October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

The house is all decorated, and there's cinnamon, apples, and cloves in the air. It must be Halloween, the best of all the holidays. I'll be giving out candy to the neighborhood kids tonight. I've even already had a few trick-or-treaters. No tricks at my house tonight!

Larry is a little dramatic.
Larry the Pumpkin and I wish you a happy and safe Halloween!

October 30, 2011

Beef and Beer Stew

   It snowed yesterday, was in 20s overnight, and our heat is broken. This series of events called for some serious comforting, warm food. Queue an amazing recipe I've made a number of times by Not Quite Nigella. It is seriously fantastic, especially if you slow cook it. That's what I did this time, but it just depends on what I have going on during the day. Either way, though, this stew is wonderful.

   The original recipe is in metric, but I have used it and tweaked it so many times that it's now in measurements more familiar to us weirdos who use inches and pounds.

Beef and Beer Stew with Dumplings

What You'll Need:
For Stew:
    2 pounds beef cut into bite sized
    2 onions, diced
    2 garlic cloves, minced
    3 tablespoons flour
    2 cups beef stock
    1, 12 oz bottle of beer*
    3 bay leaves
    1 Tbs brown sugar
    2 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
    pinch of salt, to taste

For the dumplings
    1 cup flour
    2 tsp baking powder
    1/2 tsp salt
    1/4 cup melted butter
    2 eggs
    1/2 cup grated cheese

October 25, 2011

So Yummy Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée

When Hubby-to-be and I were first dating, we went to one of his favorite restaurants and their dessert special that night was vanilla bean crème brûlée. From that first bite, he and I both have been smitten with this delight. Unlike the Pumpkin Bread Pudding from a few days ago, crème brûlée can't be made on a whim unless you all ready have the necessary tools. I didn't- until now.

Hubby-to-be's wonderful mother sent us our wedding gifts early and to my indescribable joy, a set of ramekins and a cooking torch were among the gifts. It just so happens that also yesterday, Hubby-to-be was expecting a call about a job. I've been confident he would receive an offer, so I thought a crème brûlée would be a nice way to celebrate. And even if he didn't get it, there are worse things to cry over than tasty custard (but he did get it, it turns out).

October 21, 2011

Pumpkin Bread Pudding

This recipe for Pumpkin-Bourbon Bread Pudding popped up on my blogroll and I knew it had to be made. The best part? I already had all of the ingredients on hand! Now if that isn't a recipe that demands being made that instant, I don't know what is. You might be thinking that bread pudding isn't for you, but you'd be wrong. Try this and you'll be sold, just like I was.

I had never made a bread pudding before, so I didn't really stray from the given recipe. I simply left out the bourbon because I didn't have any. It turned out really well, so well that Hubby-to-be got into it before I could take a picture. It's so incredibly easy to make that anyone can do it.

This was all that was left after Hubby-to-be came home.
Pumpkin Bread Pudding
from The Baker Chick

What You'll Need:

1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup canned pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
Pinch of ground cloves

5 cups cubed crusty bread (like a baguette)
3/4 stick unsalted butter, melted

The Process:

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Combine all ingredients except butter and bread in a bowl and whisk together. In a separate and larger bowl, toss the bread cubes with butter until coated. Then pour the custard mixture over the bread and mix. Let it sit to soak it up for a few minutes. Then bake for 25-30 minutes, until the custard has set.

Then devour.

October 19, 2011

No more sewing for me

I was so, so close to getting this Halloween quilt done. I have about 1/3 of it quilted. And now my machine is broken beyond my ability to repair. The nearest repair shop has over 10 reviews on Google saying "Don't ever go here" and the next closest one that can service my machine is over 50 miles away.

It doesn't look like I will be doing any sewing soon, since I can't exactly just go out and buy a new machine. So, for the foreseeable future it's just recipes from me. I was hoping to post a tutorial soon, but that's going to have to be put on hold as well. Maybe I can use this as an opportunity to work on some no-sew crafts I've been meaning to get around to.

October 16, 2011

Flynn Quilt Frame Review: The Sewing

As you may recall, I set up my Halloween circle quilt on the Flynn Multi-Frame back in September. Then I couldn't use it because my presser foot couldn't reach the floor. Over this past weekend, I took it back out and decided I could give the frame a try on my coffee table in the living room. It's low enough to the ground that I could turn the machine sideways and still have the foot reach the ground.

I couldn't be more disappointed. At first, I couldn't believe how cumbersome it all was jut to set up on my machine. In the instructional video, he makes it seem so easy, but there's serious a learning curve. After fighting to get it set up on my machine, I spent about 90 frustrating minutes trying to do a basic meandering pattern along the top border.

Despite the tension ribbons, which were very difficult to get in place, they didn't work as they were intended to. It was a 4" border I was working on, and I only got about an 8 inch long section of it done before I got tired of fussing with it. I took the quilt off the frame, put the frame pieces aside, and used a wash-away basting spray to hold the quilt sandwich together.

October 14, 2011

Inverse Quilts for Twins

I am so excited to get started on this one, even though the fabric-buying stage has to wait until after the wedding. A long-time friend of Hubby-to-be's and his wife are having twins in January. I just found out that they're expecting two girls- so you know what that means! It's time to start planning the quilts.

I think it's a little weird how many parents dress their young twins exactly the same. Same shirt, same pants, same hat, same shoes- it just rubs me the wrong way. But, that's what some people prefer. So not knowing the parents-to-be as well as Hubby-to-be, I decided to make the girls' quilts using the same fabric collection, but with the colors inversed. So the quilts will compliment each other, but they won't be exactly the same.

