Friday, October 28, 2011

Friday Food Craft: Vanilla Extract

With Holidays fast approaching, I decided now was a great time to introduce you to a simple recipe for your very own real Vanilla Extract! This is not only great to use in your own holiday baking (or baking year round), it also makes a great gift for the baker's in your life! Also, it's super easy. Who doesn't love that? If you have a Penzey's Spices near you, I would recommend going there for your vanilla beans. My local grocery stores sell one bean for a whopping 12 bucks, but Penzey's (a national chain) sells 3 for 7 dollars (or more for a smaller per bean price if you are making a lot as gifts). You can also search online to find places that sell vanilla beans in bulk if you are planning on making a large quantity.

To make your own vanilla extract at home you will need:

Glass bottles with caps that seal on tightly
Vanilla beans
Alcohol of choice (I used Vodka as it has very little flavor of its own, but you may use Rum or Bourbon as well)

I always use a ratio of 1 cup alcohol to 3 vanilla beans, and was lucky enough to find bottles that hold exactly 1 cup. Make sure to measure how much liquid your bottles hold.

Start by sterilizing your bottles. Wash bottles in hot suds and rinse in scalding water. Put bottles and lids in a kettle and cover completely with hot water. Bring water to a boil, covered, and boil bottles 10 minutes from the time that steam emerges from kettle. Turn off heat and let jars stand in hot water. Just before they are to be filled, invert bottles onto a kitchen towel to dry. (Bottles should be filled while still hot.)

I split my beans in half lengthwise, then cut the beans down to pieces that will fit in my bottles (for these bottles cutting in half once lengthwise and once by height was enough). Place 3 beans into each jar and then fill with alcohol. Seal and place on a shelf in a cool dry place (I also keep mine out of direct sunlight). The extract is best if it sits for AT LEAST 30 days before using. If you plan on giving it as gifts, you will want to make sure you leave plenty of time so it may be used immediately.

Here is a link to some printable tags you can use to label your extract. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Awesome Quilting Website!

I just stumbled upon the most AWESOME website. If you are a quilter, have wanted to try quilting, or know someone that makes quilts this site is a must see! I can see many projects in my future benefitting from this site. Wanna know where it is?

Victoria and Albert Museum! This site let's you quickly upload any of your own photos and turns them into patchwork quilt patterns. Better yet, it allows you to select the level of difficulty (adding more or less detail to your quilt) as well as the number of colors you want (number of fabrics you will need to complete your quilt)!

As you can see, it being so close to Halloween I decided to use an image of my cousin Carli's Zombie makeup:

This is the image before being quiltafied!

Here is a slightly easier (20x20 square pattern) see, all skill levels!

OMG I need to get myself to a fabric store!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Friday Food Craft: Chocolate Chunk Cookies

What better to warm up the house on a dreary day than some yummy chocolate chunk cookies? Nothing better came to my mind, so that is just what you get for today's food craft! Speaking of dreary, how sad am I that I had the settle for a crummy picture taken in my kitchen with a flash? Ugh... Bear with me.

For this recipe you will need:

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cups Brown Sugar
1/4 cups White Sugar
2 whole Eggs, room temperature
1/4 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups Flour
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1 pinch Salt
2 cups dark chocolate chunks (I cut up part of a Dark Chocolate "Pound Plus" bar from Trader Joe's)

Start by creaming your butter and both sugars together until smooth. Then, add in your eggs, oil, vanilla and salt and mix until combined. Sift in your flour and baking soda to avoid lumps, and finally add in your chocolate chunks!

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and scoop out cookies about 1 rounded Tablespoon in size (I have a special cookie scoop I use). Cookies should sit at least one inch apart on the sheet.

Bake your cookies for about 12 minutes, until golden brown around the edges. Let cool on tray for a few minutes before removing to a cooling rack. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Halloween Cards

Here is a quick and easy way to make customizable jack-o-lantern cards this Halloween! All you will need to do this project is:

a printer
Cardstock in your preferred color (I used Orange, how traditional of me)
black permanent marker

I started with this clip art image from You could very easily do something other than a pumpkin/jack-o-lantern by searching for other clip art images online.

Next, I stretched my pumpkin out a little in photoshop and I wanted something shorter and fatter (to match my envelope). Then I used my print preview to position it on the page so that when I print it out, I will have enough excess paper to have a fold on the left side. Print and cut out and you will have something like this (note that I folded so the left side of my pumpkin was on the fold line and I did not cut on the fold):

Add your desired jack-o-lantern face and now it is more like this:

You can easily make these with a different face for each jack-o-lantern and use them as greeting cards or party invitations. :)

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Friday Food Craft: Phenomenal Pie Crust

It's Friday again already, and I am back with another yummy food craft! I'm still on a kick for the cold weather comfort recipes (it was extra cold and rainy again here last night) so I thought I would share with you my husband's recipe for a super flaky pie crust that can be used with both sweet and savory pies! That's right you can use it to cover pot pies and turn around to use the scraps for apple turnovers for dessert! It's also pretty easy!

