Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Double Chocolate Cupcakes

I love chocolate. What woman doesn’t? I like dark chocolate especially and my all time favourite food is chocolate ice-cream studded with chocolate pieces. Strangely I don’t tend to make a lot of chocolate desserts as all too often I find them overly rich and sickly sweet. But these cupcakes were lovely!

I made them for the RSPCA cupcake day earlier this year and they went down a treat with my work colleagues. I used the recipe posted here by Kel at Sweet Treats and added chocolate chunks for a little bit of decadence!

Double Chocolate Cupcakes
90g butter, melted
1 cup SR flour, sifted
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa
100g chopped dark chocolate (I used Lindt 70%)
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 180C (160 fan forced).
Sift the flour and cocoa together. Add all other ingredients and mix until just combined (don't overmix or they will be tough). Spoon into cupcake papers and bake for approximately 15 mins

Chocolate Buttercream Icing
55g softened butter
240g sifted icing sugar
2 tbs cocoa
1 ½ tbs milk

Beat butter until light and creamy. Gradually beat in half the icing sugar and cocoa, then add the milk. Beat in the remaining icing sugar and cocoa. (Add extra milk if necessary to make a smoother consistency). This icing is good for piping, but I simply smeared it on!

I simply rolled the edges in 100s &1000s or carefully dipped the top to decorate them.
My bike obsessed husband has signed up for the Sydney to the Gong bike ride this weekend so I again have a day to myself - hopefully this time I will get my Leanne's house quilt basted together. Fingers crossed! And then there is Christmas pressies to start thinking about too...maybe next week!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Crab Apple Hill pincushion

I have had a huge weekend with almost no time for any sewing. I got some hand stitching done on my 12 Red Robins wall hanging while on the train, but that was it. Hopefully next weekend I will be able to set aside a little more time.

Last week I did manage to put together the main part of this months pin cushion. It has a bit of a vintage feel which I quite like, although I am unsure about making the beaded flower to go on top. Jo in TAS has a nice picture of her completed pincushion here.

Please excuse the awful props - the light was terrible and I was trying to find any spot that would work!

The bottom:

Thursday, October 23, 2008

One of those days...

It has definitely been one of those days where nothing goes to plan, but my darling husband is currently cooking dinner and I am about to make a cup of tea, grab my book and put my feet up

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Homemade bread

I really love the smell of yeast - is that strange? I also love the smell of fresh bread, especially when it is hot from the oven. Bread is one of the oldest forms of prepared food, but these days most people tend not to make it themselves. I don't make bread all that often either, but I really enjoy it when I do - both the preparation and the eating parts!

This is one of my favorite bread recipes. It has the most lovely caramel-like scent from the golden syrup, and is filled with seeds and nuts. I think it would also be great with dried fruit, perhaps next time I might add a handful or so of dried figs.

Seed Bread
I got this recipe from the Good Living section of the Sydney Morning Herald. It was in the Homecook section and unfortunately the recipe was printed incorrectly, but this is my slightly modified version which works very well. Of course, after I had made this recipe according to the incorrectly printed instructions, the SMH added at the bottom of all Homecook recipes "Recipes not tested by Good Living"... I guess it wasn't just me who had problems with the original recipe!

1 cup plain flour
2 cups wholemeal flour
2 1/2 tbsp instant dried yeast
3 tbsp wheatgerm
4 tbsp mixed linseeds and sesame seeds
2 tbsp pumpkin seeds
2 tbsp sunflower seeds
1/2 cup almonds
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup treacle
1 tbsp golden syrup
1 1/2 cups warm water
Olive oil
Cream or milk for glazing
1 tsp sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 220C (or 200C fan forced). Mix flours, yeast, wheatgerm, seeds, almonds and salt together in a large bowl. Mix treacle, golden syrup and warm water together in a jug, add to dry mixture and work together with a spoon or spatula until it forms a dough. Turn onto a floured board and knead for five minutes. Return to bowl, pat with olive oil, then cover and leave in a warm place for one hour or until doubled in size.

Knock back dough. Break into 6-8 pieces and knead each piece for a few minutes, then shape and place on a greased baking tray. Leave in a warm place, covered with a clean tea towel and allow the rolls to prove again for about half an hour.

Brush with cream or milk and sprinkle with seseame seeds. Bake for 5 minutes, then reduce heat to 190C (or 180C fan forced) and bake a further 10-15 minutes or until brown on top. Cool on wire racks.

Ready to go in the oven:

These rolls freeze really well - so I slice them in half and them wrap them individually before popping them in the freezer.

And ready to enjoy:
We had them last night smeared with butter, alongside some minestrone. Yum!

