Monday, March 23, 2015

Sail Away Hoodie Pattern

I am in love with this hoodie! It is soft and comfy, has pockets and a cute lined hood. And best of all, it was so straightforward to make! My good friend Grethel designed the pattern, and it is available at a special introductory price right now on Etsy.  

Downloaded patterns are THE way to go these days, folks. You can make the item over and over again in multiple sizes, and you always have a backup to re-print if part of the pattern gets damaged. I have come to prefer downloading my patterns WAY over the wispy thin patterns I learned to sew with.

Grethel had a team of testers with varying skill levels, sizes, and sewing machines try this pattern out before its release. I can attest to its ease of use and I love the finished product! Truly a year-round jacket!

This pattern gives you the option of using multiple fabrics to add fun contrast. I love how the striped cuffs and hood turned out with this one! 

I just did a contrasting light pink on the hood lining for this jacket.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Lace-Trimmed High-Waisted Skirt Tutorial

I saw a pin for this skirt from Mod Cloth on Pinterest a while back, and have been on the lookout for fabric to make my own version.  I found this silk-blend fabric on the discount table at JoAnn's a few weeks ago. It is completely opaque, but not too heavy. It has beautiful sheen and subtle embroidered detail. I think it was probably a decorator fabric, but I decided it would be perfect for my lace-trim skirt! I bought 2 yards as well as some wide lace and a zipper to match. 

After cutting out mine, I saw that I had enough left to also do a matching skirt for my daughter! Yay! 
I only have one daughter, so you had better believe I am "that mom" who matches her as long as she'll allow me!

Now on to the tutorial!

1. Cut your fabric and lace.  Two yards of fabric made my skirt and my daughter's with about 1/4 yard to spare. I wear a Women's size 6, and my daughter wears size 5T. 

To determine your measurements for cutting:
  • Waistband-- Women's: Waist size + 1 inch (length) by 8 inches (width) (Waistband is folded lengthwise in picture.)  Girls': Waist size + 1 inch (length) by 5 inches (width).
  • Skirt body--Women's and Girls':  Waist size (or more for a fuller skirt) wide by measurement of bellybutton to kneecap length (Cut 2). 
  • Wide flat lace in same measurement as skirt body width
2. You'll also need corresponding thread, 9" zipper for Woman's skirt/ 4-6" for girl's, satin ribbon for belt (optional, not pictured here). 

3. Iron 1/2 inch fold around wrong side of entire waistband. Fold in half (wrong sides together) and press. 

4. Make sure each end of the band is the same width. These two ends will be almost touching in the finished product, so they need to be identical.  Set waistband aside.

5. Sew body of skirt together on one side (right sides together). If using a regular sewing machine, iron the seam allowance open. If using a serger, iron along inside of seam.

6. Lay out waistband. Line up the unsewn edge of the skirt body with one edge of the waistband. Overlap 1/2 inch of the top of the skirt body on the inside of the waist band as shown. Lay out the zipper next to it, lining up the zipper pull with the top of the waistband.

7. Mark the bottom of the zipper on the skirt body with a pin. 

8. With right sides together, sew the other side of the skirt body together (RST), stopping at the pin. Iron 1/4 inch down along the un-sewn remaining edge of the skirt body as shown.

9. Iron the hem.  I was able to use the factory-finished edge for the hem of my skirt, so one fold is sufficient. If your edge is not factory-finished, iron a 1/2 inch hem, then iron one more 1 inch fold. I realized that my lace could be sewn in conjunction with sewing my hem (as you can see). If this will work for your lace, skip to the next step. If not, pin your hem in place and sew a top stitch around the entire hem of the skirt body.

10. Begin pinning lace on to the hem at one of the seams. Continue pinning in place around the body of the skirt. Finish with a 1/2" overlap.  

Part of what gives this skirt its striking appearance is the lace that falls below the hemline. Choose your lace and your placement of it on the skirt's edge with this in mind.

11. Begin sewing the lace with a zig-zag stitch across the overlapping portion of the lace.  Sew a straight stitch across the entire circumference of the lace in two places--one near the top of the lace and one near the base of the skirt. 

12. Sew two gathering stitches around the top of the skirt body. Pull the bobbin (underside) thread to gather the skirt to the same width as the waistband. 

13. Line up the center of the skirt body (the closed seam side) with the center of the waistband. Adjust the gathers to be equal on each side. Lay the gathered top edge of the skirt body inside the folded waistband (about 1/2") and pin in place. Many pins in this step mean a nicer finished product, so don't  hesitate to use a bunch!

Sew a top stitch just inside the bottom edge of the waistband to secure the skirt in place. Leave 1 inch open at each end of the waistband and skirt for the zipper.

14. Place zipper between the folds of the waistband, but under the skirt body as shown.

15. Pin in place, then sew a top-stitch using a zipper foot. (This is my daughter's tiny skirt--hence the tiny zipper and giant-looking pins!)

16. Add the satin ribbon (if desired), and you are done! These are our Easter skirts, but I plan to use them year round! 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Butternut Squash and Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies

I've had a couple of small butternut squashes sitting in the fruit basket on my counter for at least 2 months.  I've been told these vitamin rich veggies can be stored for up to a year, but I was ready to use mine.  I also had a couple of very ripe bananas that needed to be used.  And, I needed to make cookies. (Yes, needed). Chocolate chip cookies, to be precise.

