Gearing Up For Winter

One of my favorite things about the temperatures dropping is the opportunity to wear scarves. I’ve always viewed scarves as shoes. Shoes can make or break an outfit and a cool scarf can dress up even the most basic black coat. Once I learned how to knit and crochet scarves were the one thing I was looking forward to making – they are also the easiest things to make when you are just starting out. While I am usually partial to working with Lion Brand Yarn I came across yarn from Red Heart that I couldn’t resist.
Using Red Heart’s Boutique Magical Yarn in Wizard – which is actually four yarns in one – I created a scarf following a pattern called Spectrum. While the pattern said that only one skein of yarn was necessary to complete the scarf I actually used half of a second skein to get my desired length. One thing I learned quickly while using this yarn is that one section of it is not meant to be pulled apart in the unfortunate event you make a mistake while using it. That happened a few times to me and I ended up ripping the yarn when I tried to pull out the stitches – probably why I needed that second skein of yarn.

 

Next up I followed the Flights of Fancy scarf pattern from Lion Brand Yarn’s website while using Red Heart’s Boutique Midnight Yarn in Whisper – a yarn that has subtle changes in color with a metallic thread weaved throughout it. It’s a quick and simple pattern mainly comprised of double-crochet stitches.

 

And for the final scarf I used Red Heart’s Boutique Treasure Yarn in Tapestry – which again is a yarn that has subtle gradations in color – and followed the Snapdragon Stitch which is made up of double-crochet stitches and the V-Stitch. This was definitely my favorite of the three scarves because of the yarn color and the overlook look of the stitches. And while most scarves are made with at most two skeins of yarn this one actually took three. I initially only bought two but was lucky enough to find a third one with the same dye lot.

 

My winter accessory collection wouldn’t be complete without a good hat to keep me warm but I have always avoided wearing one. I have curly hair so hats tend to flatten down my curls… Not good. But, I have wanted to get a slouchy beret which seems to have enough room in it to allow my curls to stay intact. Before buying one though I decided to try and make one. First the search was on to find a pattern that would be simple enough to follow. I haven’t made a hat since I learned how to crochet a few years ago so I figured I should stick with something somewhat simple. With a Google search of “slouchy beret crochet pattern” I found a pattern from Donna Rutledge-Okoro appropriately titled Easy Slouchy Beret Hat Crochet. It was simple to follow and suggested using another Red Heart Yarn, their Supersaver Yarn which comes in a variety of colors but I chose Gray Heather. I was able to work this up in just a few hours and just in time too because it snowed the following day!

  

Crystals & Wire Pendant

At a shopping event I went to last month I saw a pendant that was made with crystals and wire that instantly caught my eye. While I did like it I thought it was a little too pricey and knew it was something that I could make myself since it was a free-form design that didn’t follow a specific pattern.

I used 22 gauge gold-tone wire (anything thinner would probably not hold up to all of the wrapping and anything thicker may be too difficult to wrap with) and random Swarovski crystals that I had left over from other projects to create my pendant.

Using about a yard length of wire I just haphazardly started wrapping the wire around itself adding crystals wherever I thought necessary. Afterwards I used round-nose pliers to curve any loose portions of the wire to ensure that the pendant would stay together. After about 25 minutes of work I ended up with a unique piece of jewelry.

I’m sure I’ll make a few more of these but I’m thinking I’ll use stones and seed beads next time to create more of a statement piece.

Pumpkin Bread Pudding

After buying one too many cans of Libby’s 100% Pure Pumpkin I decided it was time to try out some different recipes other than the tried and true pumpkin pie – I’m saving that for Thanksgiving. While flipping through the newspaper recently I came across a recipe for Pumpkin Bread Pudding. It’s funny, as a child I couldn’t stand bread pudding but as I got older I acquired a taste for it. It could be because those that I do like aren’t made with traditional white bread but with Panettone, Croissants and so forth.

First things first, I got all of my ingredients together.

I then started cutting the bread into cubes – while the recipe did call for white bread I decided to switch it up a little and use cinnamon bread instead. After cutting up a little more than 4 cups of bread I toasted it in the oven for about 15 minutes. One immediate perk of using cinnamon bread was the aroma it filled my house with while it was toasting.

