My Latest Focus: Sewing an Apron

Two years ago, I got on a tangent to learn how to properly crochet.  Last year, it was a little wood carving but mostly knitting (still is … I’m hoarding knitting patterns like the internet will shut down tomorrow).  This year?  Sewing.  I have been an avid hoarder of all things “sewing” for as long as I can remember.  I’ve been known to hold onto clothing I don’t like just because the fabric is a good quality.  When I am offered any kind of fabric, I gratefully accept it.  And patterns?  As soon as I get the schedule down, I will be, once again, buying as many sale patterns as I am allowed.  Most of my new patterns were purchased when they used to have rotating sales on McCall’s and Butterick (one week, McCall’s would be 99 cents each, the next week would be Butterick).  Since that time, fabric stores have closed down (or moved) and I have lost track of when those sales occur.

Having said all that, until this past Winter, I had only sewn one garment with a pattern.  That was when I was 16 years old and my friend’s mom was showing us how to not only sew from a pattern but to re-size and alter.  That’s it.  So, 29 years later, I decided to try my hand at another one (more about that in a future post).  In reality, this drive stemmed from me looking inward to find out who I am and what my focus in life should be.  I have so many varied interests (obvious from anyone who looks at all my blogs) I knew it would be difficult to narrow it down.  That’s when I (once again) remembered high school and a short one-semester class I took: Home Ec.  Bells started ringing, lights began to flash, and I jumped for joy!  That’s basically what I my interests have been all these years!

So, I went “a-Googling”.  I wanted to find out exactly where the subject of Home Economics stemmed, what was taught, and what is taught now (if anything).  More downloads later, and I began reading, “Elementary Home Economics – First Lessons In Sewing and Textiles, Foods and Cookery, and the Care of the House” by Mary Lockwood Matthews, B.S. (which is available free from Google Books).  As I began reading it, I realized just how uneducated I am.  I had to look up most of the terms, regarding types of fabric.  No matter how well they described some of them, I still had no idea what they were talking about (and seriously doubt most who work in the local fabric stores, which are now mostly large chain stores, would know).

The first project for these children was to make an apron.  This apron is designed for sewing, to keep your clothes clean and neat.  It called for a fabric called dimity. Even after looking it up, I cannot say I would know it if I saw it in the store.  So, I went through my fabric stash and found some that I thought would be a good substitute.  It turns out it wasn’t.  I think the fabric is too dense for the pattern.  See, the apron is basically one piece of fabric, that is gathered at the waist and the bottom is turned up to make pockets.  This is what I ended up with:

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How do you like those pockets?  I also did not stitch this by hand.  My patience was not with me and I have a new sewing machine I need to get used to, so I used it.  I was supposed to make a button hole (I know I could do it by hand but I copped attitude) but I don’t know how to use my button hole attachment on this new machine.  It bunched and just made me mad.  🙂  So, I thought about this (and thought about this) and ended up just removing the gathers and sewed on some Velcro for the closure in the back.  The Velcro works but I think I’ll just extend the waist band so this can be tied.  I love the new version:

Apron After

It wraps almost all around my bum and that’s perfect, since I am messy when I cook, clean, sew, do anything crafty.  It reminds me of an apron that showed up on my Facebook feed for gathering eggs (made from a pillow case).  My next sewing post will be within the next week or so.  I have made two items from one pattern (pajama pants and a robe).  I’m about to lay out the pattern for the top, then I’ll make the shorts and post about those (my observations and musings about the experience).  My eventual goal is to get to the point where I can make something I feel comfortable wearing out in public (Lord knows I have plenty of patterns to choose from).  lol

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Naan Bread (or How To Make Your Dog Hate You)

Let me begin this post with a disclaimer: I know nothing about real naan bread.  I’m pretty sure I’ve only had real Indian food once.  That was at a restaurant in London, with a friend standing next to me saying, “Try that, not that” as he steered me away from the really spicy foods (I couldn’t handle those at the time).  I really can’t recall if there was anything there that resembled a bread product.  So, why am I making naan?  My husband.  He bought some at Costco (La Brea Brand) and really loved them.  So, I thought, how hard could they be to make?

