Monday, August 24, 2015

Far From Perfect

I had so many nice comments about my dessert cake embroideries and how perfect they looked but I'm here to tell you that those cakes are far from perfect. In one particular instance you would have thought I was baking a real cake it gave me so much trouble!
Normally it's not my policy to point out mistakes. I have a high tolerance for flubs as long as the overall look of a piece is pleasing but in machine embroidery those flubs can really add up to a raggedy a$$ mess unless you take steps to nip them in the bud.
Here is one of those times when a bad stitch out could turn into a disaster if left to continue. I tried to get a good picture of loopies suddenly happening in this otherwise good fill stitch. This is the foundation of the carrot cake - it's gonna show!
This picture shows better what I'm talking about. Giant, raised thread loops! Yikes! The right side of the stitch out is perfect and then suddenly, disaster! Lots of exclamation points here I may even have uttered a bad word or three. What's the problem? If you're experiencing trouble on the top of the project check your bobbin first and make sure all is clean and running smoothly. The tiniest piece of thread or lint can mess things up in the bobbin area. Nope, that wasn't it. Re-thread everything with the presser foot UP so that the tension disks can grab that thread properly. Nope, that wasn't it. 
Change your needle! Even if your think that needle is almost, probably brand new, Change the needle! Nine times out of ten a new needle will solve a top stitch problem if you're sure your bobbin case is clean and your machine is threaded correctly.
By the way - Here's how I store my used machine and hand needles. A small hole in the top of a child safe pill bottle. Just drop the used needle in. Those sharp objects don't need to go directly into the trash where they can hurt someone.
If I want to sew on paper or some other strange material I can access a needle pretty easily too.
Do you have any tips to share for dealing with dreaded sew out mishaps?
The brothers and spouses are due to arrive on Dogwood Lane in two days for lots of sibling tomfoolery so you won't be hearing from me for a while.

It's design Wall Monday at Patchwork Times go visit Judy and see what's up.

Until next time,

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Strawberry Tea bread


Strawberry season is just about over here in California, I don't know how long the harvest lasts in other parts of the country. Before these luscious gems are gone for good I want to share an easy and delicious strawberry celebration.
Simple ingredients and your blender make this quick and easy. All the wet ingredient and the strawberries go into the blender for a quick whirl. Melted butter makes this so moist and flavorful. If you hold some kind of grudge against butter you can use oil but really why?
Here's your wet ingredients with little bits of strawberry floating around. This is why this tea bread is completely berry infused. Add the wet to the dry. and pop it all into the prepared pans.
I have two different sized pans for some reason so I always get two different sized loaves. *sigh* nothing is ever simple around here. The batter has a pinkish tinge to it at this stage that some may not find appealing but it smells amazing.
Into the oven. Does that not look wonderful and it smells so good!
I forgot to get a picture after this because we were too busy eating! Sorry. As with most quick breads of this sort it tastes even better the next day so feel free to make ahead for your next friends get together.

Strawberry Tea Bread
Delicious, full strawberry flavor in a loaf of sweet bread. Great for afternoon snack with coffee, tea or toasted with a dollop of strawberry cream cheese spread.
Makes 2 loaves

Grease and lightly flour two 9x5 loaf pans; set aside
Preheat oven to 325 degrees
Ingredients:
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 cups white sugar
1 tsp vanilla
4 eggs
2 cups chopped fresh or frozen strawberries
¾ cups vegetable oil or melted butter ( I usually use ½ cup butter and ¼ cup oil)
1 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Sift together dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl; add sugar and stir thoroughly. 
Combine eggs, berries and oil in a blender and whirl until berries are broken up. If you don’t have a blender then chop berries into very small pieces and combine with eggs and oil with a hand mixer or whisk. 
Add wet mixture to dry all at once and stir until combined. 
Add pecans. (Remember the more you mix the tougher your quick bread will be.) 
Pour into prepared pans and bake at 325* about 1 hour or until cake tester inserted into middle comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes on wire racks and then turn out of pans and allow to cool completely. Sprinkle with powdered sugar while still a little warm for some gild the lily glamour if you wish.

The really good news is that this recipe works just as well with frozen berries as it does with fresh so we can enjoy it all year round. What a treat to have a taste of summer on a cold winter day.

Until next time, 

Monday, August 17, 2015

Did Someone Say Dessert?

As most of you know by now I'm all about dessert. Plenty of the recipes in my recipe page are desserts. I have a big ass sign proclaiming my love of baking in my kitchen!
Sooner or later this passion was bound to spill over into the sewing room but how?
http://www.sanfranciscostitchco.com/BakeShop.html
I've been baking some super delicious cakes with needle and thread! This yummy carrot cake hasn't been cleaned up yet, I still have to trim the tiny jump stitches but I ask you does that not look delicious?
http://www.sanfranciscostitchco.com/BakeShop.html
How to do feel about the chocolate bunny topper with his jaunty bow?
http://www.sanfranciscostitchco.com/BakeShop.html
Once I start baking I usually like to keep going, after all I have all the ingredients out.
http://www.sanfranciscostitchco.com/BakeShop.html
Here's a strawberry cake with some pink swirls. I only wish I could apply frosting this well with a pastry bag.
http://www.sanfranciscostitchco.com/BakeShop.html
The bakery case is filling up with sweet treats. What about a simple vanilla offering to go with afternoon tea? Of course no bakery worth a mention in the Times Food Section would neglect to offer a towering chocolate confection so my bakery must include this beauty.
http://www.sanfranciscostitchco.com/BakeShop.html
I swear I can practically taste the mocha and whipped cream. All these embroidery designs are from San Francisco Stitch Company Bake Shop collection and they were a dream to stitch out. Of course, I have a plan for them other than drooling over them so I'll keep you posted as I go along.

