Thursday, July 19, 2012

Picture time

I can't believe I had to do this.  I took senior pictures . . . of my own kid.  Not that I wasn't always planning to do it, but, seriously, she shouldn't be this old yet.  I tell her she's much too young and she's not allowed to call herself a "senior" until August.  I still did senior pictures for her on the beach while we were on vacation last week.  We won't get another chance.

 This is the stair access to the beach.  We were at Lincoln City in Oregon.  Which totally explains the fact that she is not in a swim suit.  The suits came out once the whole time we were there.  They have a joke on the Oregon Coast:  What do you call someone swimming in the ocean?  A tourist.

 I know these two are not traditional for senior pictures but I love them anyway.  My husband suggested that she walk away and I get a picture of her with the foot prints leading away.  It was supposed to be symbolic and stuff.  
 Now that I look at these again, I totally wish I had gotten down low and taken them from that angle.  So if you have your senior on the beach and you want the sappy, symbolic picture, brave the wet sand and get the shot right.  It would look much cooler.

 She hates this one, thinks it makes her cheeks look fat.  I think she's adorable.  She doesn't believe me.  We're a classic mother daughter pair.
But this one is my favorite.  Look at her laugh.  That's my Sarah.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Flag Cookies

 Are you ready for the Fourth of July?   I know, I know.  I'm late to the party and everyone is blogland has already planned out their menu.   However, if you're a procrastinator like I am, you might want to try these.  The trick is all in the shaping of the dough.  It's perfect for those hot summer picnics when frosting melts and gets messy.   It's a lot easier than it looks and it's impressive to your friends.

The recipe starts with a basic refrigerator sugar cookie:

1 cup butter
1 1/2 c sugar
2 eggs
1 t vanilla
1 tsp lemon zest
3 1/2 c flour
1 t baking powder
1/2 t salt

cream the butter and sugar.  Mix in eggs, vanilla, and lemon zest.  Stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt until just combined.

Divide the dough into quarters.  Set one quarter aside.   Divide the remaining dough into two pieces.
 Take the quarter knob of dough and knead blue food coloring into it.  I use a gel based color made for frosting.  It gives me a nice bright color and some pretty colored finger tips.  I have a cute helper though, don't I?  This way she gets the brightly colored fingers and mine stay clean.  I'm a such a giving mom.
 Take one half of the remaining dough and knead red food coloring into it.  You might want to use the "no taste" version because it takes a lot of red coloring to actually make something red.

Leave the last piece of dough undyed.  Roll it out between two sheets of parchment paper (or plastic wrap if you're low on parchment, although it's a bit trickier to work with) into a 10.5"x10.5" square.  Normally, I wouldn't be very exact about this sort of thing.  I usually am pretty loose about measurements with rolled out dough, except with this recipe the size of the square needs to be pretty exact.

Now do the same thing with the red dough.   Remember a 10.5"x10.5" square is important.

Lay the white dough on top of the red dough.  Get it to line up as closely as possible.   Then cut the dough stack into three 3.5"x10.5" strips.   Layer two strips on top of each other.
 (Ok, so here the pictures aren't quite accurate because I decided I didn't like how I did this version.  If you follow my instructions the stripes will be thinner and there will be four layers of dough in the wide stack. I should have taken pictures when I redid the cookies, but then we've already discussed my laziness, haven't we?)

Cut the last strip in half.  Layer the halves on top of each other and then place on top of the wide strips.  You should end up with something like this:
 Shape the blue dough into a long rectangle approximately 1.75"x10.5"  Place the blue section in the corner where it belongs and then shape it so it fits nicely together.    Wrap it tightly in parchment paper or plastic wrap and place it in the freezer for at least an hour.  You can shape this ahead of time and slice and bake the day of the party if you need to.
 Cut the dough into 1/4" slices across the log. If you slice it right you'll get a flag shape. Place the slices on the pan so the blue rectangle is in upper left corner (can't have backward flags!)  Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.  Let cool on the pan for a few minutes then place on cooling racks.  Makes about 30 cookies.

Enjoy your patriotic treats.

If you are one of those people who plans way ahead, this cookie would also be great for any Olympics viewing parties you may be planning.   You could use the same technique to make French, Italian, or Spanish flags or if you're really clever you could probably get the Japanese flag done with this technique as well.   Have fun with it.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Burda 9491: Girl's jumpsuit

I've been sewing again!  I love this little jumpsuit. You can't tell from the picture but the fabric is actually very thin pink and white stripes. It turned out just like i pictured it in my head, which is really quite rare.   I'm very glad I did the contrast fabric in the pocket yoke and the brown piping and those cute brown buttons.  My daughter loves it and wanted to wear it two days in a row to school.  