Well, they aren’t very difficult to make.  It’s really the cooking that is tricky.  I will explain that in a bit.  First, I tried two different recipes.

The first was this one: How to make the perfect naan bread. She basically took a few recipes apart and put a new one together, with hers calling for water as the liquid and yogurt. She said it’s the perfect one, right? Well, maybe it was the cooking method I used (which I read about on another web page) but I doubt it. I placed two rimmed baking sheets in the oven and turned on the broiler. Once the sheets were hot, I placed the naan on the baking sheets and watched them carefully as they cooked. These had a fantastic flavor but didn’t have … not sure how to describe it, but they weren’t as elastic as they should have been.

These were still warm.

These were still warm.

The second recipe I just finished is this one: How to Make Naan Bread {Step by Step Instructions and Pictures}. She used milk as the liquid with no yogurt. The texture was fantastic! They were elastic and the dough behaved wonderfully BUT there’s little flavor. So, this is where I thought I saw my dog pack a bag to leave me: I cooked these as described in the recipe. I placed those same rimmed baking sheets in the oven and set the temperature to 500 degrees F. Well, when I opened up the oven door, a lovely cloud of smoke engulfed me and spread like a lethal fog throughout the house. My dog, who hates being outside alone, actually went to the back door and would not leave it until I let him outside. Take a look at how these turned out compared to the first batch:

These were still warm also but look at the difference in texture/density.

These were still warm also but look at the difference in texture/density.

So, what is my conclusion? I think the next batch, I will just add 5 Tablespoons of plain yogurt (have a little bit left so I will be making some more) to the second recipe After really looking at both recipes, that won’t work.  So, after looking long and hard, this recipe has everything: milk, yogurt AND butter, so this is the recipe I’ll use: http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/onion-naan AND possibly buy a couple of baking stones (or brand new baking sheets). I’m not sure my dog can handle another day like today. 🙂

I just did this recipe (February 27, 2015) and cooked the bread on the charcoal grill. FANTASTIC! The flavor was perfect and the texture was fantastic! We learned the hard way NOT to roll them too thin or immediately put them over the coals (we ended up with a giant burned cracker). Here’s a picture of how we cooked them, followed by the recipe.

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http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/onion-naan

Onion Naan

Ingredients

3/4 cup whole milk
1 1/4-ounce envelope active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour plus more for surface and hands
1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 cup whole-milk yogurt (not Greek)
2 tablespoons melted ghee (clarified butter) or vegetable oil plus more

Challah

The first loaf of bread I ever made was challah.  I had to be … maybe 12 years old?  I don’t remember the exact age but do remember where we were living (so that narrows down the time frame a bit).  I also remember that beautiful loaf of bread.  It was gorgeous and HUGE!  I was so proud!  Well, until I cut into that dark golden crust to find raw dough (just about an inch of the dough had cooked … the rest was raw as can be).  That was also the last time I made bread until I was an adult.  I’ve made bread that resembled a chunk of concrete to bread that resembled a dried glob of glue but I was determined.  It’s taken me many years of trial and error to figure out exactly how long to knead and  how much flour/liquid to add to obtain the right consistency.   I’m very happy with my bread making skills (I’ve worked hard for them 🙂 ).

So, while trying to figure out a way to pay back my neighbor for finishing off the front yard that we started whacking on Valentine’s Day, I decided on challah.  I have been wanting to make it so long and this time (yes, this was the first time I had made it since that day too many years ago) it was beautiful (and edible)! I used a recipe I had written down and stuffed in my binder of recipes.  I have no idea when I wrote this down or who it was who originally shared it (may have been a friend who lives in Israel) BUT I discovered (while doing my favorite activity … searching the internet) a woman who pretty much uses the same recipe on You Tube!  The recipe she uses makes 4 huge loaves.  The recipe I have makes 6 standard loaves (so, just cut the dough into 6 pieces instead of 4 and you are good, unless you have a large family or are making this to take somewhere).