Following that I placed the cubes into my prepared baking dish.

While the bread was in the oven I whisked together all of my remaining ingredients that would compose the custard for the pudding.

Once all of the ingredients were mixed together well I poured it over the bread cubes.

After letting the mixture sit for ten minutes to allow the pudding to soak into the bread I cut pieces of cold butter and dropped them on top.

After baking for about 45 minutes my bread pudding was ready!

  

While it did taste good I was hoping for more of a pumpkin taste. Maybe I should have used the entire can of pumpkin instead of the 3/4 cup the recipe called for, then I wouldn’t have the dilemma of now finding a recipe that will only use this 1 cup of pumpkin I have sitting in my fridge.

Pumpkin Bread Pudding

Courtesy Domino Sugar

4 Cups White Bread, Cut Into Cubes

4 Eggs

3 Egg Yolks

1 1/2 Cups Milk

1 1/2 Cups Heavy Cream

3/4 Cup Canned Pumpkin Puree

1 Cup Domino Granulated Sugar

1/4 Tsp Salt

1 Tbsp Rum or Brandy

1/4 Tsp Nutmeg

1 Tsp Cinnamon

1/4 Tsp Cloves, ground

2 Tbsp Butter, cold, cut into pieces

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 13x9x2-inch baking pan. Dry bread cubes on cookie sheet in oven 10 to 15 minutes. Place bread cubes in pan. In large mixing bowl, whisk together all pudding ingredients except butter. Pour mixture over bread cubes. Let sit 10 minutes until bread is fully soaked. Dab butter over top. Bake 40 to 50 minutes. (Pudding should set in center, but not dry).

Ruffle Scarves

I came across Red Heart’s Boutique Sashay yarn at my local Michael’s store and thought it looked pretty cool, but, I had no idea how to use it – it’s a fishnet yarn that creates ruffles as you knit or crochet with it. So, after watching a few video tutorials and finding a pattern for a scarf I was ready to try out this new yarn.

 

With my first attempt at making the scarf I started by casting on 10 stitches, but, as I was going along I soon realized that the scarf was going to be a bit too puffy for my liking.

So, I started over by casting on only 8 stitches and was much happier with the final result. Using only one ball of yarn and knitting every row I ended up with a pretty cool looking scarf.

I’ve actually made a few more in different colors after a friend saw mine and requested I make her some. Once I realized that it was quicker and easier to work with the yarn by winding it into a ball before knitting, making these additional scarves was a piece of cake.

And in turn she showed hers to someone and they requested I make some for them to give as Christmas gifts. So I have a few colors all wound up and ready to be knitted.

Teardrop Double-Strand Necklace

While going through some papers I found a magazine rip out of a necklace that I liked and wanted to make – a long gold-tone necklace with semi-precious teardrop gems and pearls. I didn’t have those exact components, but, I did have blue/yellow swirl glass teardrops and gold seed beads. While I did have glass pearls as well I didn’t like how they looked with the teardrops and seed beads. So I opted to go with coral glass oval beads which I found at my local Joann’s.

My supplies.

I got to work on making the necklace and decided to place six size 10 seed beads between alternating teardrop and oval beads using gold beading wire. I made two of these strands in different lengths and attached them to a double-strand toggle.

And here’s the finished product.

 

Unfortunately I wasn’t too happy with how it came out. I didn’t like how the necklace was hanging with the double-strand toggle. Also, my strand length wasn’t proportioned well between the two strands so I felt that the longer strand was too long. And finally, the seed beads I used weren’t the best quality so the gold tone began to rub off. So, I decided to make the necklace again.

This time I used TOHO Size 11 Gold Seed Beads that I got at my local Michaels store. I’ve used TOHO seed beads in the past and have never had a problem with them fading so I knew they were a safe bet.

I got to working on the necklace once again and opted to use a single strand toggle this time in hopes that the necklace would hang better.

I was much happier with the necklace the second time around. Using a single strand toggle meant crimping both strands together which provided the weight for the necklace to hang better. To correct the problem of the strand length I decided to leave the shorter length as is and removed two each of the teardrop and oval beads and twenty-four of the seed beads.

