Search This Blog

Pages

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

GOLDEN BIRTHDAY DRESS

 I just recently learned what a "golden birthday" is, and promptly went into creative mode when I learned that my daughter was hoping I could make her a dress for her golden birthday.  She had told me she wanted a gold dress, and sent me some pictures of dresses that were loaded with all sorts of "bling".  

Now that I knew what she was looking for, she went to work purchasing all sorts of jewels, chains, etc., and I went to work looking for some flashy gold fabrics....sequins, laces, etc. 

The whole project was very different than how I usually work......first thing, my daughter kept stressing that this dress was strictly for her birthday.  Because of that, the approach I/we used was very foreign.  I normally would have made a pattern, working hard on the fit....Constructed it the way I usually would a strapless dress, with good foundational techniques included.  But I didn't do any of that.  I actually began with by creating a strapless tube dress in nude spandex.  From there I began layering various fabrics and trims we found to create the final product.   
                  

I found this super cool fabric which was a heavily embroidered nude mesh fabric with what I referred to as "fish scale" sequins. I also found some gold lace thread appliques that I felt would make some nice accents.  While my daughter found some beading, and gold rhinestone chains for some added embellishments.  I chose to add a side zipper knowing that the two non-stretch fabrics were going to make it difficult to get into.  I layered the fish scale fabric on top of the spandex, only catching it in the zipper.  Then I began adding on the appliques....cutting them and pinning them to appear as if they were part of the original fabric.  

I cut off many of the fish scale sequins so they would lay around the appliques, all of which were hand sewn  to the "fish scale" fabric only.  

The picture to the left is after the first fitting.  The appliques are just pinned in place.   At the hemline you can see we had decided to add some gold faux rhinestone strands around the hemline.  

The beads I glued on using E6000 glue.  I was aware of that technique having sewn a few dresses for a competitive dancer friend of mine.  After I did created her gown, hundreds of beads were glued on. 

So that's my part sewing, part arts and crafts project that took me out of my comfort zone and turned out pretty darn good!                                                                                  






Sunday, July 3, 2022

ITALIAN BEEF SANDWICHES

 I spent the first sixteen years of my life in the Chicago area and northwest suburbs.  Not a tremendous amount of time, but long enough to have had the classic Chicago style Italian beef sandwich make an impact on me.  I mean how many could I have possibly had in that short amount of time?  But, I can still remember them....the flavor, the parchment paper wrapper, the juicy messiness....so yummy!

I've found some recipes online and first shared them with my family a few years ago.  I got that crazy craving just recently and made a huge crockpot full again just the other day.  Man oh Man!  Those beautiful aromas wafting all day long as the flavors slowly simmer together.  This one was slightly different than the first recipe and I enjoyed it even more than the first......so, fair is fair right?  I'm going to share it with you. 


INGREDIENTS:

1 (5 lb) rump roast or chuck roast
1 package dry Good Seasonings Italian dressing mix
22 oz. beef broth 
1 (16 oz.) jar sliced pepperoncini (drained)
1 (32 oz.) jar giardiniera (drained)
3-4 green peppers sliced into ¼ inch slices lengthwise
skinny Italian loaf sliced into sandwich size lengths


DIRECTIONS:

Trim excess fat from meat, cut into 3-4 large chunks and place in the bottom of the crock pot.  Whisk together the Italian seasoning and beef broth and pour over the meat.  Add the pepperoncini.  I chose to add 3/4 of the jar and then put the rest on the side for those who wanted a spicer sandwich.  Add in all of the giardiniera.  

Set the crockpot to low and let it simmer for 10-12 hours.  During the final 60-90 minutes, add in the sliced green peppers, submerging them into the juice.  

The meat will naturally break apart on its own while cooking.  Any larger chunks can easily be shred with a fork. 

Ladle up a good portion of the meat onto the roll, then spoon on some juice.  

Enjoy!


NOTES:
  • giardiniera comes in many varieties....I chose the classic, which is cauliflower, celery, carrots, pickles and pearl onions.  There is a "Chicago" variety which also includes hot peppers.  Also, you can choose from mild, medium, and hot.   Also, the only version of giardiniera I could find was the version with very large pieces of vegetables....I brought it home and used my food processor to chop it into small pieces. 
  • I ended up with a lot of meat juices in addition to the broth that I had already added.  You may need to add additional flavoring to your liking.  I added in some black pepper, oregano and basil.  
  • the true Chicago style sandwich does not include cheese, but I chose to put some shredded "Italian blend" cheese on the side for folks to sprinkle on top if they wanted. 
  • This freezes well....and, I'm going to look forward to some sandwiches this fall/winter while watching Sunday football!

Monday, June 20, 2022

MILLIONAIRE SHORTBREAD

 I've been wanting to try this recipe for sometime now.   Frankly it looked like a lot of work.... and it was a considerable amount of work... but the work paid off.  These babies are awesome.  

