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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!

Monday, February 7, 2022

BRIDAL ROBE

 One of the details I really wanted to be a part of for my daughter's wedding was to create a bridal robe for the morning of her wedding day.   I visualized something very unique and sought my inspiration from "Old Hollywood".  Specifically the '40s.  At that time, robes were often referred to as dressing gowns or peignoirs, and they were "dreamy". 

It's actually two pieces.  A satin nightgown underneath a chiffon robe. 

The picture on the right shows the nightgown itself.  It's very loose fitting with a low back that allowed her to step into and out of it, since I knew her hair and makeup would be done while she was wearing it.  I cut the lower panel on the opposite grain of the top portion to highlight the sheen of the satin.  
                      
Below are some pictures of the chiffon robe in various stages of completion.  As well as the Rita Hayworth inspiration.  It has a wide "cumberbund" style waistband made of satin to match the nightgown.  The chiffon of the robe, created a beautiful drape, just as I had hoped.   I left the back extra long to resemble the train of a wedding gown.   The extra full sleeves were super fun.  My daughter said they were "wizard sleeves".  
            

I'm so pleased with the way that it turned out!  My daughter looked gorgeous, and I know she felt extra special, just like a bride should on her wedding day.  

Thursday, January 27, 2022

WEDDING MENU

 My daughter's wedding was a very intimate event, with just twelve family members witnessing and celebrating with them.  The day itself was absolutely gorgeous.  Cold, crisp and sunny.  It had snowed the day before, so there was a beautiful skim coat of snow on the ground and flocking on the evergreens.

The intimate ceremony was followed by a lovely dinner.  Close friends of the bride and groom just also happen to include event planning expertise and a chef.   A delicious menu was developed by Chef Joe.  Three absolutely scrumptious appetizers, followed by an equally delicious main course.  It was bliss.

I decided I needed to make a menu so that the guests could see exactly what Joe had prepared and also to provide a keepsake for the Bride and Groom to remember this amazing dining experience they had on their wedding night. 

I had already had a gold foil theme going with the placecards, so I had to include some gold foil.  I mounted the finished menu on black cardstock since we used black tablecloths and chair covers.  Other touches included, clear acrylic chargers with gold edges, and the china was ivory with a gold border.  It was so elegant!

My original intent was to gold foil the monogram that I had placed on the menu, however I realized my one hour of gold foil experience with the placecards wasn't going to cut it.  I have a lot more to learn on the technique before I can master the intricacies of a monogram (my practice run, proved that).  So, I opted for the "abstract" look I had put on the namecards. 

I made the actual menu with the use of my silhouette software, then printed it out, gold foiled the edges and mounted it on the cardstock.   That evening, I placed it on an easel alongside the bridal bouquet where Chef Joe was serving the appetizers.    It was a magical evening and turned out exactly as my daughter had visualized it.....so that makes this Mother of the Bride, very happy.                                                                                                   

Monday, January 3, 2022

COWBOY BEEF DIP

 I was looking for a hot dip recipe for Christmas Eve and landed on this one....and boy, I'm glad I did!  It has a great flavor---but be forewarned, once you start you can't stop eating it.  I literally had to wrap it up and put it in the fridge because none of us could stop eating it and I was afraid we wouldn't have room for dinner.

My advice, make it for a day of "grazing", a snowy day, the superbowl, a cocktail party.  


INGREDIENTS:

1 pound ground beef
4 Tbsp. chopped onion
2 Tbsp. chopped red pepper
2 Tbsp. chopped green pepper
4 Tbsp. sliced black olives
4 Tbsp. sliced green olives with pimento
*1 can (10 3/4 oz) nacho cheese soup, undiluted
2 Tbsp. chopped green chiles
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup salsa
2 Tbsp. sour cream
2-3 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

*I could not find nacho cheese soup, so I substituted cheddar cheese soup

DIRECTIONS:

In a skillet cook the beef, 3 Tbsp. onion, 2 Tbsp. red pepper, and 1 Tbsp. green pepper over medium heat until the beef is browned.  Drain if necessary.  Stir in the soup, salsa, 3 Tbsp. of each of the olives, chiles, jalapeno, oregano and pepper.  Bring to a boil.   Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 5 minutes.

Transfer to a serving dish and top with shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream and parsley.  Sprinkle with the  remaining, green pepper, black olives and green olives.  Serve with tortilla chips

Enjoy!

Recipe c/o:  www.tasteofhome.com