Saturday, February 21, 2009

Arizona Blood Oranges

On my recent trip to Arizona, I brought an extra suitcase along with the intent of filling it with Arizona citrus to bring back home to the Midwest. My parents and my in-laws have bountiful citrus trees in their yards. It's always a treat to visit this time a year when the citrus is in full harvest. Both sets of parents have lemon trees, and each has a different variety of orange trees, Arizona sweets, tangelos, and my favorite, blood oranges.

Although my family has been enjoying freshly squeezed lemonade and snacking on oranges, I wanted to create a few recipes using the blood oranges.
First I made a beet and blood orange salad. Keith loves beets so I thought this would be an added bonus for him.

I bought golden and red beets from our local coop, trimmed them, coated them in olive oil, salt and pepper, and roasted them in the oven for about an hour until tender. After they cooled, I peeled and diced them up for the salad. I peeled the blood reds, removed the pith and thinly sliced them. I tossed the beets and oranges over mixed greens and added some toasted walnuts.

For the dressing, I blended juice from one blood orange with about 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, 1 clove of garlic, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1 tsp of orange zest, 1 tbs of honey, and salt and pepper. I was pleased with the end results and so was Keith.
Later in the week I made Barefoot Contessa's Orange Chocolate Chunk cake from her Parties! cookbook, only I substituted blood oranges for regular oranges. I think this is a great recipe because it has a good balance of orange and chocolate flavor. The recipe calls for a 1/4 cup of orange zest which really makes the orange flavor stand out, but not overpower the chocolate.

The only thing I might change, if using blood oranges in the future, would be to use regular orange juice instead of blood orange juice in the batter. I found that blood orange juice made the cake batter have a bluish tint. And if you're picky, like me, about how your food not only tastes but also looks, you'd be better off using regular orange juice. It bothers me when food looks deceiving, tricking you into thinking it's something that it's not. The cake tasted delicious even with the bluish tint, but I had inform people that it was orange cake because it looked more like banana or blueberry.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Madelyn's 1st Birthday

Really? Today is my birthday party?

Wow! All of my friends are coming and I get to eat a cupcake!

Yeah! I'm so excited!

It's hard to believe that my niece, Madelyn, just turned one! I was fortunate enough to make it out to Arizona to celebrate in the festivities. Madelyn's birthday theme was "cupcakes" because she is the cutest little cupcake around!

I had the honor of making the cupcakes, with the help of my mom who did a lot of the prep work, for the party. My friend, Eileen even made some cupcake cookies as party favors.

In addition to eating cupcakes and cupcake cookies, there were also cupcake games........
Pin the candle on the cupcake..........
and a cupcake pinata.
Madelyn got some help from her Dad, pulling the pinata string.

My nephew, Owen won both games. His candle was closest to the top of the cupcake, and he collected the most candy from the pinata -- much to the chagrin of his mom!

After the games were finished everyone got a lesson from Madelyn on how to eat a cupcake.

Cupcake Eating 101

First, everyone sings Happy Birthday and then you have your mom help you blow out the candle.

Next, you have to taste the frosting to make sure it's good enough to eat.

Then you pick it up and take a bite. Hmmm.....yummy!

Then you have your mom break it up into pieces so it's easier to eat.Then you mush it into your hands and all over the tray, and do a little victory dance for conquering the cupcake!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Vintage Pillowcase Dress

I made this dress from a vintage pillowcase for my niece, Madelyn's, first birthday. The vintage pillowcase that I chose to use had hand-crocheted tatting on edge of the pillowcase.

The idea came from Sew Beautiful magazine. The article in the magazine wasn't really so much a pattern as it was instructions on how to a turn a vintage pillowcase into a dress.

I used a simple yoke dress pattern (Simplicity 9784), because all that was needed was the yoke front and back, yoke lining, and sleeves. The skirt was not cut from a pattern; instead I cut it from the pillowcase and no hemming was involved because the hand-tatted opening of the pillowcase became the bottom of the skirt.

Note: I wouldn't recommend using the Simplicity pattern that I used for this dress. When I bought the pattern I didn't realize that the buttons were in the front of the dress (and I needed them in the back) so I had to rework the pattern in order to use it for my project.

I spent many hours working on this dress not only because I had to make some of the pattern up as I went along but also because so many things had to be hand-sewed. I knew I wanted to add embroidery to the bodice of the dress; I learned to embroider as a kid but hadn't used that skill in many, many years and I had to brush up on some of my stitches.

I hand sewed all of the rose bullion trim which I added to the hem, sleeves, and collar of the dress. I also sewed a matching but narrower tatted edging to the sleeves and collar.

Because the pillowcase only provided a limited amount of material for the dress, I was trying to conserve as much of the fabric as possible. Therefore, I used other fabrics for the lining, pipping and trim. I also cut the collar from organdy and added an organdy strip to the sleeves. I used pink satin for the pipping placed between the skirt and bodice, and also as a band around the sleeves.

I did some reading on vintage clothing and learned that most vintage children's clothes had growth tucks sewed in them in order to maximize the wear of the clothing. So I added two growth tucks to the bottom of the skirt, and not only are they functional, I think they also add extra charm to the dress itself.

On the back of the dress I used two buttons and one hook and eye. I made a rosette from some of the pink satin and sewed it over the hook at the waist.

Overall, I'm pleased with the way it turned out. I really enjoyed making each part of it, and seeing it all come together. It will be even more fun to see it on my niece, when she grows into it.....maybe by this summer.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Chocolate Framboise Petite Cakes

This little cake is my winning entry from the 2009 Chocolate Creations contest. I entered in the cupcake category -- my favorite -- and won first prize. One of the rules of the contest was the that cupcake had to be chocolate, and my favorite ingredient to combine with chocolate (if you hadn't already guessed) is raspberry. I knew it would probably be overdone, and it was, there were several chocolate raspberry entries but this little cutie was able to impress the culinary judges.

I used my favorite chocolate cake recipe for the cupcakes and then filled them with raspberry cheesecake and fresh raspberries. The cake is topped with chocolate ganache and a dollop raspberry buttercream. I finished them off with bittersweet chocolate curls and fresh raspberries.

Also pictured is my grandmother's vintage butter dish, that I think, doubles perfectly as a cupcake plate. I wonder what she would think of me using it for a cupcake surprise?

Having Fun with Cupcakes

My family is sick of cupcakes. I cannot get them out of my house fast enough, and my kids have proclaimed that they do not like my strawberry buttercream icing..... go figure! (They're a little bit spoiled when it comes to baked goods.) I've spent most of last week experimenting with different cupcakes recipes and decorations for two occasions, my niece's birthday and the annual Chocolate Creations extravaganza.

I was playing around with the heart and flower cupcakes as samples for my niece's birthday party. Her party will be on Valentine's Day so I was trying to incorporate a little bit of both themes into the cupcakes.

Several of my friends (and family) were testers for my strawberry cupcakes; they were one of my experiments for the Chocolate Creations contest. Everyone seemed to enjoy them, but my original idea was to make this recipe with raspberries instead of strawberries. However, earlier in the week when I went to shop for ingredients, there were no raspberries to found so I had to settle for the strawberries. In the end, for my submission in the contest, I was able to find raspberries and made a few changes to the recipe and the result was delicious!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Chocolate Raspberry Cake

I have made this chocolate-raspberry cake for many different occasions, birthdays, anniversaries, weddings and baby showers; it is one of my most requested cakes. There are a few different variations that I make to this cake, but each one promises a rich-chocolaty goodness.

This one was for a lovely birthday tea that I attended over the weekend, and I finally remembered to take a picture before it went out of the door.