Monthly Archives: February 2013

Keeping a Toe in

Lately, there hasn’t been much sewing in my life. Once I finished the Swoon quilt, I had a lot of ideas to start another one or finish that duvet cover project that I started last winter, but I just haven’t been able to get in the groove. However, last year I joined a charity quilt group. Each month, everyone in the group makes a couple of blocks and sends them to a designated quilter to assemble and quilt. This has been a great way for me to keep a toe in the sewing room while I gather some mojo for my own projects. It’s also a great way to try some new skills.

Here are some of the blocks we have done.

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These were my first real experience with paper piecing. It was fussy, but I have to say, a good way to get precise blocks!

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This one was a huge 24 inch block.

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With these blocks, I learned how to make flying geese blocks without creating any waste fabric. Love that!

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These were fun improvisational blocks. No measuring, just sewing and squaring up as needed. I very rarely do this kind of thing, so it was both challenging in a good way and fun to play with it.

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Whee! Windmill blocks! These 12 inch blocks were super easy. It was tempting to keep going.

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These are this month’s blocks. It was fun to play with a couple of different methods of making a lot of half square triangles at once. I am not sure I love any of the methods I have tried yet because there is that trimming step that I always find annoying, but I do love how you can do all kinds of fun designs and shapes with HSTs.

I think I must have missed taking pictures of one or two months of blocks, but you get the idea. The group I am a part of is the Imagine Circle, which is a part of do. Good Stitches, a charity quilting group started by Rachel at Stitched in Color. All the quilts we make go to underprivileged kids through Threading Hope. I know it’s a small thing, making these quilt blocks, but I think it is not insignificant to give something handmade to child who has very little. We stitch our love and prayers and hopes into these quilts, and that, I think, makes these blocks very significant indeed.

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Back on Track

This past week has been crazy busy with all kinds of special activities.

We had car races, which involved a variety of emotions ranging from excitement to disappointment to anxiety to joy. It was a veritable roller coaster of an event, the effects of which lingered in our house for a day or two.

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Then we had a hectic couple of days of cooking and cleaning to get ready for our (sort of) annual Chinese New Year dinner party, of which I got absolutely no pictures. All that I have to show for it are these menus, which the elder drafted, and a lot of leftovers in the fridge.

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Yesterday, was a perfect day to go downtown to the aquarium to visit some of the animals. We saw some fun things there, including this skink. Apparently, if this little thing is attacked by his tail, he can detach it and get away. The tail will just grow back.

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Does this sound busy? I haven’t even mentioned the African American Family Art festival that we went to on Saturday or our other weekly sports events.

Today, I am focusing on just getting back on track with our normal schedule of life. School. Tea. Snack breaks. Nap. Knitting. Those are the things I am focusing on today. Oh, and knitting involves beading.

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There were a lot more beads in this bowl when I started. This is the last week of my mystery shawl knit along. Despite all of the crazy activity around here, I have managed to stay on schedule with this project.

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It just looks like a messy blob now, but this time next week, I hope to be blocking. Fun!
That is, if nothing crazy pops up.

Sourdough Sweet Bread Variations

Remember when I made that Fruit Studded Not Flatbread a little while ago? Well, we loved that bread so much that I have continued making that dough, remaking it into all kinds of good stuff.

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I rolled it out into a large thin sheet, filled it with butter, sugar, cinnamon, and rum-soaked fruit, and baked it up for delicious Cinnamon Fruit Buns.

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Next, I made the dough into loaves for sandwiches.

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With these loaves, I thought I might be pushing to dough a little too far. I let it rise to well above the rim of the pan, which was more than double the original volume of the dough. Hoping the dough would not fall in the oven, I baked it up.

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Clearly, I need not have worried. This dough has incredible oven spring. In fact, I have never seen a dough with such incredible oven spring. Also, amazingly, even with all the rising and springing, the texture of the dough does not suffer.