Linking to Design Wall Monday at Patchwork Times my first DWM linkup in a long time *sigh*. I do try to get some sewing in once in a while, truly. The Annual Dowell Brothers Weekend in coming up so I may be MIA again soon.

Until next time,

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Adorable!

Sometimes I just can't stop myself from taking a stroll down memory lane. Going through old photos and I came across this picture of my three boys in the bathtub. How cute are they?
The baby in this grainy picture recently turned 41 but I'm not getting any older at all!
Here they are with their Dad  - The Sierra Beer Bottle Quartet. These are my guys and I'm proud of them.

Until next time,

Thursday, August 13, 2015

What's Happening At The Palace?

The most hectic and activity packed summer in memory just keeps rolling along and it shows no sign of slowing down. Of course, you know that if I’ve been absent from the blogosphere for any amount of time it means I’ve been enjoying myself with grand kids so I don’t even need to explain where I’ve been most of the time!
Meanwhile, we’ve been taking care of some much needed and planned for capital improvements here at the chicken palace on Dogwood Lane. The daily water ritual for these hens can be a real drag. Chickens drink a lot of water and for their health it needs to be clean and fresh. This means that one of us (Chris) had to check, clean and fill water constantly for our small flock of 12 hens.
 The ladies received a plumbing upgrade when Chris installed a Chicken Fountain for them. Clean, fresh water any time of day without all the mess of constant refills, spills and cleaning. They haven’t told me how they feel about it but I LOVE this thing! 
 It took the girls about two seconds to figure out how to use their new cocktail dispenser. We’ve been able to leave the property now for several week long trips without worrying about their food (we have an automatic gravity feeder) and water needs, such a relief.


 
 I'll leave you with a few beauty shots of some of the ladies.
Some are more camera ready than others but all love their chicky treats so at least I have no trouble getting them to come over for a photo. 


The trouble starts when I try to get them to hold still!
Crowd scene. Sugar wants to know when it's time for her close-up.
Maybe, just maybe, I'll have some sew/quilting news to report for my next post. Stranger things have happened!

The Chicken Chick

Until next time,

Friday, July 31, 2015

Plum Delicious!


Our one surviving plum tree came through with a wonderful harvest of deliciousness. It's a spindly little thing but it really put out this year!
More than enough plums to make plum raspberry jam, our all time favorite and maybe some plum chutney too.
Sweet on the inside but the skin is pucker up tart!
If you have fruit trees you know that the tree comes ripe all at the same time which means one day you have nothing and the next day you have buckets of fruit you need to deal with. I didn't have time to process all that fruit right at the moment so after pitting and slicing it I measured it into freezer bags and popped it into the freezer to save it for some less hectic days.
The plums are ready for me when I'm ready for a canning day. Never fear I saved just enough out for our favorite plum dessert. 

Plum Kucken! Oh my! Can there be anything better with a scoop of vanilla ice cream? I think not. And so simple to make. If you don't have a plum tree of your own go get yourself some plums and let's start baking!
All you do is mix up the easy, buttery batter and spread it in a 9X9 baking pan.
Cut up your plums and spread them over the top. This works with any fruit really - cherries, peaches, apples whatever you have. But then it wouldn't be plum kuchen would it?
See those dark spots? I had a handful of blueberries from the garden so I threw those in too. Sprinkle the topping over the fruit. Into the oven it goes. The aroma in your kitchen while this is baking? Heaven, I'm telling you!
Out of the oven. Golden brown and scrumptious. Serve this warm or room temperature with whipped cream or the way we like it best with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Or just eat it out of the pan with a spoon I won't judge you. 
My breakfast slice!

Plum Kuchen

Ingredients

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup sugar (this depends on the sweetness of your plumbs) plus 1 tablespoon for mixing with cinnamon

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 cups sliced fresh plums (about 1-3/4 pounds)

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

TOPPING:

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup cold butter, cubed

3 tablespoons chopped nuts, optional

1. In a large bowl, cream butter and 1/2 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt; add to creamed mixture and mix well.

2. Transfer to a greased 9-in. square baking dish. Top with plums. Combine cinnamon and remaining sugar; sprinkle over plums.

3. For topping, in a small bowl, combine flour and sugar; cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in nuts if desired. Sprinkle over top.

4. Bake at 350° for 50-55 minutes or until topping is golden brown and plums are tender. Cool on a wire rack. Yield: 9 servings.


Adapted from several recipes on the web

Until next time,

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

What's the Fuss About?

 Why did we go to all the trouble to repair our well if we have access to clean, potable municipal water you might be asking?
The main reason is the vegetable garden. I have scaled back the planting to perhaps a third of what I would normally grow because of our drought conditions but even that small amount requires water. Municipal water is expensive, very expensive! And it's monitored strictly. Because we are not a large scale ranch or farm we do not have access to large scale rates so we pay household rates for our water no matter how we use it.
I have just four tomatoes, three squash, two peppers two potato barrels, the strawberry patch and my rhubarb. I planted green beans twice and they did not even come up! The heat has been brutal this year and none of this is thriving since I have had to be very stingy with the water even if it is from our own well.
The squash is struggling. This is how big it is even though it's the end of July!

The strawberry patch
But of course the main reason to keep the well in order is my girls! Chickens need a lot of water and I can't make them do without.
Every morning they crowd around to see what I brought them from the kitchen. Keeping them cool and healthy is a top priority so they have clean, fresh water at all times and I hose down their yard once or twice a day on hot days to make them comfortable. It's all about the ladies around here, it's not called the EL Palacio de las Galinas (the Chicken Palace) for nothing!
A girl has to have a flower or two or what's it all for?
Until next time,