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Sunday, November 26, 2017

CUSTOM CORNHOLE BOARDS

This idea came to me when I saw how much joy my daughter had playing cornhole.  Add in the fact that she owns her own business and voilĂ ....you have the perfect Christmas present!  This was a true joint effort between my husband and me and took quite some time.  But, it was so worth it.  To me, personalized gifts are so awesome, and when they're handmade it's even better.
I'm so thrilled with how they turned out......and even better, our daughter was ecstatic!

My husband was in charge of the woodworking and I was responsible for the bean bags and the artwork on the boards.   We tag teamed this project so well.  He did the research to ensure the boards were "regulation".  I researched the same thing for the bags, including size and how much feed corn they're supposed to have in each one.  I even measured out the corn on my postal scale so each one is exactly the same weight!

I wish I could remember exactly when we started...I think it was sometime in September.  We were able to work in the garage for a time, but due to the change in the weather, we ended up having to move indoors to finish the painting.

I have to tell you I was concerned about getting straight lines for the borders since I had yet to find a tape that really sealed.  But, I am now a personal spokesperson for Frog Tape.  It is outstanding!  No bleed through at all and perfectly crisp lines.
For the company logo, I used my silhouette machine.  I uploaded my daughter's logo to the software and then used the stencil material, which worked great.  I was able to paint right over it, and only needed to touch it up ever so slightly.

I found some canvas in light blue and grey colors (they were so close to her actual colors it was uncanny) for the bean bags and then made a tote bag with some canvas remnants I already had on hand.   It has both a drawstring
top and a shoulder strap for easy carrying.

To help carry the boards, I purchased drawer pulls from Hobby Lobby (when they were 50% off, of course).  We placed two on each board.  My husband visualized two people carrying them with the people in the middle and the boards on either side of them.  Hopefully it works as slick as we planned.


After everything was painted, we finished the boards with a couple of clear coats of gloss finish to add some sheen and also provide a nice protective coat for all our hard work.   

You may already know that I have a hard time waiting until Christmas when I have a really cool gift that someone may like.  That was the case with this project.    We gifted them to her this Thanksgiving weekend in hopes there may be a few more days yet this year when she may be able to have some friends over for a cornhole tournament!







Saturday, November 11, 2017

TWO PIECE WEDDING DRESS (BOHO)

I've been so excited to share this project with you!  My bride Logan came to me with some ideas for a two piece wedding gown for her September wedding.  She also liked the idea of incorporating color into her wedding gown.  I was thrilled to be a part....not only had I not created a two piece gown, but the addition of color was very unique as well.   I was all in! 
I really found this project so interesting....from the patternmaking, draping, fabric sourcing, etc.  It was a real treat!  We went to a local shop together to find the lace....it is an absolutely exquisite Alencon lace.  I was able to find the chiffon online....I ordered several swatches so that Logan could approve the color before I order the yardage I needed.  This skirt is made up of eleven yards of fabric!

This project started as all my projects begin.....with measurements and nailing down the design.    Logan had collected a number of pictures of designs she liked for both the top and the skirt.  All of the tops were long sleeve lace; so pretty!   As we were finalizing the design, I shared with her an idea for a unique multi-keyhole back with covered buttons.   She fell in love with the idea, so we incorporated that into the final design.   The camisole, as you can see from the picture on the right originally began with a small stand up collar.  It was removed at the very end when Logan opted for a simple rounded neckline instead.   I think that was a good call on her part....the simple neckline is perfect.   The back is sheer lace, unlike the front which has a sweetheart bodice underlay.  Logan was able to wear a nude bra underneath the top.  I added some tabs at the cups so she could attach clear shoulder straps and the back strap fell right in between the two bottom keyholes.

She also had several variations of skirts, some tulle, some chiffon....however, they were a basic A-line design with lots of gathers at the waistband.  I shared my concern that a gathered skirt is not very flattering for most women, I don't care how little you are (and Logan is little).....it just makes you look heavier than you are, and nobody wants that on their wedding day!    While we continued to share concept ideas for the skirt, I began working on the camisole.   I was about half way through the top when we landed on this one-of-a-kind draped chiffon skirt with a high leg slit.

The skirt is truly a one-of-a-kind, even if I made another, it wouldn't be exactly the same since the draping is done one piece at a time with very asymmetrical pieces of chiffon.  It has a short train that is easily bustled with ties I placed on the underside of the skirt.
Thank you Logan!  You looked absolutely beautiful and I was honored to create this original for you.  

