Thursday, August 29, 2013

Southern Skillet Peach Crisp

Disclaimer: I'm not a southern girl. Not even close. In fact,  I come from a very, very long line of Massachusetts Yankees. But that being said, we've been living here in North Carolina for more than 3 months now, and I'd like to say I've learned a thing or two.

Thing learned #1: Peaches. Beautiful, juicy, CHEAP peaches. I've always loved peaches, but I never used them much given the price. We come from the land of strawberry producers, and so that would always be my go-to preserving and baking ingredient. In Alaska, it was blueberries. But this summer I was certainly in for a treat.

Back home in the West, I'd go nuts if they were less than $2.50 a pound. Down here, they're 98 CENTS A POUND! No self-respecting frugal gal could pass that one up.

Thing learned #2: Pecans. (Do you say "pea-cons" or "pea-cans"?) Again, never used them too much back home because they are so spendy. It was a very special day when I'd fork out $8 to make a pecan pie. But the price of pecans in the South is a very different story.

This recipe comes from my excitement about the beautiful produce they have available in the Carolinas, and my need for a quick and special dessert to make my hungry brood.

Are you ready? Here we go:

Southern Skillet Peach Crisp

Makes 6 servings

The ingredients:

The filling:                      
6 peaches, peeled, pitted and chopped
3 Tbs flour
1/2 c firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
a pinch of salt

The topping:
1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 old-fashioned oats
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 chopped pecans
a pinch of salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) softened butter

The method:

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
2. Make the filling. Toss peaches with flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, and salt in a large bowl. Set aside.
3. Take out your skillet. A cast iron would be ideal. I didn't have one, so any oven-safe skillet would work fine too. 
4. Cook your peach filling over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes. You'll know the filling is ready when you can make a "trail" with your spoon through the peaches and it doesn't fill in right away. Remove from heat.
The "trail" means the filling is done!

5. To make the topping, mix together  flour, oats, brown sugar, pecans, and salt in a large bowl. Rub in the butter using clean fingers, until the dough begins to just hold together. 
6. Evenly sprinkle the crisp topping over the top of your cooked peaches. Then put the whole thing into your preheated oven. Easy!
7. Bake for 55-60 minutes, until the crisp is bubbly and the topping is a deep golden brown. 
8. Serve with ice cream, and enjoy the deserving praise heaped upon you by your adoring family! :)
Just out of the oven

There she is, folks! Feel free to stuff yourself silly. 

Have a great day!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Baby Face Birthday Garland

My youngest daughter's first birthday party is a little more than 6 weeks away, and that means I am in full Mach 5 party planning mode. Call me crazy- but I always like to start making decorations and plans early so that I'm not up until 3am the night before the party, giving myself a massive headache from desperately blowing up as many balloons as I can (trust me, I've been there)! 

One of the very first ideas I had for my Katie's party was a banner I pinned about 4 months ago.
Quite possibly the cutest thing ever! Find out how this banner's done at From Dahlias to Doxies
I know. don't have to say a word. 

I about fell out of my chair when I saw this! Isn't it the cutest, most hilarious thing you've ever seen? I think it's pretty safe to say this is what set off my Party Planning Mania for Katie's first birthday, and I've been busily crafting ever since. (Seriously, check out my Pinterest page on it; it's a little ridiculous!)

So here's my interpretation of the banner from From Dahlias to Doxies.  Since Katie's party is going to be a cowgirl theme, I wanted to make it a little more rustic. What do you think?

I'm pretty proud of it! I can't wait to drape it around the dessert table at the party. 
Please forgive the crumby black couch in the background- it's part of our temporary living arrangements here in NC, and it shows EVERY little spill the girls get on it! But I digress...

So here's how I did it:
 You'll need:
     About 8 black and white print-outs of your little one's face, approximately the same size.  (I just cropped mine on Instagram until I thought they were roughly equal in size).
    Colored card stock for the hats
   A sheet of thin poster board
   A hot glue gun, or other adhesive of your choice
   Burlap ribbon
   Scissors or a box cutter

I started out by laying out my face print-outs and measuring the width of the foreheads. This told me how wide to make the card stock hats.  The pictures I used all had roughly a 3 inch wide forehead.

Next, I made the hat cut-outs. Now since this is a cowgirl themed party, I wanted my little girl to be wearing a cowgirl hat, of course! But you could do any type of hat you wanted depending on the occasion or theme. 

