 2-3 complimentary tones (one can match runner)
  • Tacky Glue
  • Jute Twine
  • 1/2-1 yard Heat-n-Bond iron-on adhesive or similar product

I stuck with earthen tones for my burlap. I tried Elmer's Glue-All also, but I don't recommend it. It was too runny for the purpose. Tacky Glue is just that--tacky. 

This worked well enough, but I wouldn't hesitate to by the not "lite" version since this is burlap. Any bonding that was less-than-secure after ironing this on was taken care of by the gluing step. 

1. Find or create some pumpkin and leaf stencils/patterns out of paper. I traced some leaf decorations I already had and free-handed the pumpkins. Many templates are available online. 

2. Pin your leaf and pumpkin patterns to some of the coordinating burlap and cut them out. I didn't end up liking the way the maple leaf design looked on my runner, but I plan to use it on a pillow!

3. To make the coordinating parts on the pumpkin: Cut a pumpkin shape out of two different colors of burlap. Here the white burlap is on the bottom, the brown on top. Trace lines as shown to divide the pumpkin into 7 curved strips. Cut the strips out. Repeat this for each pumpkin you are making.

4. Lay out your design. I played around with mine a lot. I originally planned to do this "applique" over the entire runner, but because I have a fairly large center piece I use in the fall, I decided to just put it on each end. 

5. Read the directions on the Heat-n-Bond. I will walk you through it as well, but reading it will help. Beginning with the top layer of the applique (here, the pumpkin strips) bond the Heat-n-Bond to the back (paper will still be attached). 
**Place a piece of disposable fabric or paper over your ironing board when you are working with the iron-on adhesive. The glue will get on everything below when you turn it over to iron. (I should have shown this so you weren't looking at my old, stained ironing board cover!) 

6. Cut out the pieces with the paper backing still on. 

7. Remove the paper, leaving the clear bonded film on each piece. 
8. Attach the pieces to the pumpkins by ironing in place per the Heat-n-Bond directions. 
9.  Repeat the process for the leaves and the pumpkins--so each piece is cut out with the film exposed. 10. Place each piece where you want it on the table runner and iron in place. 

11. Using the Tacky Glue, attach the jute twine along all the seams of the applique. I added a line of twine up the middle of the leaves to add some dimension.I also made a few curly-cue vines with the twine at the top of the pumpkins. 
This glue will take about 6-8 hours to dry clear. I pressed down the twine and re-positioned it a few times as it was drying. 

And you are done! Isn't it fun?!

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Saturday, September 13, 2014

Canning Peach Salsa

Peaches are here! So many uses, so little time! One of my favorite ways to use peaches when they are in abundance is in Peach Salsa! 

I made some last year, but the recipe didn't include tomatoes. We had tomatoes to use this year, so with my neighbor (and partner in canning/crime), we came up with a delicious new recipe! It is just the right combination of spicy, savory, and sweet. Chunky and rich in flavor--you will love it!

First peel and chop peaches. Ours were so ripe, I just peeled them with my fingers right out of the crate.  If your peaches aren't so easy, here is a great method from Our Best Bites.
Then, chop tomatoes. I recommend Romas or some other more-meaty, less-juicy variety.
It already looks so pretty, huh?

I used my hand-crank food processor to chop all the peppers, onions, and garlic. I still chopped the cilantro by hand. Add all these ingredients, along with lime zest and juice to the tomato and peach mix.  Then, stir in 1/2 cup of sugar. 

Put your pot on the stove over medium-high heat.  While you are waiting on it to boil, mix 4 tablespoons of fruit pectin and 1/2 cup sugar. Once it boils 3 minutes, mix this into the pot, stirring well. Let it boil 3 more minutes. 

Ladle the hot salsa into sterilized canning jars, leaving 1/4 inch of head-space. Wipe rims, and set sterilized lids on each jar. Screw on rings to finger-tight. Process in a waterbath canner: 10 minutes for pints, 15 minutes for quarts.  

Let them cool on the counter, then store in a cool, dry place.
I love eating salsa I have canned throughout the cold winter months! And peach salsa is such a rare-find.  You will love serving it to family and guests through the holidays!