Monday, October 30, 2017

NEW YORK STYLE CHEESECAKE

I've always wanted to find a really good New York Style Cheesecake recipe to add to my dessert collection and after lots of searching I settled on this one.  It won rave reviews at a recent family gathering, so it's a definite keeper!   As a bonus, I made a strawberry sauce for it which was also amazing.   This recipe took quite some time (mostly in the baking phase), but don't forget to allow at least 6 hours for chilling, or overnight is even better! 

INGREDIENTS:

Crust
6 whole graham crackers, broken into pieces
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
½ cup all purpose flour
¼ tsp. salt
7 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

Filling
2½ lbs. cream cheese, softened
1½ cups granulated sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
1/3 cup sour cream
2 tsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. vanilla extract
6 large eggs, plus 2 large egg yolks

DIRECTIONS:

1.  For the crust:  Adjust oven racks to upper middle and lower middle positions and heat oven to 325 degrees.  Process cracker pieces and sugar in food processor until finely ground, about 30 seconds.  Add flour and salt to combine, 2 pulses.  Add 6 Tbsp. melted butter and pulse until crumbs are evenly moistened, about 10 pulses.  Brush bottom of 9 inch springform pan with ½ Tbsp. melted butter.  Using your hands, press crumb mixture evenly into pan bottom.  Using flat bottom of measuring cup, firmly pack crust into pan.  Bake on lower middle rack until fragrant and beginning to brown around edges, about 13 minutes.  Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet and set aside to cool completely.  Reduce oven temp to 200 degrees. 

2.  For the filling:  Using stand mixer fitted with paddle, beat cream cheese, 3/4 cup sugar, and salt at medium low speed until combined, about 1 minute.  Beat in remaining 3/4 cup sugar until combined, about 1 minute.  Scrape beater and bowl well; add sour cream, lemon juice, and vanilla and beat at low speed until combined, about 1 minute.  Add egg yolks and beat at medium low speed until thoroughly combined, about 1 minute.  Scrape bowl and beater.  Add whole eggs two at a time, beating until thoroughly combined, about 30 seconds after each addition.  

Brush sides of springform pan with remaining ½ Tbsp. melted butter.  Pour filling into crust and set aside for 10 minutes to allow air bubbles to rise to top.  Gently draw tines of fork across surface of cake to pop air bubbles that have risen to the surface.

When oven thermometer reads 200 degrees, bake cheesecake on lower rack for 45 minutes.  After 45 minutes, remove cake from oven and use toothpick to pierce any bubbles that have risen to the surface.  Return to the oven and continue to bake until center registers 165 degrees, 2 ¼ - 2 ½ hours longer (mine took 2 hours and 20 minutes).  Remove cake from oven and increase oven temp to  *500 degrees.   *see caution below
CAUTION on this next step:  When oven is at 500 degrees, bake cheesecake on upper rack until top is evenly browned, 4-12 minutes.   Personally, I felt this temp was way too high.....Fortunately, I stayed right in front of the oven and happened to take a peek at 3 minutes, and mine was already a deep brown.  

Thank Goodness I was there to pull it out!  Next time, I'll try 450 degrees to see if that works better.   You'll notice I also have a spotty top, that's due to the air bubbles that rose to the top during baking....guess I need to work on eliminating more of those bubbles next time!  In this case, I was really glad I had opted to make the strawberry sauce.....I was able to hide the top!

Let cool for 5 minutes; run paring knife between cheesecake and side of pan.  Let cheesecake cool until barely warm, 2½-3 hours.  Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold and firmly set, at least 6 hours.  

recipe c/o:  www.cooksillustrated.com

Strawberry Sauce

1 quart fresh strawberries
3/4 cup sugar
¼ cup water
1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
2 Tbsp. Grand Marnier liquer
1½ Tbsp. cornstarch

Slice strawberries.  Combine berries, sugar, water and zest in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until berries are soft & liquid is thick; approximately 10 minutes.

Stir the brandy together with the cornstarch and stir into berry mixture.  Cook until glossy (1-2 minutes).  Let cool and spoon over the top.  

Friday, October 20, 2017

PISTACHIO CAKE

I first had the pleasure of tasting pistachio cake at a vendor tasting several years ago.   It was so yummy.....and I have to tell you I'm not a huge pistachio fan.  They actually called it bread, but the slices were in the shape of a bundt pan.  So after baking a couple other breads recently, I decided to scour the web for some pistachio bread/cake recipes.    I tried two.  The one I'm sharing is by far the better of the two and is baked in a bundt pan.  It's a super easy recipe to make since the foundation is a yellow box cake mix!