I just free-hand drew a cowboy hat into one of the pieces of card stock and used that as a template.

         Make sure to see if it fits. So cute!

Next, I cut out the rest of my cowgirl hats, varying the colors and patterns. 

Then I glued them to the faces, and then glued the whole things to the poster board to give my cowgirls a little extra firmness. 

After I let them dry, I carefully cut out the cowgirl's faces using a box cutter. This proved to be the hardest part for me since I'm REALLY left-handed. If you don't know what that means, find the nearest lefty to you and ask them how many times they've sliced open their fingers doing something like this.

Then give them a hug. It's a hard world we live in.

Now, if you liked the way this looks, you could always just hot glue your faces onto a ribbon at this point and call it good. But I wanted to frame the faces a bit more, so I glued them onto two layers of coffee filters: one dyed with coffee, the other left white. I was so happy with how it framed those pretty little faces!

Lastly I hot glued my cowgirls onto a thick burlap ribbon...

And stood back and admired the finished product!

I seriously love the way this turned out! It was so easy and I think will be a great decoration for my baby's first birthday shindig. 

Have a wonderful day!!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Gooey Oatmeal Cake with Biscoff Broiled Icing

I have a confession to make: I don't really like frosting. I'm the weirdo at the party that scrapes the beautiful frosting off her cake and pushes it to the side. I'm not on a diet or anything, I just like my cake to taste like, well, cake. Sometimes frosting is just a little much in my opinion.

My husband thinks I'm insane by the way, but he certainly doesn't complain while eating my discarded frosting when no one's looking!

There is an exception to my dislike of cake toppings: broiled icing. I looooooove it. That burnt sugar crispiness with the melty gooeyness underneath?? Yum. Plus I like things easy, and boy are they ever.

Recently I've been seeing lots of recipes using Biscoff Spread on Pinterest and I was instantly intrigued. Biscoff Spread is a spreadable version of the Belgian cookies that, if you've ever flown on Delta airlines, you've munched away happily on. It's got the consistency of peanut butter, but it vegan, nut free, and has a mild cinnamon-y sweetness that is absolutely delicious.

So what's a girl to do when she discovers a fun new product and has a craving for broiled icing? Combine the two, of course!

I decided that since Biscoff Spread has the consistency of peanut butter, that I could probably use it instead of peanut butter in a favorite recipe. My Oatmeal Cake with Peanut Butter Broiled Icing came instantly to mind. The cake is moist, spicy, but not too sweet. Add that with a gooey, sticky-sweet icing and you've got my idea of heaven. I thought that the recipe couldn't get any better, but man, was I wrong. The Biscoff Spread made the broiled icing taste more complex, more like caramel than any broiled icing I'd had before. It was sweet, but not so much to overpower the oatmeal cake. You definitely won't see me scraping this frosting off anytime soon!

Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to introduce you to my new favorite recipe:

Oatmeal Cake with Biscoff Broiled Icing

Makes one 8x8 cake with plenty of frosting!

Tips: Don't worry if the broiled icing seems really loose when you first take it off the stove. It should coat the back of a spoon. Once it cools, it will thicken nicely and will be easy to spread onto your cake.

Oatmeal Cake

1 1/4 cwater, boiling
1 coatmeal, old fashioned and uncooked
1/2 cunsalted butter
1 cgranulated sugar
1 cbrown sugar, packed firm
1 tspvanilla
1 1/2 call-purpose flour
1 tspbaking soda
1 tspcinnamon
1/2 tspsalt
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Pour boiling water over oatmeal in a small bowl. Let sit 20 minutes. 

2. Cream together butter and sugars. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

3. Add vanilla and oatmeal, beat well. 

4. Add remaining ingredients, and beat well, making sure not to leave any pockets of flour in the batter.

5. Pour batter into a greased 8x8 pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes. Let cool.

Biscoff Broiled Icing
                    2 c       sugar
                    1 c       milk
                    2 Tbs    Karo Syrup
                    1 Tbs    unsalted butter
                    1 tsp     vanilla
                    1 c        Biscoff Spread
                    a pinch of salt

1. Mix together sugar, milk, Karo syrup in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, and cook for 3 minutes. 

2. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes. 

