Friday, November 30, 2012

The Stitching Baker

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As my moniker shows, the sewing machine is a comfy place for me.  I love to sew, and stitch as well.  I have a few completed projects to share with you.

In the photo above, you will see my Punch Needle Embroidery, it's a great medium.  It is relatively simple, it just requires a little patience.  I have had this kit for a few years, and finally got it framed to display this year.  I love this, it feels so old fashioned.

Then I thought I would make some little holiday pillows.  I love little pillows that hang on door knobs.  I didn't make this one, but I love it!

But these I did make.  A little Ho Ho Ho!

And this one is Naughty one side, Nice on the other.

This pillow was actually a tote bag that my mom was given from her grade school.  She really wanted it in a pillow so I made this little one, I love the white pom pons with the elementary theme!

Finally, I have been looking for a dog bed for Sookie, the one-eyed Bichon.  Dog beds are ugly.  If you don't go for a rustic plaid for a hunting dog, then you get these cheesey pink and black diva dog beds.  I am not a fan.  Plus, they are ridiculously expensive.  So, I knew Sookie likes to cuddle on our pillows, so I emulated that effect.  This is the simplest of all designs, no sew at all!  But it was cheap, like $3 for the fabric, and a few bucks worth of poly fill.  When it is dirty, it goes to the trash.  And, I can make more for other rooms.  She loves this little bed!  Especially when that winter sun comes through that window.  I can always find her chasing the sunshine.

I have more in the pipeline, but for now, what are you waiting for?  Get in there and craft!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Mushroom Tart

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I love a cool autumn night.  This month, following daylight savings, is always a bit of an adjustment for me.  It really does help when the temperature is autumn-like, and this week it is.  The perfect temperature for getting in the kitchen!

We have a little neighborhood Bunco group, nothing serious, really just an excuse to get out of the house on a Thursday night, sip wine with the neighbors and catch up on what is going on around the hood.  I decided this Mushroom Tart from my chef crush would be wonderful on a chilly night with a glass of Pinot.  How right I was.  I have blogged about Chef Chiarello before, from my anniversary trip to Sonoma last year.  And this year, on our anniversary, Mr. Preppy and I placed another order from his amazing store, Napa Style.  I can almost feel like I am nibbling appetizers with his great wine and a fire outside of Bottega.  Oh, well, For now, this will have to do!

I think the squid ink made my teeth dull!  

Here is the original version from Michael Chiarello.  My few little changes are below. And I couldn't resist putting up my picture with this amazing chef.

Olive Oil
2# mixed mushrooms (I used 1 1/2# baby bella and white, and 1/2# mixed, dried)
Salt and Pepper
2 T Butter
3 shallots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground thyme (my grocer was OUT of fresh thyme...this is not okay)
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup shredded parmesan
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 egg, beaten
2 Tablespoon chopped, fresh, parsley
4 ounces crumbled blue cheese
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed if frozen

If using dried mushrooms, place them in a bowl and just cover with boiling water.  Let stand at least 10 minutes to soften the mushrooms.  Remove from liquid and chop well.  Strain the soaking liquid and set aside.  You should have 1/2 cup or less.
Heat oil in large skillet, just enough to gloss the bottom of pan.  Add 1/2 the mushrooms and a tablespoon of the butter.  Stir and add salt and pepper and saute until the mushrooms shrink and are caramelized.  Remove and set in a bowl and repeat with the second half of the mushrooms, also adding the rehydrated mushrooms.  When this batch is cooked, add the first batch to the pan and add the garlic, shallots and thyme.  Stir well and add mushroom soaking liquid a little at a time until it is absorbed.  Add the cream and allow the pan to simmer until the cream is reduced by half.  Stir gently.  Add the parmesan and the lemon juice, stir in.  Turn off the heat and quickly add the beaten egg and parsley.  Allow the mixture to cool thoroughly.

Sauted Mushrooms....yum!

Mmmmm, delicious right off the spoon!

Preheat oven to 425 and roll the puff pastry out on a floured surface to fit into your tart pan of choice.  He used a 10" round, I chose a 4 1/2" X 14".  Place the tart pan on a cookie sheet. Lay the pastry into tart pan and trim your edges.  Lay parchment paper in the tart shell and fill with beans or ceramic pie weights.  Make sure your weights are evenly distributed and in the corners so the pastry doesn't shrink up.  Bake for about 10-12 minutes and allow to cool thoroughly before removing weights and parchment.

Yep, that is my cruddy cookie sheet...Yikes!  I never bake cookies on it though!

Heat oven to 400, and carefully put the cooled mushroom mixture into cooled tart shell.  Carefully sprinkle the blue cheese over the top.  I didn't use all 4 ounces, and his recipe actually calls for 8 ounces.  Bake for about 20-25 minutes (I bake on convection at a lower temperature).  Cool completely before removing the tart pan and serving.

Keep your parsley like a bouquet of flowers, lasts a long time!

 So, what are you waiting for?  Get in there and cook!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Iowa Girl

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Where I come from...