Croissant Bread Pudding

A few months ago I went out to dinner and for dessert I had Croissant Bread Pudding and it was delicious. Since then I have been wanting to try to make it myself. I finally got around to it this past weekend. I normally make Panettone Bread Pudding so I pretty much knew how to make it, but, I made a few tweaks to make the recipe my own.

My ingredients were pretty simple: Croissants, Eggs, Heavy Whipping Cream, Sugar, Cinnamon, Vanilla Extract and Rum soaked Golden Raisins.

I started off by slicing nine croissants in half and tearing up the bottom halves and placing them in a greased glass baking dish – I usually just use Baking Cooking Spray. I then placed the top halves right on top.

 

I started making the custard by whipping together the eggs and sugar until they were combined.

I then added in the heavy whipping cream, cinnamon, vanilla extract and the raisins along with the rum they were soaking in.

Once that was all combined I poured the mixture over the croissants and pressed them down with a spatula to ensure that they would soak up all of the custard. I let this stand for about 15 minutes before placing it in a 350 degrees F preheated oven.

Since I was completely winging this I was a bit unsure of the baking time. I started off by baking it for 30 minutes covered with aluminum foil and then removed the foil and baked it for an additional 15 minutes. When I took it out the oven it didn’t seem like the custard was completely set so I placed it in the oven for an additional 15 minutes and that did the trick.

After it cooled I was eager to see if my “experiment” came out well and I am happy to say it did. My friends (aka taste testers) agreed as well.

I am sure I will be making this again, but, with a few changes. I think that instead of throwing all of the raisins in with the mixture I will layer some of them between the torn pieces of croissants and the top halves. Also, I think I will start off by baking it covered for 45 minutes and then removing the foil for the final 15 minutes.

Malted Milk Chocolate Chip Cookies

Every year around Christmas time I do what I like to call “marathon baking.” Basically for about two days straight my oven gets a good workout with me baking up different types of cookies and other treats. My staples are Rugelach, Linzer Tart and Peanut Butter cookies, but, every year I like to try one or two new cookie recipes. Last year my newest addition was Malted Milk Chocolate Chip Cookies after a friend of mine saw them being whipped up on a cooking show on the Food Network. When I checked out the recipe it sounded easiest enough – not so easy was finding Malted Milk Powder. I went to three different supermarkets before I finally found it and then randomly saw it one day at my neighborhood Target. This past weekend was said friend’s birthday so I decided to bake up a batch of the cookies once again since she liked them so much the first time.

Here’s my batter all whipped up and ready to go. You can’t really see it in the picture, but, I was testing out a new spatula that I bought at Sur La Table – it’s curved on one side and flat on the other so it’s supposed to be better at scraping the sides of bowls and I will say it worked pretty well. On a side note, at the mall I normally shop at the Williams & Sonoma closed and a Sur La Table opened. I finally ventured in a few weeks ago and signed up for email updates and in turn received a $10 coupon which I put to good use this weekend by purchasing this Spatula, a Better Batter Whisk and an Icing Spatula. All of which were on clearance so I ended up only paying about $2.

My batter is laid out and ready for baking – this is actually were I messed up last time when I made these cookies. The directions specifically say that you need to leave ample space between each cookie since they spread out considerably during baking, but, I overlooked that part and ended up having to separate all of my cookies.

When my first batch came out of the oven I still had the problem of them being stuck together and I also noticed that they were a bit too brown so I opted to bake my remaining batches at 9 minutes as opposed to 10 minutes.

My remaining batches were much better, but, although the directions say to place the cookies on an ungreased baking sheet I think the next time I make them I will either lightly grease the sheets or use parchment paper. It was a bit of a struggle to get the cookies off the sheets once they cooled for a few minutes.

 

Here all of the cookies cooling before I placed them in a tin.

They were super yummy…. I’m sure I’ll be making them again!

Malted Milk Chocolate Chip Cookies

2011 Ree Drummond, All Rights Reserved

Prep Time: 15 min

Inactive Prep Time:  —

Cook Time: 10 min

Level: Easy

Serves: 36 cookies

Ingredients  

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup golden brown sugar

3/4 cup granulated sugar

2 whole eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 cup (rounded) malted milk powder

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/4 teaspoon salt

One 12-ounce bag milk chocolate chips

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Cream the butter, then add both sugars and cream until fluffy. Add the eggs and beat slightly, then add the vanilla and beat until combined. Add the malted milk powder and beat until combined.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and salt. Add to the butter mixture, beating gently until just combined. Add the chocolate chips and stir in gently.