So, here is the playlist of her videos, plus a couple more.  The first video is an amazing demonstration of various ways to form/braid rolls and loaves.  I just sat there with my jaw open, in shock that there are so many different ways to manipulate the dough!  The second is a woman demonstrating the various braiding methods for loaves: from 3 strands up to 9 strands.

AND here’s my bread:

I cut the dough into 6 sections and made 4 loaves.

I cut the dough into 6 sections and made 4 loaves.

See that ugly loaf?  That’s what happens when you forget to grease your loaf pans!  Here’s a close-up:

The bottom of the loaf stuck like crazy to the pan.

The bottom of the loaf stuck like crazy to the pan.

So, those took care of four of the dough chunks and this is what I did with the other two.  I cut each of them into 6 sections and made sandwich rolls out of them.  Now, these look beautiful but I cooked them way too long.  That’s what happens when you turn the timer off (because they weren’t quite brown enough) and then proceed to talk to the neighbor about how her grandson is doing.

3 of these large rolls is the equivalent to one loaf.

3 of these large rolls is the equivalent to one loaf.

And here’s the recipe I used:

Challah

  • 3 Tablespoons Yeast
  • 4 cups warm Water
  • 1/2 cup Sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons Salt (reduce if you use salted butter instead of oil, like I did)
  • 1 cup Vegetable Oil (I don’t use vegetable oil nor canola oil.  I used melted butter because my olive oil supply is currently limited and I forgot I had peanut oil)
  • 4 large Eggs
  • 12 cups Flour (approximate)

For Egg Wash:

  • 1 large Egg
  • 1 Tablespoon Water
  • 1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract or Vanilla Sugar (optional)
  • 1/4 cup Sesame Seeds (optional)

In a large bowl (remember, enough dough for 6 loaves of bread), pour in the warm water (How warm?  I test on my wrist: if it doesn’t make me flinch, it’s good.  For more specifics, check out this web page: Yeast Is Fussy About Temperature) and whisk in the yeast and sugar (I use Saf-Instant.  I don’t bake a lot  so once opened, I store it in the freezer.  I have had the most consistent results from this yeast even when it has expired).  Let sit in a warm spot until it looks like a layer of foam is across the top of the liquid.

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In a smaller bowl, break the eggs into it and whisk in the salt and oil.  Once the yeast is ready (proofed), whisk the egg mixture into the yeast until everything is well incorporated and you can’t see chunk of egg.  Now, for the fun part: adding the flour.

Using a large spoon, stir the flour (1 to 2 cups at a time) into the liquid.  Keep doing this until it feels like your arm is going to fall off (I tried making large batches of dough like this when I had a working Kitchen Aid mixer … it wasn’t pretty and is probably what lead to it dying).  Then, on a large surface (counter top, kitchen table, whatever will work as long as it is sturdy) sprinkle about 1/4 cup or so of flour and turn your dough out onto the floured surface.  Time to knead in more flour.

This is where I used to mess up.  When a recipe called for X-amount of flour, I used it all.  The amount of flour you use depends on so many factors from the humidity in your house to the size of the eggs you use to what kind of flour you are using that you need to pay attention to how the dough is behaving to determine how much flour you really use for a certain recipe.  I typically add (to the bowl) all but the last two or so cups, then add more flour while I knead.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.

When the dough is ready place in an oiled bowl (I don’t have one large enough so I used my stock pot), cover with plastic wrap or a towel (I usually wet a towel with hot water, wring it out, and cover the bowl with it if I’m using a container that doesn’t like plastic wrap) and let rise until doubled (1 to 2 hours, depending on how warm your house is).  Once it is risen, punch the dough down and place it onto a very lightly floured surface.  Knead just a bit so you can form a nice ball, then separate into sections to make loaves or rolls.

Now, get the egg wash ready.  In a small bowl, beat the egg with the water and vanilla (if you are using it).