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My most recent variation combined this bread with my neverending quest to use up the jam in my cupboard. I rolled out the dough as thin as I could get it, slathered jam on top, placed another piece of dough on top, and topped it all with a crumb topping.

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It’s like a giant jam-filled crumb bun. These have raspberry jam, but I also made a tray with apple butter. They are pretty scrumptious.

This recipe has quickly become our favorite everyday bread dough. It’s perfect for breakfast toast, for sandwiches, and for making into all kinds of tasty treats. I know it’s white bread, so I am flying in the face of the crunchy granola healthy camp, but I don’t care. I’ll just eat more kale for dinner. I’m thinking of going salty in my next experiment with the dough. Anyone have any suggestions?

Chocolate+Bourbon=Boca Negra

Chocolate. Bourbon. Sugar. Butter. Eggs. That’s pretty much the entire ingredient list of this cake. There’s a tiny bit of flour, but otherwise, it’s flourless.

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To be honest, I was not sure I would like this recipe. After all, chocolate is not my favorite thing to eat, but at least it was super easy. I boiled the bourbon sugar mixture in the microwave, and the fumes were almost enough to knock someone over!

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Then, it was five minutes blending everything in the food processor, and all the prep work was done. I baked it for exactly 31 minutes and we all thought it was perfectly done, soft and fudgey, but not gooey.

I was a little nervous about all the bourbon, but the husband just kept telling me to go with it. I did add a little vanilla extract, though. The white chocolate cream was even easier to prepare than the cake, and it was the perfect melt-in-your-mouth consistency, though I did leave out the bourbon here. It was a perfect compliment to the cake and we did not miss the extra bourbon in the cream. By itself, the cake is a bit strong, but with the cream, it is just right.

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I took it to my biweekly women’s craft group last night and it was a hit. I kept warning people about the bourbon, just in case that might turn someone off, but I think it actually attracted people to the cake even more! We had a lively night, eating cake, talking Downton Abbey, and working on our crafts. More of this cake was eaten than most things that I bring to share, so it must have been good! Even my boys liked it.

Seriously, this cake couldn’t be easier to make. You can get the recipe here. Just be careful not to get trampled over when you go to serve it!

Better than Those Other Ones

Ok. Get ready. I am about to say something that I know some will find absolutely shocking. (whispering) I do not like Oreos. There. I said it. I know. It has something to do with how the cookie turns into a paste in my mouth and the cream in the middle has the mouthfeel of raw shortening, which, of course, is part of its makeup.

However, the idea of the cookie is not a bad one and so I was curious to try the Bouchon Bakery version, TKOs. I made up a whole bunch of the chocolate cookies as hearts last week to hand out to friends for V-day, but for us, I made a few with the white chocolate filling.

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Firstly, it’s important to whip the white chocolate filling or else it is too runny, but once whipped, it is perfect for sandwich cookies.

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How are they? In a word: sublime. The cookies are buttery, chocolatey, and a little salty, which is a good foil for the melt-in-your-mouth creamy, sweet filling. Both the cookie and the filling were easy to make, so there is only the matter of time that stands in my way of these cookies when I want them.

And, they are So, So much better than those other cookies I talked about earlier.

Also, I managed to make the chocolate chunk and chocolate chip cookie recipe from the same book.

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This recipe used extra dark chocolate, 72% as well as regular chocolate chips. The dough was beautifully silky, very unlike those stiff, break your mixer doughs that so often characterize cookie making. And the cookies baked up very nicely. You’ll notice that I did not make them saucer-sized, as these were made for a crowd, and I wanted more quantity.

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They are less sweet than the recipe that I usually make, but I like that. Also, because there are some big chunks of dark chocolate in them, the cookies are also very, very chocolatey. It goes without saying that these are much better than store bought, packaged cookies. But are they better than your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe? I’m not sure I have strong opinions about chocolate chip cookies, so you’ll just have to buy the book, and make them for yourself to see.