Three layers of goodness.  A shortbread base, caramel center and chocolate ganache topping.  And yes, each of these steps take some time, so it's not a cookie you'll be making on a regular basis for sure, but like I said it's worth the effort.   Super rich (reminded me of a twix bar), so you can't gorge yourself on these.  You'll be happy to know that the recipe uses a 9x9 pan, so that's also a good thing because you don't want a lot of leftovers.

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup unsalted butter, room temp
½ cup granulated sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. salt

CARAMEL:

1 14oz. can condensed milk
½ cup unsalted butter cut into tablespoon size pieces
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
¼ cup light or dark corn syrup
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. salt

CHOCOLATE GANACHE:

1½ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 pinch sea salt to sprinkle on top (optional)



DIRECTIONS;

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a 9x9 inch baking pan with parchement paper or foil, leaving an overhang to help with removal.

Cream the butter.  Then add the sugar and salt and beat until light and fluffy.  Add the vanilla and egg yolk then mix until combined.  Add the flour in a few batches and mix until just combined.  Transfer to your prepared pan and press into an even layer.  Bake at 350 for about 22 minutes or until the edges are golden.  

While the base bakes, make the caramel.  *This is easiest with a candy thermometer, but it's not required.    Combine the butter, brown sugar, salt, vanilla, condensed milk and the syrup.  Place over medium heat and whisk until melted and combined.  Continue whisking over the heat while the caramel bubbles and darkens to a rich color.  Once it reaches 225 degrees, you'll see it starts to thicken and pull away from the edge, 5-6 minutes.  Your caramel is ready.  

Pour onto the shortbread base.  Smooth to the edges creating a flat layer.  Chill for about 10 minutes so the caramel sets.

Melt chocolate chips and cream either in a double boiler or microwaving in 2-3 20 second bursts, stirring in between.  Pour the chocolate over the caramel and smooth into an even layer.  Sprinkle with salt if desired then chill and cut into pieces. 


Notes:
* I do not have a candy thermometer and did just fine.  The instructions were written well and it was easy to follow along to know when it was ready

It's essential the butter is at room temperature for making the shortbread

When making the caramel, be sure you are stirring contantly, so it doesn't burn on the bottom.

The bars were super easy to slice because they were chilled.  I let mine chill for a good 30-40 minutes before slicing. 

Enjoy!



Wednesday, May 11, 2022

PUMPKIN CRANBERRY MUFFINS

 What do you do when you find you have a can of pumpkin which is close to expiring and some craisins that are getting pretty stale?  Well, you find a recipe for pumpkin cranberry muffins, of course!

The one I found is pretty darn good.  The batter is thicker, so you can really fill up the muffin cups and they're not too sweet.  Plus, the recipe makes just 12 so you don't have tons of these puppies calling your name when you're watching TV in the evenings.


INGREDIENTS:

2 cups flour
½ cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. nutmeg
½ tsp. salt
1 cup pure pumpkin
*1 pkg. (6 oz.) craisins dried cranberries
½ cup oil
¼ cup milk
¼ cup molasses
1 large egg

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine flour, sugar, soda, cinnamon and nutmeg in a bowl. 

Combine pumpkin, craisins, oil, milk, molasses and egg into a separate bowl.

Add the wet mixture into the dry ingredients, mixing just until everything is moist. Spoon batter into the cups about 2/3 full (or since the batter is dense, fill them a little fuller and just plan on making 10 muffins like I did)

Bake for *30 minutes.  Let cool for 5 minutes before devouring. 

NOTES:
*since I was at the bottom of one of the huge Costco bags of craisins, I used 1 ½ cups.

* I don't ever recall a muffin recipe with a cook time of 30 minutes.   I went with 22 minutes, which still seemed long but I thought the extra time might have to do with the consistency of the batter.  Mine were finished at 22 minutes and were very moist. So, I'd suggest a cook time of 18-22 minutes.

Enjoy!

recipe adapted from:  www.verybestbakinglibbys.com

Friday, May 6, 2022

CUSTOM WEDDING GOWN

This post is a long time coming since it has to do with a custom gown that I created in 2020 for a Spring 2021 bride.  As we all know, 2020 and 2021 were difficult, turbulent, stressful, and unfathomable for everyone.  But when it came to couples who were hoping to get married during those years, it was a never ending nightmare!

I actually had three brides/custom gowns I was working on in 2020.  Two of those brides I've been able to post about since somehow, someway, they were able to sneak their weddings in during that year.  It took lots of modifications, sacrifice, planning and re-planning, but they did it! 

My third bride and her fiance' had their hearts set on a 2021 spring wedding in Telluride.  And unfortunately, they just couldn't have the wedding of their dreams even by March of 2021.  There were so many restrictions still in place, that they decided to postpone for another full year so that they could host the celebration with family and friends that they really wanted to have.   

Andie had already tried on a gown that she really liked, but came to me to see if I could create something similar, but with a few custom features.   And that, as they say is how it all began.......    