Each one of the loaves I did a 6-strand braid and the rolls were two strands each.  You can shape the dough however you want. Once shaped, brush with the egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds (if using).  Let the loaves rise until nearly doubled (1 or 2 hours).  Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the loaves are a deep golden brown.  Each one of my loaves were baked for 25 to 30 minutes and, because I got distracted, the rolls probably went for about 40 minutes.

 

Old-Fashioned Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

So, do you have canned carrots (or you could use older fresh carrots) that turned to mush and you don’t know what to do with them?  How about make a carrot cake!  I’m also thinking this may be good with canned pumpkin and/or canned sweet potato.

Update: I just made this (muffins instead of cake … baked for 15 to 20 minutes) and they are amazing!  They aren’t spike-your-blood-sugar sweet and so flavorful!  This recipe is a keeper.  I made some changes that I will note here:

  1. Replaced 1/2 cup of the flour with almond flour
  2. Replaced the remaining flour (1 cup) with 1/3 cup of wheat germ (Why?  Because I had some)
  3. Reduced the milk to 1/4 cup due to the excess liquid in my carrots
  4. Reduced the total added sweetener by half (so, 3/4 cup total), then replaced 1/4 cup of the brown sugar with Splenda
  5. Substituted all-spice for the nutmeg (Why?  Because I didn’t have any nutmeg)

Note: I had one quart of thickly cut home canned carrots and ended up with about 1 1/2 cups of mashed carrots.  I adjusted the recipe accordingly.

I may or may not make the frosting but if I do, it will be with mostly Splenda with a bit of powdered sugar (I have come to the conclusion that Splenda tends to get bitter if using a lot … mostly because I kept trying to slip some in hubby’s coffee and he immediately noticed).

http://www.daringgourmet.com/2014/02/18/old-fashioned-carrot-cake-with-cream-cheese-frosting/

For Cake:
½ cup walnuts
1 cup pureed carrots (boil just under a pound of carrots until soft; drain and cool, then puree in a food processor.)
1½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1½ cups firmly packed light brown sugar
½ cup whole milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
2 teaspoons freshly grated orange zest (be careful to avoid the white pith of the orange, it’s bitter)
½ cup raisins

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
¾ cup powdered sugar
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Old-Fashioned Pumpkin Nut Loaf Bread

I know this is a bit late (should have posted this around Thanksgiving when all the canned pumpkin was on sale) but this looks like the best Pumpkin Bread recipe out there (like on my mom’s friend used to make).

http://www.food.com/recipe/old-fashioned-pumpkin-nut-loaf-bread-184460

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup fat-free evaporated milk
1 large egg
1 large egg white
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/4 cup chopped nuts

Now, if you don’t have evaporated milk, here’s a substitute:

To produce 1 cup of evaporated milk, simmer 2 1/4 cups of regular milk down until it becomes 1 cup.

In many recipes, evaporated milk may also be replaced with a combination of whole milk and half-and-half. For 1 cup of evaporated milk, use 3/4 cup whole milk and 1/4 cup half-and-half.

And:

Mix 2/3 cup non-fat dry milk with 3/4 cup water.

Sardine Puffs

http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Sardine-Puffs-106257

Makes 120 hors d’oeuvres

Ingredients
    15 slices firm white sandwich bread, lightly toasted
    1 (3 3/4- to 4 3/8-ounce) can sardines in oil, drained
    1/2 cup mayonnaise
    3 tablespoons minced onion
    2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Canned Sardine Fritters – Fritelle Sarde

Since my seafood allergy disappeared, I’ve been stocking up on canned fish again.  I never really thought of cooking with any of it.  lol

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/mario-batali/canned-sardine-fritters-fritelle-sarde-recipe.html

Ingredients

2 cans good-quality oil-packed sardines, chopped
2 large eggs
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 bunch parsley leaves, finely chopped plus extra, for garnish
1 to 2 tablespoons chopped pepperonchini
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
1 tablespoon grated caciocavallo cheese
Extra-virgin olive oil, to fill a deep pot no more than halfway
Freshly ground black pepper
Lemon halves