Drop by teaspoonfuls (or use a cookie scoop) on an ungreased baking sheet, leaving plenty of space between the cookies (they spread out quite a bit). Bake for 9 to 11 minutes. The cookies will be very flat and very chewy. Allow to cool slightly before removing from pan with a spatula.

Optional: Allow to cool completely, then use 2 cookies to make an ice cream sandwich. Add sprinkles to the sides of the ice cream, then wrap individually in plastic wrap.

Banana Nut Bread

I have never a big fan of Banana Nut Bread. The few times I bought it it tasted a bit artificial to me. But last summer when some bananas I had started to overripe I decided to try out a recipe I came across on the internet. Recently when some bananas I bought couldn’t withstand the heat of the summer and started to ripen a little too quickly I decided to bake up two loaves to put them to good use. I prefer my bananas to be yellow with a tad hint of green to them. And yes I know that’s not the optimal time to eat them but for some reason I just cannot stomach them otherwise.

The overripe bananas.

They didn’t look like much once they were mashed up.

After creaming together the butter and sugar then adding the eggs and the dry ingredients my batter was pretty thick.

But once I added in the mashed up bananas my batter turned into something that was easily pourable into my prepared pans.

  

And after a little over an hour in the oven both of my loaves were ready and I must say they tasted delicious.

Favorite Banana Nut Bread

From About.com

Cook Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Ingredients:

1 Cup Butter or Margarine*

2 Cups Sugar

4 Eggs

1/4 Teaspoon Salt

2 Teaspoons Baking Soda

4 Cups Flour

6 Large Bananas, very ripe, mashes

1 Cup Finely chopped Pecans**

Preparation

Cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Sift dry ingredients together; add to creamed mixture. Stir in bananas and chopped pecans.

Pour banana nut bread batter into 2 well-greased loaf pans; bake at 325 degrees for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. This banana nut bread recipe makes 2 loaves.

*I opted to use butter

**Instead of pecans I used walnuts

Seed & Cone Earrings

I came across an earring pattern – known as the Taos Earrings – while searching through the different projects available on the Artbeads website. They looked simple to make and offered the option of being able to combine different colors which meant they would be extremely versatile to wear.

First things first I picked out the four colors I wanted to use. Being that I only had silver bead cones in my beading supplies I was limited to colors that would look good with silver. Since its summer time I opted for bright colors.

Next, I strung the beads on my thread. Since I wanted the earrings to have a little dimension to them I opted to string a different amount of seed beads on each of the threads. Afterwards I looped the thread through a crimp bead and crimped it.

  

I then used an eye pin to loop through the thread, put the bead cone on and then using the straight wire portion of the eye pin created a loop and wrapped it around the bead cone to ensure it would stay in place. I used a fish hook earring finding to hang my creation and voila it was done. In total both earrings took me less than 30 minutes to make.

While I liked how they came out, I wasn’t too keen on the colors once they were done. So, I decided to make another pair using colors that weren’t as bold.

  

Colorful Cake Pops

Earlier this year a few friends and I bought vouchers to take a Cake Pop class. After some scheduling mishaps we finally took the class this past weekend. While the place was less than desirable we still had a fun time nonetheless and all learned how to make a new treat. Although, I think I’ll be tweaking the directions the instructor gave us when I attempt them on my own.

I ended up making a total of nine colorful cake pops. I stuck with the simple technique of dipping them in thinned-down dyed frosting and putting sprinkles on them as opposed to some of the fun creations my friends made. I’m sad to say that I actually didn’t try them after my friends tried some of their “casualty” pops – they fell off the stick before or after being dipped into the frosting – and they said that they were really sweet. While I do love my sweets anything overly sweet is just not my cup of tea. And considering the amount of frosting we used to bind the cake together in order to make the balls for the pops and then dipping them in frosting I was sure that they were a super sugar rush.