3. Add butter and Biscoff Spread and mix thoroughly. Allow to cool 
until spreading consistency.

4. Spread over the top of your Oatmeal Cake, and place under a broiler under high heat. Watch 
CAREFULLY! Let your topping get bubbly and brown, but don't let it burn.

5. Remove from the broiler, and allow to cool a bit so you don't burn your mouth (if you can)!

Yum. Now pardon me, I'm about to have a quite moment with my piece of cake. 

Have a wonderful day!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Pretty Distressed Wooden Letters

I love entertaining my friends and family, especially when it's for an extra special occasion. My littlest girl is having her first birthday this fall and I'm seriously going all out for this one.

I'm not kidding; I'm sewing throw pillows to match the party decorations. Oh yes. I might be going a little insane.

But one thing I love especially about birthday parties is that they give me a chance to really be creative and to create some really beautiful (and memorable!) decor. And as a general rule of thumb, I try to stick with classic and simple details that I can use again and again.

Case in point: this sweet distressed wooden letter. Wouldn't it just be the cutest hanging in a little girl's room? Plus Katie's party is going to be cowgirl themed, so the rustic burlap ribbon and distressed paint work really well. I wanted this baby to look like someone just pulled it out of a barn!

I scored the wooden "K" from Michaels for less than a dollar! So great. The burlap ribbon (20 ft) cost about 3 dollars but I only used about 2 ft so I'll get to use it again and again (and what CAN'T you do with burlap?!)

Here's the how-to:

1. First, I spray painted my letter pink. I used Krylon Satin Spray Paint in Ballet Slipper. Let that dry for about an hour....

2. Next, I painted the "K" with some leftover crackle medium from my Distressed Sofa Table project I did a few weeks ago. Let that dry until tacky. 

3. Once my crackle medium was tacky, I painted the letter with some diluted white paint I had laying around (also left over from my sofa table revamp!). See that crackle? I love it!  

4. After that dries, distress your letter to your liking. I like to use a medium grit sandpaper and (my personal favorite distressing tool) the flat end of a metal bottle opener. 

5. Here comes the fun part. Grab yourself from scrapbooking distress paint. You heard me. I know it sounds crazy, but I couldn't resist this cute little blotting bottle. And the instructions say "for porous materials." Well, that includes wood, my friends! Just dab away at your letter, paying close attention to the distressed spots and the edges. 

6. Keep dabbing...

7. ...and blotting...

8. ...and blending in any hard edges with the leftover white paint if necessary...

9. ...until you love it!!! Add a little burlap ribbon...

And voila! I love, love, love, love it! Very country, very chic, and very, VERY easy :-) . 

 The thing was so cheap to make that I'm going to head back to the craft store to get more letters as soon as I can! Maybe spell out "Giddy UP?" or "Howdy?" What do you think? I can't wait to hang this over the dessert table at my little monkey's cowgirl bash!

Have a wonderful day!!

Click Here to See Where I'm Linking Up!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Perfect Oven Fried Bacon

I love bacon. Love, love, love. There was about 5 months in my first pregnancy when I couldn't even stand the smell of it.

It was a dark time in my life. I don't want to talk about it.

Thankfully, that's definitely not the case nowadays! We go through at least a pound of bacon a week, so I've gotten to know a thing or two. 

One thing is that I hate frying bacon on the stove. The grease gets everywhere, I usually burn myself, and I nearly always walk away from it at a bad time. What I'm left with most mornings is a dirty kitchen, sore fingers, and burnt bacon. No bueno. 

So I did a bit a research and found a fabulous and fool-proof way to cook perfect bacon, no fuss and no muss! 

So here's what you do: 

1. Grab yourself a rimmed cookie sheet, and line it with aluminum foil.
2. Lay your bacon on your prepared sheet. 
3. Place your bacon in a COLD oven. 
4. Turn your oven on to 425 degrees, set the timer for 15-20 min and walk away. That's it!
5. Now pour yourself a cup of coffee, read the paper, and...

Pull your perfect bacon from the oven, you queen of the kitchen! 

6. Drain on a paper towel-lined plate, and dig in!

Friday, August 9, 2013

The "Mad Maggie" Hoodie

It was a rainy day in Asheville, so I decided to pull out my sewing machine and get to crafting something fun. And when I think of fun, I immediately think of my sister. When she and I get together, we kind of go insane. Not in the bad way, just in the "spontaneous song-and-dance number, laughing hysterically" insane. Seriously, ask our husbands. Ask our parents. Ask distant relatives. We go nuts.