So after looking over some pumpkin and banana cookie recipes, I came up with this one.  I LOVE feeding my family treats that I can feel good about, and this cookie recipe definitely qualifies! It has 2 full cups of butternut squash puree, which provides a whopping 874% of the USDA recommended vitamin A needs, plus high quantities of vitamin C and potassium--which is also boosted by the banana! Even after you divide those vitamins among all the cookies, each one is still going to be pretty darn full of redeeming health value!

In case you are new to using a butternut squash in your cooking, I will walk you through the process of making the raw squash into puree you can bake with. 

Slice the raw squash in half lengthwise. Using a knife and/or grapefruit spoon, clean out the seeds and stringy membranes.

Preheat oven to 350°. Place 1/4 cup water on a foil lined baking sheet. Place squash face-down on the foil. Bake 45 minutes, or until soft. Remove and cool to touch.

Use a paring knife to peel the squash. Put the peeled squash in a blender or food processor.

Blend the squash until smooth. 

For this recipe, you'll need a total of 3 1/2 cups of squash and banana combined. My cookies had 2 cups of squash and 1 1/2 cups banana (or 2 medium). If you have less squash and more banana no problem! Your cookies will have a stronger banana flavor but will still be great! The squash has a mild, nutty taste that makes the cookies taste more rich. Both the squash and the banana ensure a moist texture. 

Now, on to the cookie recipe: 

Butternut Squash and Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes 5 dozen cookies

1 cup butter, softened
1.5 cups sugar
1 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
2 cups butternut squash puree
1 1/2 cups pureed banana (2 medium bananas)
2 teaspoons vanilla 
6 cups flour (I used 4 cups all purpose, 2 cups whole wheat.)
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2-3 cups chocolate chips


1. Preheat oven to 375°. Prepare baking sheets with silicone mats, parchment, or cooking spray. 
2. Using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugars until smooth. Add eggs and mix well. Mix in squash, banana, and vanilla until smooth. 
3. In a separate large bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Add this to wet mixture and stir well. Stir in chocolate chips. 
4. Drop by rounded tablespoons onto baking sheets. Bake 9-11 minutes, or until light brown around bottom edge. 

Unlike traditional chocolate chip cookie dough, this dough is more wet. It will still stick together on a spoon, but is sticky to touch. Since squash have varying moisture content, the amount of flour you need may vary slightly each time you make these. 

Here you see how the cookie dough balls look before baking. 

And here, baked to scrumptious perfection, right out of the oven. 

Friday, March 6, 2015

Chocolate Coconut Pie

Next week is a monumental day and time in history. March 15, 2014 at 9:26:53 am, will represent the closest time has come to mirroring the important mathematical figure of Pi.  (Find a fun countdown here.)

As a geek at heart, I am celebrating by sharing pie recipes! This Chocolate Coconut Pie would make anyone--mathematician or not--as happy as a hypotenuse! It was gobbled up by my family faster than you can say dodecahedron! 

You know they old saying: "As easy as pie?'  This pie really lives up to it. No fancy tools or advanced algebra required.  All you need is the ingredients, a bowl, and spoon to prepare this for baking. 

Rich chocolate and coconut are deliciously combined in this perfect way to celebrate Pi(e) Day!

Chocolate Coconut Pie
Makes one 9-inch pie

1 unbaked pie crust (I love this Coconut Oil crust from Yesterfood)
1 stick (1/2 cup) salted sweet-cream butter
4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup shredded flake baking coconut

1. Preheat oven to 325°. Prepare pie crust and place in freezer until filling is ready.
2. Melt butter in small saucepan over low heat. Stir in cocoa powder and sugar. Cook on low just until well incorporated (no need to boil). Remove from heat, and cool until able to touch.
3. Using a spoon, stir eggs well one at at time into the chocolate mix. Stir in flour and vanilla, then the coconut. 
4. Pour into prepared pie crust. Bake in center of oven 40-50 minutes, until top is crusted and middle has risen. 
5. Cool at least 20 minutes before serving. Serve warm or cold. Store in refrigerator. 

Participating in these link-ups. 

More great ways to celebrate The Ultimate Pi(e) Day: 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Crispy Coconut Orange Marmalade Muffins

I love oranges. And I ADORE coconut--especially toasted coconut. Add these two flavors to a baked good, and I'm pretty much a goner. I canned orange marmalade this winter, and we aren't using it up very quickly. So I decided to use it to flavor a new muffin recipe. 

My dad is visiting this week, so he got to taste some fresh from the oven. His description: "Legendary." Hopefully you'll agree!

Crispy Coconut Orange Marmalade Muffins
Makes 24 

Muffin Ingredients: 
1/2 cup softened butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 small instant vanilla pudding mix, dry
1 cup milk
2 1/2 cups flour (I used half whole-wheat on one batch and they turned out just as well!)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups orange marmalade

Topping Ingredients:
1 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons flour
4 tablespoons melted butter

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Prepare muffin pans with cooking spray or cupcake liners.
2. In a medium mixing bowl beat softened butter and granulated sugar. Add eggs and beat well. Stir in pudding and milk until smooth.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, and salt. Add this dry mixture to the wet mixture and stir to combine well. Stir in orange marmalade until well combined. 
4. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full. 
5. Prepare topping by stirring coconut, brown sugar, and flour together in a bowl. Pour melted butter on top of this, and stir until well combined. Sprinkle about 1 scant tablespoon on the top of each muffin before baking.
6. Bake muffins for 20 minutes. Remove promptly to cool. 

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