February 23, 2011

Strawberry Cake with Vanilla Creme

We are finally out of the Carriage House. I apologize for the lack of posts lately, for we were moving into a temporary place (before we finally move into our new house in April) and it took me about three days to get stuff unpacked! While I am sad for leaving the Carriage House behind, one thing I will NOT miss is the oven. It was only 20 inches wide (about half the size of a regular range) and the temp inside the oven was super wacky, causing many many baking mishaps.  In celebration of being able to use a regular oven again I decided to bake a cake!

This cake is based off of a regular white sheet cake recipe, but using frozen strawberries gives the cake a satisfyingly soft crumbly texture. The creme is basically a homemade marshmallow creme with vanilla extract, but you could use real vanilla bean if you happen to have it.

Strawberry White Cake

3 cups sifted cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups white sugar
1 1/8 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups chopped frozen strawberries 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two 9 inch round cake pans, or a single rectangular one. In a medium bowl whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl cream the butter or margarine and white sugar until light and fluffy. In a food processor, chop the strawberries until they are as small as you like. I did mine very small so that the cake was flavored with the strawberries and had little red flecks in it, but no big chunks. Mix in the strawberries and the vanilla. In three additions alternately beat in the flour mixture and the milk into the creamed mixture. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the top is golden.

Homemade Vanilla Marshmallow Creme

2 egg whites
1 cup corn syrup
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a bowl combine the egg whites, corn syrup, powdered sugar and vanilla beat on high with an electric mixer for about 6 to 7 minutes. The longer you beat it the stiffer it gets. So if you like a thick creme continue beating a little longer. You may also add more powdered sugar if you want to thicken the creme.

February 17, 2011

T-Shirt Quilt

I feel like I am constantly trying to come up with creative ways to de-clutter my life. When I was single, all I needed to do was fill up some trash bags full of stuff I was sick of looking at and take it to the goodwill. In face, I have been almost compulisive in my purging of stuff. This worked great for me...but then I married Zak. Zak is a pack rat, no he's not to the level of those scary hoarder people, not even close. Let's just say he places strong sentimental value in many of his material possesions, and wants to keep them around forever (and ever). I have had a hard time coming to understand this, since until we began our live together, I had just gotten rid of anything I didn't use anymore, why keep it if it isn't uselful? Through the years I have come to appreciate that some items truly are special, so it's safe to say we have both grown together around this issue...that is until we moved in together, and I discovered the giant bags of T-shirts left over from when he owned his own screen printing company.

"Zak, can I take these to the goodwill this weekend?"
"No! I'm keeping those!"
"B-but they're not even in your size, you'll never wear them..."
"Jess, I'm keeping them."

I think we argued about these shirts for the entire first 4 months of marriage. You see these just aren't any old t-shirts, these are shirts that have Zak's own designs on them, and he didn't want to get rid of them, not even duplicates. I tried to understand this as much as I could, but I just couldn't justify having three industrial sized trash bags of shirts sitting around for the rest of our lives. So I started to get creative.

I finally convinced him to donate the blank shirts once we identified that it was the designs he really cared about and not the actual shirts. Then we set aside all the shirts in his size, that he can wear (I folded and put them in a rubbermaid container that fits under the bed, no more trash bags!). After that we were left with one big bag of shirts. If we were going to keep these shirts, they couldn't just sit in a bag, he couldn't even enjoy them that way. Then an idea came to me...T-shirt quilt!

I thought convicing Zak to let me cut up his shirts was going to be impossible, but I still brought it up casually...and he was stoked! Needless to say, I set to work immediately. I am a complete novice when it comes to sewing so my mother helped me get started.

I started by plotting out a basic pattern section for the t-shirt designes with four different cut-out shapes. I think using different sizes makes the quilt look much more interesting than just having the full front of each shirt in a one-size cut-out.
Kind of looks like Easter M&Ms 
Then I calculated how many of each shape I would need to make a queen sized quilt. Then the fun part, I started cutting away, which took about a week. Once I finally had all the cut-outs, I started sewing the pattern sections together. Then I sewed all the sections together to complete the front of the quilt.
Back side of the shirts
After I had the front done, I sewed it to the piece of flannel I got for the back. I did this like you would do a pillow case, leaving one side open. Then I slid the batting into the quilt and sewed up the last side. Finally I sewed around each pattern section to hold the batting in place, I used red thred that contrasts nicely with the black and white flannel. Here is the finished product:
 Hooray, cool, cozy and sentimental (note the ninjas on the bottom!)

I have no idea if this is the proper way to make a quilt. I just went with what seemed easiest to me. One thing I would definitely do differently next time is to sew the front piece to the batting, then sew on the back, and complete with stiching around the sections. Trying to get the batting into the quilt when I had already sewed the front to the back was a HUGE pain in the ass. and it ended up being all wrinkley inside and I went insane trying to smooth it, lol. Other than that this process was a really fun way to improve my sewing skills, and de-clutter my house a little bit. Most  importantly, it now allows my husband to enjoy the shirts he spent his early 20s designing instead of keeping them hidden in a bag :) 

I also plan to frame some more of the shirts that didn't make it into the quilt, so we can have a cool wall display as well. Now if I could only come up with an equally sweet way to use all of his old notebooks from college...

February 15, 2011

I'm back and blogging for two

Well, I just fell off the face of the blogging world didn't I?

My last post was July 4th of last year, and then my life completely changed, and blogging fell by the wayside. I quit my office job, I became (am still becoming) a yoga instructor, and most shockingly, in early November, I became pregnant! The little one is due to make an appearance in early August!

Also, our life in a carriage house is coming to an end, we have bought a duplex and will be moving into one half and renting out the other. I really like the name of my blog, so I am going to keep it even though we are moving, in honor of the spirit of the year spent residing here.

I had a very tough first trimester, in which food basically became my worst enemy for a while, very very sad. I am finally feeling better, so I am easing myself back into the kitchen. So expect a slow start with recipe posts. BUT! I have started DIYing and crafting and sewing! Expect many more DIY posts, especially when we move into our new place in April. I will be focusing on up-cycling random thrift store stuff into fabulous home decor. And of course starting in late April I will be starting my garden! I am making a dedicated effort to come back to blogging I have missed it dearly.

One last thing, I will try to keep this blog from becoming a mothering blog, as I am sure most of my life will be overridden with baby stuff for a while, this will be my refuge :)

Oh yeah....and happy Valentine's Day!