Peach Salsa (Canned or Fresh*)
Makes 10 pints

14 cups peaches, peeled and chopped
6 cups Roma tomatoes, chopped
2 red bell peppers, chopped
3 cups sweet onion, chopped
4-5 cloves garlic, finely chopped/minced
1 cup jalapeno pepper, chopped
3/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1.5 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons lime juice
1/2 teaspoon lime zest
1 cup sugar-divided
4 tablespoons powdered fruit pectin

1. In a large stock pot, mix tomatoes, peaches, bell and jalapeno peppers, onion, garlic, cilantro, salt, lime juice and zest.  Stir in 1/2 cup of sugar. (*If you are making fresh salsa, add full cup of sugar and refrigerate until ready to use.)
2. Place pot on stove over medium-high heat.  Stir together remaining 1/2 cup of sugar and fruit pectin.
3. Bring salsa to a full boil.  Boil 3 minutes, then stir in sugar and pectin mixture. Return to a boil for 3 more minutes. 
4. Ladle hot salsa into prepared canning jars, leaving 1/4 inch of head-space. Wipe rims, apply sterilized lids and rings. Process in a water bath canner--10 minutes for pints; 15 minutes for quarts.  Remove and let cool.  Store for 1+ year. 

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Monday, September 8, 2014

Pumpkin Eclairs

I have finally given in to the realization that Autumn is on the horizon. I live in the Pacific Northwest, so saying goodbye to the perfect summer weather is a bit traumatic. Here we all know that each day we get closer to fall, we are also closer to the rain.

But I know the inevitable is not worth fretting over, so I am embracing fall. And what better way to do it than with a delectable homemade pastry. 

Eclairs always remind me of my paternal grandmother. I was five when she passed away, but I have vivid memories of her baking. To this day, she is the only person who has ever made rutabaga that I really liked.  Her cornbread, banana pudding, and collards are also clear and warm memories for me. And I remember how excited I was to see eclairs arranged on a plate on the counter after church on Sunday. Heaven on earth in her little Memphis house.

These eclairs, though not the traditional kind of my childhood, were an instant hit! We all love pumpkin pie around here, and these taste like a pumpkin pie filled pastry with a delicious, creamy, spiced icing.  Mmm, mmm.

Here's the how-to (recipe follows):

Make a batch of puff pastries.  I used the puffs recipe from Betty Crocker---a tried and true classic. I used my cookie scoop to put dough on the pan, and it made about 24.

While puffs are baking and cooling, make the filling. Mix cream cheese, with pudding mix. Gradually add in pumpkin and spices until well incorporated.

Slice open each puff. Remove any extra dough from the inside so there is a nice hollow place for filling. I only had to remove extra dough from about 1/3 of mine.

Fill each pastry with about 1 tablespoon of pumpkin filling. Close the pastries and refrigerate.

Prepare frosting using cream cheese, butter, vanilla, milk, powdered sugar, and cinnamon. Spread frosting on each eclair, then dust with a sprinkling of ground cloves.

Pumpkin Eclairs
Makes 24

Puff Pastry Ingredients:
1 cup water
1/2 cup salted sweet cream butter
1 cup flour
4 eggs

Puff Pastry Instructions:
1. Preheat oven to 400°.  
2. In a 2 quart saucepan, bring water and butter to a boil. Stir in flour vigorously until dough easily forms a large ball. Remove from heat.
3. Add all 4 eggs at once, beating in well until smooth.
4. Drop by round tablespoons (or use medium cookie scoop), onto lined or sprayed cookie sheet.
5. Bake 20 minutes, or until puffed up and lightly browned.

Pumpkin Filling Ingredients:
4 oz cream cheese
1 large box vanilla instant pudding, dry
3/4 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Pumpkin Filling Instructions:
1. Beat cream cheese and pudding mix until well incorporated.  
2. Add pumpkin puree 2-3 tablespoons at a time, beating until smooth after each addition. Beat in spices.

Spiced Fall Frosting Ingredients:
2 oz cream cheese
4 tablespoons softened salted sweet cream butter
1 tablespoon milk
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla 
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
ground cloves to dust

Spiced Fall Frosting Instructions:
1. In a medium mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and butter together until smooth. Add milk and continue beating until smooth.
2. Beat in powdered sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon. If icing is too thin or thick, add milk by the teaspoon (to thin), or powdered sugar by the tablespoon (to thicken). 

To Assemble Eclairs: 
1. Slice open each pastry. Remove any excess dough to create a hollow in the pastry (this won't be necessary for every pastry). 
2. Fill one (hollow) half of each pastry with about 1 tablespoon of pumpkin filling. Close pastries and refrigerate.
3. Frost with Spiced Fall Frosting. Refrigerate until ready to serve. 

Balm to my Soul

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