Monday, October 20, 2008

stitching on the go

I catch the train to work each day - 2 trains in fact, although I am only on the trains for about a total of 25-30 mins. A couple of weeks ago I thought I would take my forest friends pincushion pieces with me and do the embroidery on the way to work. I figured they were the perfect size to not be too cumbersome. It was fantastic - I had finished the embroidery in 2 days of trips. And it was such a lovely way to spend the train trip - and my sewing is definitely not as heavy as some of the books I have been known to take on the train!

Seeing as though I have finished these pincushions, I needed something else to take on the train. So I spent some time yesterday afternoon putting together the backing for the 12 Red Robins stitchery (from Cinderberry Stitches). I wanted to use some red fabric I already had for the checkerboard, but the print was a very stark white next to the cream background, so I tea dyed it! It was the first time I had tea dyed anything and I am so happy with the result!

I also discovered this gorgeous blog on the weekend (The Little Needle Case) via Leanne's house. And lo and behold - Nicky from The Little Needle Case posted last month about quilting on the go and had some wonderful ideas that I may just have to adopt for my train travel.

I also managed to get the border onto my Leanne's House quilt yesterday and piece together the backing - so hopefully I can baste it together soon and get started on the hand quilting. I still need to get myself a hoop for handquilting - but I don't really know what I should be looking for - something bigger? wooden? Does anyone have any advice?

Friday, October 17, 2008

it's almost the weekend!

It is a beautiful day in Sydney today and it looks like the weekend will be beautiful too. On Sunday, my dear husband will be riding in the City of Sydney Spring Cycle, and will be riding from North Sydney, over the Sydney harbour bridge to Olympic park – a total of 40km, or 50km if he does an additional circuit of Olympic park. So I am left with a day to myself! I have lots of things I want to try to get done this weekend including:

* sewing the border onto my Leanne’s House quilt and basting the backing, batting and top together
* have a go at making a passport wallet from this tutorial at A Spoonful of Sugar
* put together this months pincushion
* buy a birthday present for my dear husband (although I am still unsure of what to get him!)

I also got a new book this week – so I can’t wait to curl up on the couch for a couple of hours too.

I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Stash envy... and chocolate cake

After looking at Nettie's stash with a little (ok, a lot of) envy - I said I would show you just how small my stash of fabric is… well, here goes! Just those two shelves!
I do have a rather large bag of ‘scraps’, which are about the size of a fat-eighth or smaller, as well as a box of tiny scraps that would be useful for some scrappy appliqué (on the third shelf in the above pic), but that is it! I tend to only buy fabric with a project in mind – or in the case of the range “Charm Bracelet” by Allison Smith – when I love it so much that I Must have it! I have the 19 fat-quarter bundle (if you squint hard you might be able to see it on the bottom left of the pile on the lower shelf!) and I am still looking for the perfect project for this fabric.

Here’s the other corner of my sewing ‘nook’ – complete with Sampson attachment!

Are you game to show off your stash? I would love to see it!

Also - Not Quite Nigella is running a Chocolate Cake Challenge between now and the end of November. All you have to do is bake your richest, gooeyest cake ever and take a picture of it and either post it on your blog (and let NQN know about it) or send her the picture and recipe if you don't have a blog. If you are a chocolate lover, make sure you check it out.

And finally, a note for those of you in Sydney – I went to Lincraft in Pitt Street (The Imperial Arcade) last night after work and discovered that they are closing down. They have marked everything in the store down by 33%, so make sure you head past if you want a bargain. Their range of patchwork fabric is rather dismal, but DMC threads are 66c a skein (I bought a pile!) and they have a lot of scrapbooking stuff, and also some Christmas decorations too.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Chunky Peanut Butter and Oatmeal Chocolate Chipsters

From the name of these biscuits you can probably tell where they come from. Yep, they are from the USA - Dorie Greenspan in fact. We Aussie’s tend not to use the word oatmeal, but I figured I had to be true to the original recipe. Dorie Greenspan has one mighty following in the blog-o-sphere. Each Tuesday many food bloggers all post the same recipe from her book “Baking, From My Home to Yours” as part of the group “Tuesdays with Dorie”. I don’t know if I have ever found a book I love so much that I would work my way through it one recipe at a time. Although Karen Martini’s first cookbook “Where the Heart is” would come very very close!

I read about these biscuits on A Whisk and a Spoon and I thought they looked pretty damn good. However I am not the biggest peanut butter fan, but I have this fascination at the moment with the idea of mixing salt and sugar, so the idea of a slightly salty peanut butter, mixed with sugar and chocolate got me a bit excited. The biscuits turned out very good – I was pleasantly surprised. The nutmeg was an inspired addition and gave them an extra kick that made these biscuits that extra bit special. I definitely think this recipe is a keeper. Perhaps next time though, I will add some salted chopped peanuts – just to enhance the salty/sweet playoff.