There are many important factors that make me who I am today.  One of the most significant is my upbringing in Iowa. It's one of those places that people in big cities have a hard time understanding. Especially since I didn't live on a farm.  I was a townie.  My hometown was Clinton until I went to high school.  In grade school, I would get on my bike and my bestie Barb and I would ride for hours.  And I mean like 6 hours.  All over town, no helmets, no bike trails, just us and our banana seat bikes.  We were just blocks from the Mississippi, and many times went to the water's edge, I have ice skated in the slough and we would wander the railroad tracks looking for these flat metal things that we would bend into a whistle.  We picked onions from the neighbors garden, ate mulberries until our hands were stained and climbed trees deep in the woods.  We would walk over the bridge crossing the Mississippi and go from Iowa to Illinois and back.  We chased fire trucks, bought penny candy at one of 2 little stores within walking distance and spent endless summer days swimming in the large public pool. There were about 16 of us in our grade.  We went to the same church, lived in the same neighborhood  our parents were friends, and we knew everyone's siblings.  Those friends are still a part of my life.  I still love driving those streets, and retracing those bike rides.

At this point in my life, I have lived in the South for over 20 years, and it would be tough to move back to the land of snow blowers and wind chills.  My children are complete Southerners.  They twang, drink sweet tea, hate shoes and socks, shoot guns, and love biscuits. And that's good.  You gotta love where you come from.

So where is all this going?  Why are there barn cookies?  Well a farm birthday party of course!  It was a fun cookie to make.  Made me a little nostalgic for Iowa, and I took you right along with me.  SO, what are you waiting for?  Get in there and bake!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Acorn Cookies

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So my first cookie post since Cookie Con.  But the truth is, I had these cookies rolling around my noggin' for a few weeks. However,  with the construction and the traveling, I just couldn't get to them.  But here we are!

Last fall I made some Acorn Cookies that I was pretty proud of.  I thought they were cool with that Disco Dust on them.  I have a little obsession with glitter.  Really.  I have glittered my poinsettias, pine cones, candles, and of course in the process my floors, cheeks and carpets.  I can tell you this from experience though, Martha makes the best (and priciest) glitter, hands down. But for cookies, we stick to Disco Dust!  So I had every intention of making the same cookies again, and then I read this.  Splatter Acorn Cookies from Sweet Sugarbelle.  Callye (we're on a first name basis here...) was at Spring Fling and Cookie Con, so I have gotten to know her a little over this last year.  She made these splatter autumn cookies, and I knew I had to go there.  As a kid, I can remember the blue splattered tin dishes we used in the summer around the pool.  I knew I wanted to splatter my cool, Disco Dust acorns.

Last year's acorns. They were cute.

This years acorns are a little more special!

I started with chocolate cookies, and you may already know that I use LilaLoa's chocolate cookie recipe. It never fails and is delicious.  Of course I am a cocoa snob and use only Pernigotti.  When it came time to ice the cookies, I took my standard Royal Icing (really, it is nothing special, no secret, read the can for directions), and added a little snooty vanilla and more Pernigotti.  Then I thinned it to the right consistency and made it brown.  It tastes delicious!  I piped the borders and flooded only the bottom half and let them dry.

Once they dried, I mixed up some copper Luster Dust and vodka to the right splattering consistency and using a larger paintbrush, I splattered it on.  I used a large coffee filter as my paint area, and I have to say it worked pretty well.

Splattering area

I made a few extra cookies so I could experiment on the flinging method, the sprinkling method or whatever.  Find what works for you.  After I splattered them all and cleaned up the splatters everywhere else in my kitchen, I flooded the tops of the acorns and using another coffee filter cut in half as a shield, I dusted the tops with Disco Dust.  I think they are pretty stunning.  Such gorgeous colors and delicious too!  So, what are you waiting for?  Get in there and bake!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Cookie Con

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Yes, there is a place for cookie decorators!
I have returned from Cookie Con, the first annual, held in Salt Lake City.  A wonderful event with 200 sugar cookie decorators like me!  We laughed, we shopped, we ate and we learned from the most amazing people.  The presenters included, Callye, also known as Sweet Sugarbelle, Mary Ann the Cookie Artisan, Glory from Glorious Treats, Pam from CookieCrazie, Ali from AliBee's Bakeshop, Arty McGoo,  Lisa the Bearfoot Baker and of course Karen and Mike from Karen's Cookies and Julia Usher, author of Ultimate Cookies and Cookie Swap.  It was entertaining and educational, and I fell in love with Salt Lake City!

Mandy (I adopted her this weekend) and Costello.  Sorry, Italians call other Italians by their last name!
Mary Kate, Laura, Mandy, Julie, Rachel, Me, Becky at the banquet.  Hate to say goodbye!

Free Beer and Popcorn!  Me, Mandy, Julie, Laura, Becky and Rachel.  Mary Kate is missing!
I also made some amazing new friends from all over, and I know we will be busy sharing our stuff!  My friend Rachel at Baked by Rachel has pictures of some of the presenters and cookies that were made for the show, so head over there.  I swiped the pictures of us girls!

The gorgeous Mormon Temple at 6 a.m.  Rachel and I felt pretty special there!
So stay tuned.  I am inspired to get back to the kitchen and fire up the ovens, and can hardly wait to share the cookie creations that are running around my brain!  Until then, what are you waiting for?  Get in there and bake!