 This is my wonderful sister and me on my wedding day in 2009. Her name's Meg, aka "Mad Maggie."
Don't ask her how she got that nickname... nothing to see here....

Anyway, last week I was searching for some fun sewing projects and I found this little number by The Cottage Mama. Isn't it just the cutest? Here's a link to her awesome, easy-to-follow tutorial!

As soon as I saw this sweet little hoodie, my wheels started turning. I love the look of clothes with feminine details (a la ruffles) with something unexpected. So when I went to my fabric stash and found some black fabric with skulls, I knew I had something going.

What do you think? The perfect hoodie for my cool, crazy, fun sister Mad Maggie.

Now, at the time I wasn't really sure how it was going to turn out, so I didn't take any pictures. And so when I finished it and LOVED it, I decided to make another one and take plenty of pictures this time! So here we go.

You'll need:
      - About 1 yard each of two different, corresponding fabrics. You'll have plenty left over, but I always like to be sure since I'm just a beginner at sewing.
      - LOTS of pins
      - Matching thread
      -Trim if you'd like. I didn't use any, but The Cottage Mama's version did and it was darling. So take your pick!
       -Finally, a hoodie to embellish! I used one I got from Walmart for $8, but you could do this to just about anything with a hood.

Start by folding your hoodie and using the hood as a template for the lining. Lay it on top of one of your fabrics, and trace the outside leaving about a half inch for a seam allowance.

Cut out your hood lining, and sew all along the curve.

Next,  fold back and press about a half inch of the straight edge of the lining.


Press open the curved seam of your hood lining. Pin, right side facing down, to the inside of of your hoodie. Sew in place.

Fold the lining back and press, so that the lining fits inside the hood and the fabric is right side out. Top stich all along the curve of the hood, sewing your lining in place.

Next you need to cut the fabric for the ruffle. You'll want about 2 times the length from the bottom of one side of the zipper, all the way up and around the hood, and down the other side of the zipper. Mine (a men's small) was about 80 inches in length, so my strips of fabric needed to be about 160 inches long. I know that sounds like a lot, but you can just cut smaller strips and sew them together to make one really loooong strip for each color. One strip (the outer ruffle) should be 5 inches wide, and the other (the inner ruffle) should be about 3.5 inches wide. 

So just to reiterate, that's:

One outer ruffle 160" long, 5" wide

One inner ruffle 160' long, 3.5" wide

Next, and this is the not-so-fun part (in my humble opinion), sew these long strips into tubes by folding them in half, right sides together, and sewing along the length.

After you do this, turn the tubes right-side-out, press, and topstich the ends together, so that there are no raw edges on your ruffle. 

To make the ruffles, set your machine stitch to the longest length and sew a straight seam all the way down each ruffle, being careful not to backstitch the ends. 

When you've done this, GENTLY pull one of the thread on the ends to ruffle the fabric (for some reason, the bobbin thread always worked the best for me).

 I hated this part; you have to be super careful not to break your thread or you have to start over. My advice is to just take it slow. It's a lot of fabric and it takes a while, so just be sure sit down and make yourself comfortable. And remember: be gentle!! The second you feel any resistance while pulling your thread, just use your hands to work the ruffle down the length of the fabric. If you're stubborn and just keep pulling, your thread is sure to break.

Once that's done, the hard part is over (hurray)!!! 

Pin your outer ruffle all along the hood and zipper of your hoodie and sew in place. The Cottage Mama made a great point to switch to a denim needle at this point and I totally agree. It's a lot of fabric to work with, and I bent one of my normal needles in the process. Once I switched to a denim needle, that baby soared through the fabric no problem!

Pin your inner ruffle on top of the other and sew in place. Just take your time. Like I said, it's a lot of fabric to keep track of, but it's just a straight seam. Go slowly and it's as simple as pie. :-)

And here's the finished product! I just love it. Halfway through making it I got a little worried that it would look like one of Prince's blouses with all that ruffle (you know what I'm talking about!), but I think it's sweet. This one's not as "Mad Maggie" as the skulls- maybe I should call it the "Sane Maggie" or the "PTA-friendly Maggie" version?? What do you think?

Thank you Cottage Mama for the inspiration!!!  I can't wait to make the sweet little girl's version from your site soon. :-)

Click Here to See Where I'm Linking Up!