Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Tote Bag Triumph!

Being in Townsend has its advantages. Fewer streetlights and neon signs, lots of grass and trees, and another one: being close to my parents.

Having lived far enough away to deter me from making regular trips meant for me a twinge of jealousy whenever I heard my sister and my mom were casually going to grab a cup of coffee or go Christmas shopping together. When I learned they were taking a cake decorating class together I felt even more left out. Well now I have my OWN version of cake decorating class! For my mom's birthday this year (although it retrospect it seems more like a gift to myself) I registered us both for a sewing class taking place at a local high school. The first week we made tiny little drawstring gift bags. The second week we made cuffed pillowcases. Since both of these projects were pretty much just squares with seams, I have decided not to post them. This week, however we were tasked with tote bags!

I went to Joann's and bought my "decorator" fabric and webbing and headed to class. It turned out to be a little more sophisticated than I had planned for. Because my fabric had a loose weave and interior threads that had a tendency to get caught on things I ended up having to line the bag as well. So, this lovely carry-all has a flat bottom, a full lining, and handles sewn into the seams to make a very nice finished product!

Because the bag is very wide, I am considering installing some snap onto pleats in the side to give the bag a more purse-like look and make it a little more manageable to carry so it will look a bit more like THIS --->

I am pretty excited about having a little bit of success at sewing as my past projects are all in shambles with loose threads everywhere, all coming apart at the seams (very literally). Hopefully this is the start of a beautiful relationship with my sewing machine. I have to say though, when you first start sewing stuff it sure is helpful to have someone around to hold fabric straight while your pinning, or to remind you not to skip locking in your stitches. And this is why my mom will now have to be present any time I try to make ANYTHING on my sewing machine. That and the fact that she always brings me chocolate Riesens which help to quell the rising anger demons when I am losing my patience.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Back with Banana Muffins and Apple-Pumpkin Kuchen!

Look at those babies! Those are banana muffins my friends! They were baked with love and swiftness last night while Favorite was bringing my computer back from the dead. Apparently I had unwittingly happened into the dreaded virut virus which is a particularly nasty one that likes to find windows exe files and eat them up until your computer can't even boot in safe mode...

So, the muffins came from the banana bread recipe in my handy Better Homes and Gardens cookbook.

Banana Bread

2 c. flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cup mashed banana
1 c. sugar
1/2 cup cooking oil
optional nuts or crumbly topping

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Grease your vessel.
  3. Mix all ingredients up to nutmeg in large bowl.
  4. Mix remaining ingredients in small bowl.
  5. Stir wet into dry all at once until just moistened. Fold in any extras.
  6. Fill your baking vessel and bake until done (15 to 20 for muffins, 30 to 75 for loaf pans, depending on size)
This recipe was super easy as you only need two bowls and about 5 minutes to prep your ingredients. I only had two bananas which made a little more than 3/4 c when mashed, so I halved the recipe and cut the oil down to two tablespoons (because of the extra banana). This made 4 decent sized muffins in my "Giant" muffin pan. Question for my readers: anyone know how to get real muffin tops? I am talking about the kind of muffin that has a top that has a greater diameter than its stump. I filled each well within a half inch of the top and got NO shoulder on my muffin. Any hints would be greatly appreciated.

I also recently made(and captured) my first ever attempt at a yeast leavened pastry! The hardcore German tastiness known as kuchen (pronounce koo-ken, apparently). I bought a small sugar pumpkin with designs on making some sort of pumpkin dessert with the real thing, and not the Libby's can. This was partially just for curiosity's sake and partly because, as some of you know, there was a horrendous shortage of canned pumpkin earlier this year. I didn't want to do something traditional where you end up boiling and mashing the pumpkin because I had a beautiful SOLID pumpkin and I wanted to take advantage of that fact. I finally had the idea to make an apple-pumpkin crisp with equal portions tasty apples and soft sweet cubes of pumpkin all dripping with sweet cinnamon goodness and topped with enough brown sugar to make Favorite proud (that is a LOT let me tell you...) Well I scrapped the idea of the crisp when I saw the Apple Kuchen in the Better Homes and Gardens magazine "Holiday Baking". I will literally be baking my way through this entire magazine! There has never been a periodic publication with so many deliciously sweet recipes to try! Anyhow, I took the Apple Kuchen and added my Pumpkin Twist.

Apple (Pumpkin) Kuchen

2 1/4 c. flour
1 package active dry yeast
1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. butter
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
4 c. apples (about 4 apples, or 2 apples and half a small pumpkin, par boiled)
1/3 c. packed brown sugar
1 tbsp quick cooking tapioca, crushed (I substituted with mochi rice flour because I had it)
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp apple pie spice (or pumpkin pie spice)
Crumb Topping

  1. Grease 13X9X2 pan.
  2. Mix 1 c. of flour and package of yeast.
  3. Heat milk, sugar, butter, and salt until butter is almost melted.
  4. Add milk mixture, along with eggs, to flour and yeast. Beat on low 30 seconds, scraping sides of bowl, and high for 2 minutes or until smooth. Beat in remaining flour.
  5. Spread mixture in prepared pan.
  6. Mix apples (and pumpkin), brown sugar, tapioca, lemon juice, and spices together in large bowl. Spread mixture over batter in pan.
  7. Sprinkle with crumb topping (1/2 c. flour, 1/2 c. brown sugar, 3 tbsp butter, cut in to pea sized crumbs) and allow to sit in a warm place for an hour.
  8. After dough has risen, bake in preheated 375 degree oven for 30 minutes or until top is browned and apples are tender.
I used raw apples in this recipe, but I par boiled the pumpkin because I figured it wouldn't cook as fast and I didn't want raw pumpkin. It worked well as the pumpkin got soft enough without being overly mushy. The recipe in the magazine also suggests topping with a cream cheese frosting, but I decided to nix it as I had no cream cheese and don't care much for frosting anyhow. The kuchen is definitely tasty. The base is more substantial than I thought it would be. I was expecting something like a coffee cake,but it was definitely more bread or biscuit like (though admittedly I DID overcook it a tad). If I were to make this recipe again with the pumpkin, however, I would have more pumpkin and less apple as the empire apples I used overwhelmed the more subtle flavor of the pumpkin. More pumpkin, more spice, and vanilla ice cream on top!