INGREDIENTS: 

1 box yellow cake mix
1 box pistachio pudding (3.4 oz)
1 cup water
¼ cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
Powdered Sugar


DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  

Add all the ingredients into a large mixing bowl and mix at medium speed for two minutes.  If you prefer a little extra color you can add a couple drops of green food color (I did add the color to mine)

Pour into a prepared bundt pan (greased and lightly floured).  Bake 50-60 minutes until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes.  Unmold from pan.   Dust with powdered sugar

Enjoy!!


recipe c/o:  www.amandascookin.com

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

PUMPKIN BREAD

Our first snowfall of the season happened yesterday, and I promptly ran to the grocery so I could do some baking.  I love to bake, especially during the fall and winter months.  The way the aromas fill the whole house makes me one happy girl!

I have to tell you I'm not a fan of pumpkin pie, something about the consistency.  So, I thought I'd try something else with a "pumpkiny"flavor.  So, I went with a pumpkin bread.  Holy cow.....this recipe was a very pleasant surprise.  Intense pumpkin flavor and really moist!   I dare you to stop at just one piece.

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups all purpose (for us high altitude folks, I use the King Arthur Hungarian for all my baking)
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
2 cups sugar
1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 15 oz. can 100% pure pumpkin

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Spray two loaf pans with cooking spray and add parchment paper with about 1" extending over the long sides of the pan to help lift the loaves out after baking.

Combine flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and spices in a bowl; use a whisk to mix well and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat sugar and butter on medium speed until just blended.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Continue beating until very light and fluffy.  Beat in pumpkin.  The mixture might look grainy and curdled....don't fret.

At low speed, beat in flour mixture a little at a time, until well combined.

Turn batter into prepared pans, dividing evenly and bake for 65-75 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let loaves cool about 10 minutes.  Turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.

Enjoy!

Recipe c/o:  www.onceuponachef.com

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

SALTED CARAMEL CHOCOLATE DIP

I just tried this a few days ago when I had several folks over for dinner.  I was looking for something a little different for dessert and this one just sounded like fun.  Something casual, unique....oh, not to mention--yummy!
This dessert dip can be made ahead of time.  No need to chill it.  Just decide what snacks you want to offer with it....and have fun on your presentation.     In my case, I went with Lorna Doones, graham crackers, pretzels, and apple slices.  But, I did just dip one of those luscious strawberries in it that I used for the picture and it was awesome!

INGREDIENTS:

1 8-oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened (I went with the 1/3 less fat variety)
½ cup butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
2/3 cup caramel sauce 
¼-½ cup milk
1 Tbsp. sea salt
2 cups Devil's Food Cake Mix (dry)

DIRECTIONS:

Using an electric mixer, mix together the cream cheese, butter and caramel sauce until smooth.  Add the Devil's Food Cake to the mixture, slowly add some milk as you mix to make it easier to blend.  Add the powdered sugar and milk until you reach the desired consistency.   Finally add the sea salt.  

Enjoy!!

Tip:  In order to maintain the final consistency, it's important NOT to chill it before serving.  I made mine earlier in the day and chose to do that, and it was a complete game changer.   Should you have leftovers....and you very well might since it makes a TON....be sure to take it out of the fridge to reach room temp before serving.  

recipe c/o:  www.tornadoughalli.com

Friday, September 8, 2017

CHICKEN CAPRESE

This recipe has everything you might want in a meal.  It's fast, it's fresh, it's delicious...oh, and it's easy cleanup! You can literally have this cooked and on the dinner table in just about 40 minutes.  Add your favorite side or a fresh salad and you're set.
Everything is cooked in the same skillet, so it's a one pot cleanup.  Enjoy!

INGREDIENTS:

1 ½ tsp. herbes de provence
fresh out of the oven!
½ tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. paprika
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. black pepper
3 chicken breasts (boneless, skinless)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
3 thick slices mozzarella cheese
1 cup cherry tomatoes 
¼ cup basil leaves
2 Tbsp. quality aged balsamic vinegar*

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a small prep bowl, combine all of the dry seasonings, with the exception of the basil leaves.  Season the chicken on both sides (I actually had to double the seasonings since my chicken breasts were so large)

Set a large oven proof skillet over medium high heat.  Add the olive oil.  When the oil is hot, add the chicken and sear on both sides until golden brown, about 3 minutes each side.

Place skillet into the preheated oven and bake until the chicken reaches an internal temp of 165 degrees; about 20-25 minutes.  Remove from the oven and top the chicken breasts with cheese, return to the oven and broil 2-3 minutes or until the cheese is gooey.  Remove and top with tomatoes and basil, drizzle with balsamic vinegar and serve immediately.  

*I tried the balsamic vinegar but due to the consistency it slid right off the breast.  I opted to use a balsamic salad dressing which had more body allowing it to stay on the chicken.  

recipe adapted from:  www.lifemadesimple.com