The pattern is listed as average difficultly and that seemed about right to me.  The pin tucks and standing collar were a pain.  The pattern has you cut two rectangles, add the pin tucks to those and then cut the yoke from those.  The pattern does not specify exactly how small the pin tucks are supposed to be, so you get to guess.  When I used my pin tuck foot (that gives me very straight pleats) I ended up with too small a piece to cut the yoke from.  I had to start over and cut new rectangles that were quite a bit bigger.  I figured something around 9" wide was a nice, generous size to work with.  

Once I got past the yoke hurdle, the rest went together pretty quickly.  The techniques were pretty standard.  In fact, the construction technique was really educational.  My older girls are very jealous of their little sister's jumpsuit.  I think I can take a button up shirt pattern and a basic shorts pattern and put them together to create a jumpsuit pattern for them using the techniques from the Burda pattern.  We'll see if I can get that done sometime soon.  I have a lot of other sewing to do in the immediate future.  Summer vacation starts in a little over a week, so I need to get busy if my kids are going to get the shorts they need!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Maple Bacon Cupcakes

My sister Cathy is a genius.  She's been playing around with cupcakes recently and came up with a fabulous combination.  Since she doesn't have a blog of her own she said I could share the recipe here on mine.  She's also generous and super cool.

The cupcake starts with a fabulous buttermilk cake recipe.  It has the perfect level of sweetness and it's moist with a lovely small crumb.   The buttermilk flavor is reminiscent of good pancakes and the perfect accompaniment to the bacon. Then crispy fried bacon pieces are mixed into the batter (with a few sprinkled on top of the batter just before it goes in the oven.) When the cupcakes are cooled, they are frosted with a maple cream cheese frosting.  It may sound crazy, but the combination of salty and sweet is perfect and a lot of fun.

If you've got a BBQ to go to this summer, try bringing these along.  You'll be the hit of the party and everyone will think you are brilliant.  You are brilliant after all, so why not show it off?

Buttermilk Cupcakes

3/4 c softened butter
1 1/2 c sugar
1 t vanilla
1 1/2 c buttermilk + 1 T
2 3/4 c cake flour
1/2 salt
1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
4 egg whites, beaten to stiff peaks.
3/4 lb bacon (preferably maple smoked) cut into small pieces and fried until crispy

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cream the butter and sugar.  Add the 1 T buttermilk and 1 t vanilla.  Sift together the dry ingredients.  add 1/3 of the dry ingredients to the batter, stopping just before the flour is fully mixed in.  Add 1/2 the buttermilk.  Then add another 1/3 of the flour mixture, then the last of the buttermilk, and then the last of the flour.  Finish stirring in the flour by hand.   Gently fold in the egg whites.   Set aside 24 pieces of bacon for garnish.  Fold in 3/4 of the remaining bacon pieces.

Portion out into a muffin tin lined with cupcake liners.    Just before putting pans in the oven sprinkle the rest bacon pieces over each cupcake.  Bake for around 15 minutes until cupcakes spring back when lightly pressed.   Remove from pan and let cool on a wire rack. This should make 24 standard sized cupcakes.

When cool frost with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting and garnish with bacon pieces set aside earlier.

Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

8oz cream cheese
1/2 c butter
3 c powdered sugar
1-2 t Maple extract (I use the Mapline brand.  Flavor to taste.   Add more if you really want to punch up the maple flavor.  You can use real maple syrup but that would take some monkeying with the ingredients and it would end up being even sweeter frosting.  It's up to you.)

Mix all the ingredients in a stand mixer until light and fluffy.   This does make a lot of frosting, but if you are going to use large frosting tips to frost the cupcakes, you will need this much.  You'll notice that mine only have one layer of frosting on top.  If you are going to make soft ice cream style peaks with the frosting, you'll need even more frosting than this, so count on having to double the recipe.  When the cupcakes are frosted, put a little piece of bacon on top of each cup cake, just so no one is surprised to find bacon when they bite in.

This cake recipe is fantastic.  It would make a great base for many different kinds of cupcakes.  The buttermilk adds a really lovely flavor and texture to the cake.  If you do make yourself some Maple Bacon Cupcakes, let me know how they are received.  My sister and I would love to know.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


Two weeks.  Two weeks of stress and headache and I never, ever want to see tulle or netting again.  But it's done and she looked lovely.

That skirt right there was 90% of the headache.
 Just to be silly I asked her to do that pose that models in Vogue do all the time.  You know the one, where they put their hands on their hips and pop the collar bone.  She forgot the somber pout.