I have been thinking about doing a pinwheel quilt for some time, and I thought this would be a good opportunity to try it out. I found a really neat little page that lets you make a mock up quilt from the International Quilt Study Center & Museum. With my vague idea of pinwheels, I made a mock up, which you can see here in pink and brown. There were a surprising number of ways to customize the quilt. I made it 3 blocks by 4 blocks since it will be sized for infants, but you could scale it up even more.

I think pink and brown are cute but modern colors for girls that are better that the traditional pink, pink, and more pink that I've seen. I also don't know how the parents are planning to decorate, so I wanted something that would likely mix in with whatever they choose. After planning out my design ideas on the website, I decided I would need a collection with at least 12 fabrics with a variety of small-medium prints.

I spent most of the day searching, and I definitely found the perfect collection from Riley Blake, called Indian Summer.There are 23 prints, mostly in pink, brown, and cream. It's adorable, and the variety of prints is perfect for making the pinwheels. I can't wait to get started!

October 12, 2011

Dr. Pepper BBQ Pulled Chicken

Even though I am really into the autumn spirit, I'm not quite ready to let the summer go until I make one more barbeque dish. This one will really hit the spot on a chilly fall evening like tonight. I first came across Dr. Pepper BBQ sauces a while ago, they have been all the rage lately it seems.

The recipe I used for the sauce is adapted from Noble Pig, a blog I am so in love with.

Dr. Pepper BBQ Pulled Chicken

What You'll Need:

3 Tbs butter
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 small can tomato paste
1 Tbs lemon juice
3 Tbs honey
2 tsp chile powder (use Chipotle or other for more hotness if you prefer)
1 tsp ground pepper
1 can Dr. Pepper
5-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

The Process:

Cook the onion and garlic in the butter to soften them. Whisk together remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer. If you're making the sauce ahead, simmer for 40 minutes until thickened. You can then store it in the refrigerator. If you're making the chicken that day, after you've simmered the ingredients together and they're well blended, you can just pour it straight into the crock pot.

Add in your chicken breasts to the pot. Make sure they are well coated and nearly covered with sauce. Cook on low for about 6 hours, or on high for 4 if you're in a hurry. If you cook it on high, you do risk burning the bottom chicken piece, so about halfway through you should rotate them.

I find that the chicken pulls apart better if it's been cooked longer on lower temp. Once they're cooked, grab two forks and pull the chicken apart. Mix the chicken pieces back into the pot with the sauce to coat them. Serve on toasted buns and enjoy!

October 10, 2011

Smitten with China Glaze

I can't get enough of Autumn this time around, and after I tried out the China Glaze polishes for the wedding, I obviously had to try and find some Halloween appropriate ones. They obliged me with an awesome glow-in-the-dark polish called Ghoulish Glow. I found a 4 polish Halloween set that included It's Alive glitter polish, the Ghoulish Glow, their Black Mesh Crackle, and a top coat.

This is what they look like all together. I applied the basecoat, the glitter polish, and the glow polish on top. I wasn't sure exactly how long to let those dry before I put the Crackle on, so I waited about 20 minutes. Then I applied the Crackle. I've never used it before, but I love, love, love it! The effect is fantastic and easy. The shatter effect started almost immediately. I let it dry for about 15 minutes before I sealed them with a top coat.

I love that it glows in the dark. The glow polish changed the effect of the glitter just a little so that it's a little duller. It doesn't have an effect on the over-all look, but I wouldn't use it over a polish that wasn't green. I had a little too much fun waving them around in the dark while they glowed. What a fun set!

October 5, 2011

China Glaze, where have you been alll my life?

A lot of the things for the wedding have been DIY projects; the favors, bouquets, menu cards, bridesmaid's alterations, ceremony programs, my garter, and most unexpectedly, the bustle for my dress. To save both myself and my bridesmaids a lot of last-minute money, I figured we would also do our own hair and makeup.
Unlike all the other DIY projects I've done for the wedding, I am no expert in either hair or makeup. I assume that I do a passably good job on my makeup based on compliments I've received, but that's about it. Hair, though, I know I am really out of my depth. I have naturally curly hair, so styling my hair is as simple as stepping out of the shower and letting it air dry. No surprise, I'm a little paranoid about the whole situation.

Cue China Glaze and their amazing nail polish. One of my lovely bridesmaids has been espousing the wonders of China Glaze polishes for ages, so I decided to buy a set to do French manicures for the wedding. As soon as I got them, I tried them out. They have this great clear polish called First and Last that is both the basecoat and the topcoat. Love it. I have been doing my own French manicures for years because I need to be professional for work, and this manicure came out so amazing.

It's been a couple days, and the manicure is still going strong. No chipping, no peeling, no yellowing.  I don't think I can go back to any other polish after this. I seriously can't be happier. The only down side is that I cut my nails back before I bought the polish, so they look a little weird being so short. That's why I haven't included a photo.

October 3, 2011

Creamy Mac & Cheese

I love fall because it gives me an excuse to make this mac & cheese every week. I love it. It is also an awesome Meatless Monday recipe. I shamelessly stole the original recipe from Paula Deen, but I have made this one many times and after lots of tweaks it has become a completely different thing.

Look. At. That.
The big difference between my recipe and Paula's is that mine is baked. I tried it a number of times in the slow cooker, but it's just not the same. I really prefer the baked top with the breadcrumbs.

Creamy Mac and Cheese

What You'll Need:

1 box pasta, preferably rotini
1 10oz block of sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 of a 10oz block medium cheddar cheese, or colby jack, grated
1 can cheddar cheese soup
2 cups milk
1/2 stick butter
1 tsp dry mustard (or two tsp liquid mustard)
1/2 tsp salt
dash of pepper to taste
breadcrumbs of your choice (plain, Italian, panko)

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