My sister made these biscuits and got around 45, but I ended up with something more around the 80 mark! Next time I will definitely be halving the recipe, but my husbands work colleagues definitely enjoyed the overflow of biscuits.

Chunky Peanut Butter and Oatmeal Chocolate Chipsters
From “Baking, From My Home to Yours” by Dorie Greenspan
Makes about 80 cookies (in my hands anyway!!)

3 cups rolled oats
1 cup plain flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
225g unsalted butter, softened
1 cup chunky peanut butter
1 cup white sugar
1 cup (packed) brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 180ºC (or 160ºC for fan forced). Line two baking trays with baking paper.

Mix together the oats, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda and salt.

Beat together the softened butter, peanut butter, white sugar and brown sugar until smooth and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition, then beat in the vanilla.

Stir in the rolled oat mix and the chocolate chips. The recipe suggests refrigerating the mixture for 2 hours or overnight to give a more even shaped biscuit – but I didn’t do this and I think mine turned out ok!

Drop rounded tablespoonfuls of the mixture 2 inches apart onto the baking trays.

Bake for 13 minutes or until golden and just firm around the edges. The biscuits will firm up as they cool. Cooking for 13 mins gave slightly crunchy biscuits, so if you like your biscuits more soft reduce the cooking time a little.


Sunday, October 12, 2008

"You've got mail"

Look what arrived late last week! My second pincushion kit from Sarah.

I am a little nervous about tackling it as I have to make a fabric covered button, do some beading And make a ribbon flower - all three of which I haven't tried before - but Sarah has already posted a little tutorial on how to make the fabric covered button which looks pretty simple. I am glad I have joined this club as I think it is going to force me to learn some new techniques. Hopefully I can at least get started on it this week!
Has anyone else started on this one?


Recently, I mentioned on Crazy Mom Quilts that I needed to learn how to stipple quilt. Suzy noticed my remark and left a comment on my previous post that got me thinking... Why hadn't I given free motion quilting a try? I guess I had put it in the "too hard" basket. I did do a lot of self-teaching when I first started sewing about 5 or so years ago - using books like this one that came with my Mum's magazines - but I have never really tackled anything more difficult than straight line quilting.

I remember my Mum and my Aunt chuckling when I told them I hadn't known that a sewing machine used two threads - one on top and one in the bobbin! That realisation came from reading the instruction book that came with the sewing machine my Mum had given me! I had absolutely no idea how to use one!

After leaving a comment on my post, Suzy even posted on her own blog about learning free motion quilting on your own. So after reading her advice, and watching Amanda Jean's video here, and reading this discussion (who would have know how much help there was out there on free motion quilting?), I gave it a whirl.

I was excited firstly when I realised my sewing machine had come with a darning foot - that was a good start! The fabric moved up and down more than I thought it would, so that took a little getting used to, but I think it turned out kind of OK for a first go...

Obviously I need some more practise - there is some sharp turns and some areas where I have crossed over the other stitching - but I am making a basic quilt for Sampson, so that might be the perfect thing to learn on.

A big thanks to Suzy for her encouragement! I think I will skip the classes after all and just keep practising on my own.

Friday, October 10, 2008

what a stash!

Check out Nettie's stash of fabrics (a quilt is nice: stash) - isn't it gorgeous! I am very jealous - my stash is rather small. Maybe I will have to post some pictures to show you just how small...

Is your stash like Nettie's?

Fab 'Floral' Fishy

Spring is well and truly here and I am happy about it. I love all things associated with this season, the warmer days, the new buds on trees, the extra hours of daylight in the evening and the flowers. I just love spring flowers. We recently had a picnic in the Royal Botanic Gardens and the flowers were just divine.

When my little cousins (2 gorgeous girls born 2 weeks apart) turned 1 earlier this year, I wanted to make a toy for each of them. I decided to make Melly and Me’s Fab Fishy. I decided to use material from my scrap box, which, due to my love of flowers, contains mostly floral fabrics. However I like the way the fishy turned out – very girly indeed!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Easiest Vanilla Cupcakes

The RSPCA cupcake day was held in August this year to raise much needed funds for this wonderful organization. Because there are only 2 of us in our household (not including Sampson of course!), I don’t often make cupcakes as we never tend to eat them quickly enough. I know I could probably freeze them un-iced, but it is the icing that makes the cupcake! So the RSPCA cupcake day was the perfect excuse for me to cook up many of the recipes I had been desperate to try, but hadn’t yet had the chance to.

