Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Orange Dreamsicle Cupcakes

I've discovered a bit of bliss in a natural orange oil I ordered. I've had it in an amazing sweet vinaigrette dressing and other savory items and loved it. But I decided that I had to try it in my cupcakes. I simply added about 1/4 tsp. of the concentrated oil to my favorite white cake recipe and the results were a slice of heaven. Orange cakes with vanilla cream filling. They are topped with my favorite Italian Meringue Frosting. I'm pretty sure that if you like orange, there's nothing quite as delectable as orange dreamsicles in cake form. They're officially added to my menu list for both cake and cupcake orders. You're welcome.

Friday, September 21, 2012

They called him Sharky

Many, many years ago, WAY back in the 2000's, someone (I honestly don't remember who) gave me a book that I instantly loved, but I never did anything with it until this week. The book is called Teach Yourself to Make Soft Toys: Simple Techniques and Patterns for Stuffed Animals.  I have no idea if this book is even in print any more. It includes patterns for reptiles, dinosaurs, a unicorn, spiders, mamas and babies and more.

It has some really cute patterns and and fairly clear directions. (I would say that you'd have to be a semi-experienced sewer to make most of these toys, but some are pretty simple.) I was always amused by the shark pattern and wanted to make it, but had no real reason to do so. I even bought a red zipper that sat in my zipper drawer for over 10 years.

I came across the zipper while I was putting some sewing supplies away and decided it was time to make the shark. It'd be a great little Christmas gift for the baby and I had almost all the fabric. When I started putting the pattern pieces together, I realized that this was not a "little" toy. It is almost 2 1/2 feet long. My youngest daughter has spent the last 2 days playing with it and the little fish that zip into its mouth...and she has asked for a "girl shark" in pink.

It makes me laugh, so I thought I'd share it.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Hooded Baby Towel Tutorial

Yes, those towels with the little frog face are cute, but after the first 6 months, they're about half the size you want.  My oldest daughter is 6 and she's still able to use the same size hooded towels I made for her when she was born.  Sure they might seem a little big for the tiny newborn, but who doesn't like a little extra absorption for those after-bath surprises that newborns throw at us?

It's about as easy as a sewing project can get.

What you'll need:
one full size bath towel
one matching hand towel
matching thread
sewing machine with a needle for heavy fabrics

What you'll do:
1. Pre-wash your towels and dry on medium heat.  This gets the towels clean and the heat drying will help avoid any extra shrinking in the laundry later.

2. Cut the finished edges off of the hand towel on each of the SHORT ENDS, leaving the long edges in tact.

3. Fold the hand towel in half, shorter ends together. Mark the centers of both edges with a water soluable marker or pins. Place one side of the long edge slightly over the other and pin in place.  Starting at the edge (instead of the point), machine baste together toward the point leaving 1-2" free. Top stitch with a zig-zag stitch setting your machine's stitch length short and the width at its widest.  You've just made the back seam of the hood.

4. Turn to inside out with right sides together. Take a tuck across the point of the hood and pin in place, right sides together.  Cut off the point so there is a straight line approx. 5" seam across.  Sew a 1/4" seam allowance and press seam down.  Zig-zag top stitch, encasing the raw edges.

5. On the remaining long edge of the towel (the front edge of the hood), turn under 1 1/2" (wrong sides together).  Pin in place and straight stitch along the edge.

6. Make a double pleat at the raw edge of the bottom of the hood, bringing 1 1/2" toward the center seam from each side. Baste in place.

7. Fold bath towel in half and mark the center.  Lining up the center of the bath towel with the back seam of the hand towel (wrong side of bath towel to right side of hood), pin and baste together as you did for the top seam of the hood (overlapping edges and stitching together).  Lightly press seam toward the hood (so the bath towel lays flat).  Zig-zag top stitch along the seam as before, encasing edges.
NOTE: Unless you're using an industrial sewing machine, be careful when sewing over the pleated section as it could break your needle if you speed over it.

You're done.  If you're an experienced sewer, it'll take you about 30 minutes to an hour.  Feel free to add trims like chenille rickrack or cotton ball fringe to the hood or edges of the towel.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Island Banana Donuts

We never seem to eat the bananas we buy and I end up with a freezer full of them, unexcited to make more banana muffins or bread, but unwilling to just toss them until it's been several months and they start growing ice crystals.

Yesterday we went to our local apple orchard to get our fill of apple donuts and cider. We also brought home our favorite fall treats, Honeycrisp and Chestnut Crab apples. This morning I was wondering if I could recreate the apple donuts we had. I was googling recipes until I saw a half dozen bananas going bad on the counter. I decided to google banana donuts instead and found a recipe that looked easy, save the gourmet ingredients it called for that I'd have to order online and wait another week for delivery. I tweaked it a bit and came up with this recipe that was amazingly yummy:

Island Bliss Banana Donut Holes
2 cups Krusteaz Buttermilk Pancake Mix (you could probably use whatever is in the house)
2/3 cup milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 bananas, mashed
1 tsp. vanilla (opt.)
grape seed oil (or vegetable oil)

Pour oil into a pot, at least 2 inches deep and heat the to medium-hot. Mix remaining ingredients together until batter is sticky. Using a small 1 inch ice cream scoop, drop balls of batter into the hot oil. Turning once, deep fry until a deep golden brown.

Check the first few to make sure the batter is cooked through and adjust cooking time. (mine looked very dark before they cooked through completely)

Remove from oil and place on paper towels to drain.  Roll in sugar, if desired.

Note to the nesting: You may want to try this on a cool day while not pregnant or you may find yourself trying to keep your sweat from dripping into the oil.