 Of course, it made her laugh.
The skirt gave me fits.  I just don't have enough experience to know how to support the rosettes properly.  I put all sorts of heavy weight tulle and netting under that skirt and I still could barely get the pouf on that side.  She gets to wear the dress again in April and May so I have time to get it figured out.  
There was a lot of tulle.

Edited to add:
We took some more pictures of the dress this fall and I thought it might be fun to add them to this post.  In case you missed my earlier discussion of it,  this dress is an original.  We drew the design and devised a pattern by working with three other patterns and my own design work.  The design was dramatic and playful--a perfect fit for my daughter.

 a little more natural pose and you can see the pick up on the side that showed the netting.
 a view from the back.
and another tulle shot.  It's not the best picture, but oh that tulle!  It killed me, it did.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

My YW Values Cake + a butter cream frosting recipe

 The Young Women's Presidency in my Ward asked me to make a cake for New Beginnings.  (translation:  the women who oversee the teen girls youth group at church asked me to make a cake for a special meeting that introduces the new girls into the program.)   They wanted little mini torches for everyone.  Since they are expecting 50 people to the meeting, I decided to do a two layer half sheet cake instead.  They were ok with that.

Only I thought the meeting was last week.  So over the course of Monday and Tuesday last week I baked, filled, stacked and frosted cake for 50 people . . . . who wouldn't be there until this Wednesday.  I didn't figure this one out until my daughter's Laurel Leader (aka the lady in charge of the 16-18 year old group) called to discuss their Wednesday night activity plans for the next two weeks.   And she mentioned the cake.  The cake sitting on my counter.  The cake they didn't want until next week.

I had cake for 50 and no one to eat it.  Since I had frosted it, I couldn't even freeze it to save for the next week.

We had quite the time sharing that baby around in order to get it eaten.  The last bit went to my mother's house for the Super Bowl party. My children wouldn't even look at it.  They were a bit sick of cake by that time.

It was a good thing, though, that I had an extra week.  The fail cake (my oldest son's words) was a plain white cake.   This one is much cooler.

Here's the outside.  Please keep in mind that I haven't really done much drawing since my freshman year of college (many, many years ago.)  Drawing with a frosting tube is much harder, especially when the biggest example of the logo I could find was 2" high.   It's not spectacular.  The best I can say for my lettering is that I spelled everything correctly.   I did draw the torch on the cake with a toothpick first and then I went over it with the frosting.  This way I could redo it several times until I was happy with it.  I just smoothed the frosting out with a damp offset spatula to fix my errors.   The torch is done with an outline and filled in with an upside down basket weave tip (smooth side up), then I smoothed it out with the afore mentioned damp offset spatula.

I was using my 50mm lens, so I had to stand on the counter with my head up at the ceiling to get the picture.  You can probably see that I stood to the right of the cake.  The funky perspective is kind of cracking me up. 

The very best part of this cake, though, is inside.   I call it a "Values" cake.

The Young Women's program developed by our church includes eight values the girls are to focus on and learn as they go through their teen years.  (Faith, Divine Nature, Individual Worth, Knowledge, Choice and Accountability, Good Works, Integrity, and Virtue.)  Each value is associated with a color.  I used the directions for a rainbow tie dye cake but put the different colors of batter down in value order instead of rainbow order. I asked my girls not to tell their friends about the brightly colored cake because I want it to be a surprise this evening when they cut it.

Rainbow cakes are super easy to make.   There are a lot of recipes all over the internet. (I used the directions from Omomicon for dying and dumping the batter but I did not use her diet cake recipe.  I would not recommend using a diet cake for one so large.  it would fall apart without the eggs in it.) I have a few tips if you want to make a big one like this.   For each layer I did eight colors, including one left white for Faith.  Each portion of batter measured a little over 1 cup, or 8.3 oz if you've got a new kitchen scale you like to play with like I do.   Each layer uses two boxes of white cake mix, and yes I'm assuming you're using a box.  There are times when it's fine to not do homemade. Making cake for 50 is one of those times.

When mixing the cake, do not mix the batter like the directions say on the box.  Run your mixer just long enough to bring everything together.  You may have to mix the last of the egg into it with a spatula.   All the beating you would normally do at this point with the mixer is done when you mix in the gel color.   Your cake may even be over mixed by the time all the food color is fully mixed in.  As you can see from the above photo, mine was.  If you are doing a values cake and need to make gold (for virtue), first make a pale peach then add just a tiny little smear of blue to brown it up a bit.  Instead of doing bright colors you could also do the pastels the church is currently using in the Young Women materials.  That would be very pretty.  I grew up with bright value colors so that's where I went with my cake.