Fit was essential since this was a fit and flare off-the-shoulder style gown with a super long train.  I took every conceivable measurement and then went to work creating the actual pattern pieces.  As always a simple muslin was created to check the fit, before I cut into the fashion fabric.   Critical to the fit were two of the custom design features.  1) the flare had to be enough to allow her to ski board into the ceremony.  Yup!  You read that right...both she and the groom would be making a grand entrance to the ceremony site and their waiting guests.  2) while she loved the off-the-shoulder design, she was hoping that I could create something that would allow her more flexibility/freedom than the typical off-the-shoulder allows.  This was not only based upon the "ski-in" requirement, but she expected to fully party at the reception and wanted more "range of motion" than she was getting.   The third requirement, while not fit related was also critical to her arrival.....I had to find a way that she could hold/carry and/or bustle the train.  
                           
The fit worked out beautifully.  My pattern pieces were very oddly shaped, but that was critical to get the bodice to hug her gorgeous figure.  And yet, below the knee it flared to the extent that she needed.  As for the "shoulder straps"....I gave them a bit more drape so that she could slip her arms out of the straps completely.  I then had some hidden hook and eye fasteners on the back of the gown which allowed them to stay in place (almost like a bustle for the train).  

Finally, I made a long strap and attached it on the underside of the train which would allow her to hold up the train while she was boarding.  And for the reception, I created a pretty bustle.   In case, you're wondering, there are 100 pearl buttons hand sewn down the back of the gown. 

               

I'm so thrilled to have received some professional pictures from the big day so that you can see how beautiful Andie looked on her special day.   Unfortunately, I don't always get pictures from the actual day, so I've learned to take a lot of pictures along the way.  
 

Isn't that amazing!  You can see how she slipped her arms out of the straps to board/party, and has her arms inside the straps for the portraits/ceremony.  They had an absolutely gorgeous wedding weekend (I was watching the forecast).  The weather was bright and sunny so they could have their outdoor ceremony and take some gorgeous portraits.   It also sounds like many of the guests arrived early so they could get some skiing in with the bride and groom ahead of the actual wedding day.

I'm so honored to have created Andie's gown.....she was an absolute peach to work with.  My very best wishes go out to the newlyweds.  May you enjoy a long, happy and healthy marriage!

Sunday, April 17, 2022

MANICOTTI

 It had been years since I made a good batch of manicotti!  I have to admit, I originally wanted to make stuffed shells.... but man, oh man, in those years things have certainly changed.  "Jumbo shells" have shrunk over the years, I mean really shrunk, I wouldn't actually consider them Jumbo by any stretch of the imagination.  

So, I opted for manicotti.  With all the work it takes to fill the pasta, putting a spoonful of filling into what was now going to be a significant amount of shells was going to be way too tedious for me.  Finding manicotti took a visit to more than one grocery store....but in the end, it was all worth it.


INGREDIENTS:

10 Manicotti tubes (1 box = 14)
15 oz. Ricotta cheese
3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
2 tsps. Italian seasoning
salt and pepper to taste
1 egg 
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 cups Marinara sause, divided (I used Rao)
2 Tbsp. chopped parsley (optional)


DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Spread 1 ½ cups marinara sauce in an even layer in the bottom of a 9x13 pan.  

Place the ricotta, 1½ cups of the mozarella, Italian seasoning, egg, salt, pepper and parmesan in a bowl.  Stir to combine.

Cook manicotti to Al Dente (since they will continue to cook in the oven) and rinse with cold water. Fill each shell with the ricotta mixture and place in the baking dish.  

Spoon the remaining marinara sauce over the top, then top with the remaining mozzarella cheese.  

Cover the dish with foil.  Bake for 20 minutes.  Uncover the pan, then bake for an additional 10 minutes or until cheese is melted and starting to brown.  

Sprinkle with parsley, then serve.


NOTES:   I browned a pound of ground Italian sausage and sprinkled that over the top of the manicotti, prior to topping with the cheese.....It added another depth of flavor to the dish that my guests and I really enjoyed.

Enjoy!

Thursday, March 10, 2022

HAM AND SWISS QUICHE

 I've been making this quiche recipe for years, and have never taken the time to share it.  Since I just made it again for a family brunch, I made it a point to take some pictures so I can show you how it looks, as well as share the recipe.

It comes together fairly easily ...... I use a frozen 9 inch deep dish pie shell.  So, there's just a little prep to shred the cheese, and/or dice the ham.  

INGREDIENTS:

(1) 9 inch deep dish frozen pie shell
3 large eggs
1 can evaporated milk
2 Tbsp. flour
1 cup diced ham
1 cup shredded swiss cheese
2 Tbsp. diced onion
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 cup chopped spinach (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  

Prepare ingredients by shredding the cheese, dicing the onion, and chopping the spinach.   Place ham, and cheese into a bowl and sprinkle with flour.

In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, pepper and garlic powder . 

Place the ham and cheese (reserving 1/4 cup of cheese) into the pie shell.  Sprinkle onion and spinach on top.  

Place the quiche on a foil lined cookie sheet and pour all of the milk/egg mixture over the top.  Add the remaining 1/4 cup of cheese.

Bake 45-50 minutes.   Cool on wire rack approximately 10 minutes to set before serving. 

Enjoy!