Of all the recipes I cooked, these vanilla cupcakes were by far the easiest. I have shared this recipe with some of the Mums I work with because they would be perfect for a kids birthday party or as a birthday treat to share with their friends at school.

Easiest Vanilla Cupcakes

90g softened butter
½ teaspoon vanilla essence
½ cup caster sugar
2 eggs
1 cup self-raising flour
2 tablespoons milk

Preheat oven to 180º (160º for fan forced). Line muffin pan with paper cases.

Beat all ingredients in small bowl with electric mixer on low until ingredients are just combined, then increase speed to medium and beat until the mixture has changed to a paler colour.

Divide mixture among cases and bake for about 20 minutes for standard size muffins or approx 9 mins for mini cupcakes like I have made here. Allow cakes to cool on a wire rack before icing.

That’s it! They are so simple!

I used a plain icing for these – about ½ cup pure icing sugar and a little warm water (about 2 tablespoons) to give a smooth consistency (you can add flavoured essence or colours or cocoa too if you wish). I like using pure icing sugar because it sets hard so you can decorate you cupcakes with coconut or sprinkles or lollies and they won’t fall off! I find it easier to keep my bowl of icing over another bowl which has some warm water in it to keep the icing from setting before I can spread it over my cupcakes.

Although if you make the icing too runny - it drips down the sides like these chocolate ones! Oops!

This is the perfect recipe to make butterfly cakes - you know, the ones with a hole in the top filled with jam and cream and then little cake wings perched on top? I love those cakes!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Staying up to date...

A Thankyou to Sarah for her lovely welcome to blogland! That was a lovely start to my day this morning!

When I signed up for the Pin Cushion of the Month club I promised myself (and my husband!) that I would keep up with the monthly projects. See, when I first started sewing, I signed myself up for a Block of the Month project - An Angels Story by Anni Downs. That was a while ago, years even. And I am sad to say that I am still not finished, but I have been inspired of late to get started on it again - but more of that later.

So seeing as though my next Pin Cushion kit is on its way, I thought I better show you how I am keeping up with this one. Don't you just love the pins that come with these kits? They are gorgeous!

And the bottom of the cushion:

Did you notice the back edge? Yep - I still haven't sewn the opening closed, nor have I started the second pin cushion of the kit with the owl and mushrooms... eek! I had better get to it!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Banana Bread

Earlier this year, one of my favourite bloggers, Not Quite Nigella, held a Banana Bread Bake-off! She very nicely allowed those of us without blogs to enter and so I did. This was my entry:

This recipe is a modified version of Margaret Fulton’s recipe for Bran Muffins. The resulting banana bread has a lovely malty flavour which results from the All Bran and a richness from the golden syrup. Including All Bran also means that you can even try to convince yourself that it is healthy!

These loaves freeze really well, so I often make a big batch and then freeze them for our lunch boxes (even though there are only big kids here!)

2 cups flour
1 ½ tsp baking soda
1 cup All Bran
2/3 cup sultanas
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 tsp salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon mixed spice
1 egg
1 ½ cups buttermilk (or milk soured with white vinegar)
½ cup water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
¼ cup golden syrup
2 ripe bananas, mashed
Preheat oven to 180°C (if using fan-forced) or 200°C (for no fan).

Sift the flour, soda, salt and spices into a large bowl. Stir in the All Bran, brown sugar and the sultanas.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, oil and the golden syrup. Stir in the buttermilk and water and then add the mixture to the dry ingredients. Stir well to combine and then leave in the fridge overnight to allow the All Bran to soften.

In the morning, stir the mixture well and then mix through the 2 mashed bananas. Spoon mixture into greased miniature loaf pans until they are ½ - ¾ full and bake for 18-20 mins.

I think it is best eaten warm smeared with butter, but it is also great sliced when cold and then toasted.

If you do love banana bread, make sure you check out the NQN Bake-Off. There are many different recipes for traditional and more modern versions of this classic.

Monday, October 6, 2008

first up...

After enjoying reading many different craft and food related blogs over the past 18 or so months, I have finally decided to take the plunge and start my own blog. My husband calls me a 20-something Nanna because of my love of all things homely. OK, maybe not all things, I definitely don't love the vacuuming! But I love to cook and I love to sew.

So for my first post - Sarah from Quilt Fabric Delights has asked members of her Pincushion of the Month club to show her what she would see should she hand deliver the next pincushion kit to our homes. To start with, Sarah would see something lovely like this:

and then when she came into our home she would probably see my kitten Sampson doing something cheeky like this:

Please note - Sampson was not harmed whilst posing for this photo!