When making a cake this size you must freeze the layers before handling them.   Be very careful when getting your layers out of the pan and definitely use parchment paper in the bottom of the pan!   I had to rebake one layer because it fell apart on me during this process.  In order to freeze my cake layers, I carefully slipped them into my half sheet baking sheets, then leveled the tops with a bread knife, wrapped the pan in foil, and put them both in my deep freeze.   The next day, the cake was super easy to handle when I assembled it.

By the way, I measured out my butter cream frosting recipe.

American butter cream frosting
2 lbs powdered sugar
1 cup salted butter
1/2 c whipping cream
1 T vanilla

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.  Mix on medium speed for over 5 minutes.  Sometimes I like to let mine go for up to ten minutes.   You may need to add up to 1T of whipping cream at the end to loosen the frosting up a bit to make it easy to spread.  I find that with all that fat in the recipe I don't have to get the frosting as stiff for the piping work.  It's much easier on my hands, thank goodness.   This should be enough to frost and fill a two layer 9x13 cake.  You might need more for piping or if you like your frosting extra thick.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

I'm fudge obsessed

I didn't do a lot of candy making this year for Christmas.  I had just worked the most hours I've worked in 16 years and I was tired.  The elementary school has been using me as a substitute quite a bit lately, sometimes up to full time hours in a week.  I've been way too tired to actually make extra things.  

However, with the Christmas break being two full weeks and another four day weekend this weekend, I'm all rested up and I'm cooking all the candy I missed out on at Christmas.  This year I'm obsessed with new fudge flavors.  I can't help myself.  The eggnog was such a success, I had to try my hand at a few others I've been thinking about.   

These flavors are super easy to make, especially since I cheated on the maple nut.  I couldn't bring myself to buy real maple syrup for an experiment.  It's so expensive! And fudge is such a frivolous, non-necessary thing. I know, the artificial flavors aren't the same, but it was close enough for me.  

Maple Nut Fudge:

make vanilla fudge only omit the vanilla and add 2 t maple flavoring.  After the fudge is whipped, add 3/4 c walnuts.

See?  Super easy.  Like most fudge, this one tastes better if you can let it sit for at least 24 hours.  This allows the flavors to really blend and strengthen.

This one is my very favorite fudge ever.  I can not rave enough about it.  It was a little bite of heaven.

Orange Dreamsicle Fudge

Make vanilla fudge and this time reduce the vanilla to 1 t.  Add 1/4 t orange oil and the zest of one orange.  Also, you really need to let this one sit a day or so as well.  I have no idea if more than 24 hours makes a difference because, quite frankly, I was lucky this one lasted the full 24 hours.

I've got one more new flavor of fudge to make this afternoon and then I should be all fudged out for the year.


Well see.

Hopefully.  I have gained weight this month, sadly.  Those pounds tasted fantastic though.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Eggnog Fudge

I'm a little slow on this one, but I think you can still find Eggnog in stores for a little bit longer.  Run out and buy a quart so you can make this.  You'll thank me later.  Unless you are on a diet.  Then you will curse me.  Whatever.  Eat it.  You're welcome.

The method for cooking this candy is exactly like chocolate fudge, so if you want a step by step with photos try this post on making chocolate fudge.   The sugar measurement looks weird.  I had to adjust the sugar in the recipe because eggnog has sugar in it already.  Basically it's 3 c minus 2 T.   Remember that sweating the pan and not scraping the pan out after cooking are the two most important steps in making sure your fudge does not sugar.    Also make sure you use a clean spoon after the candy has sweat in the pot.  If you stirred before sweating the pan, wash the spoon carefully to be sure no sugar is sticking to the spoon. Do not ignore these steps.

Eggnog Fudge

3 T butter
1 1/2 c prepared eggnog (store bought works perfectly.)
1/4 c light corn syrup
1/4 t salt
2 3/4 c + 2 T sugar
2 t vanilla
1/8-1/4 t nutmeg (to taste)

Combine all except vanilla and nutmeg in a 4 quart pot. Put a lid on the pot and cook over medium heat until the candy comes to a rolling boil. Let it boil for 2-5 minutes with the lid on. Remove lid and add candy thermometer. Cook and stir until mixture reaches exactly 238 degrees. Pour out into bowl of stand mixer; do not scrape out the pan. Just pour out the candy that comes easily and leave the rest in the pan. Let the mixture sit at room temperature until it reaches about 110 degrees. Add vanilla and nutmeg. Beat with the mixer using the flat paddle on medium speed. When mixture begins to lose it's gloss, scrape out into buttered 8x8 baking pan. Let cool until firm. Cut and serve. Makes about 2 lbs.

If you can wait a week before eating this fudge, you'll be even happier.  This fudge really intensifies in flavor as it sits and "ripens."  The texture smooths out and you can really taste that wonderful eggnog flavor.   Have fun with this one.