You will need:

2 cups flour
1 large pinch of salt
1 1/3 cups cold unsalted butter, cut into about Tablespoon size pieces
about 2/3 cups water (we usually need slightly less than 2/3 cup before the dough comes together)

food processor

In your food processor, pulse together your flour salt and butter until you have pretty uniform "pebbles" of butter, about pea sized. Then, add your water at a slow drizzle while the processor is on a low speed, stop once your dough has just come together away from the sides of your food processor.

Form into a disc and refrigerate for 30 minutes before rolling out, you will still have fairly large chunks of butter mixed throughout. This is a GREAT thing as it will result in yummy, flaky layers almost like puff pastry. YUM!

After 30 minutes remove from refrigerator and place onto a floured surface to roll. You will want to roll it to 1/8"-1/4 " thick. Then use it for the application of your choice: top your favorite stew or casserole for a yummy pot pie, cut up some fruit and make a fruit pie (I generally go for apples mmmmm), make some turnovers, put some lemon curd between two layers for lemony pop tart treats, cut circle from your dough-add filling and fold to make little hand pies!- the possibilities are limitless.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes (for a whole pie) until the crust is golden brown. For smaller applications I would check after about 30 minutes to see if it is done.

*To make the apple turnovers I have pictured above I used about 1/3 of the above dough recipe (leftovers from dinner) along with 2 apples, some cinnamon, a tablespoon of sugar and an extra dot of butter each (I would also recommend using a fork to close your turnovers as I did not so mine came apart a bit, I was in a hurry for flaky apple goodness!).

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Tutorial: Fabric Coasters

Here is the long awaited tutorial for the fabric coasters I have been making recently. I like it better than some other patterns I have done in the past because the final product doesn't need top stitching (though you could certainly add some if you wanted). These make a great hostess gift, so you may want to start stocking up now for all those Holiday functions coming up at year's end.

To begin, you will need to cut out 5 squares of fabric per coaster (as you can see I generally use 3 different fabrics in each coaster- a bottom fabric and then 2 squares each of top fabrics). I use 4" squares, you could certainly go a little larger, but I wouldn't recommend making them any smaller due to seam allowances (you do want to be able to use them, after all). I also cut out a 4" square of cotton quilters batting (you could substitute felt as well, I recommend the polyester kind as it is washable).

Once you have your piece cut out, you will want to iron each of your 4 top squares in half. Now you will have 4 strips that are 4" x 2", as well as your bottom and filling.

Next, you will layer your strips to make your top coaster piece. If you are making a set and want to make sure your top layers look as similar as possible, I would recommend layering all of your coasters at the same time, this way you will know that you layered the yellow on top of the red (in this example) the same way each time. To layer, make sure your folds are all to the middle of your coaster and the raw edges are on the outside edge. Try to get your fabric strips as snugly together in the middle as you can, if you leave large gaps you will be able to see your batting on the final project.

Once you have your top pieced together, you will layer your coasters to be sewn. Each coaster should have the batting or felt on the bottom, followed by your square of bottom fabric (wrong side touching the batting), and finally your woven strips (as pictured above).

Pin each coaster together to prevent any movement while sewing. Again, make sure to keep your top strips as close together in the center as you can. Sew around the entire outer edge. You will be using the center of your coaster to turn out your final project, so no gaps need to be left for turning (and hence no top stitching will be needed!).

Once you have sewn all the way around your outer edge, remove pins and clip off excess batting and fabric. As you can see, I cut off a little extra at the corners to make them less bulky in the final product.

Finally, turn out your finished coasters and press them flat with an iron. I use a crochet hook to push the corners out more evenly. Voila! Quick and easy coasters with no top stitching needed!

I generally use fat quarters and make matching sets, but you could make patchwork coasters out of any 4" x 4" scraps you have lying around. Squares not your thing? You could follow this tutorial with the same steps by cutting out circles instead (I might make my circles slightly larger, 5" or so) and make sure to clip around the edges before turning to get an smooth edge.

I'd love to see any of the projects you make off the site! Feel free to join Craftinomicon on flickr!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Fun with Fat Quarters!

If you are like me and can't help but feel like a kid in a candy store when you enter any fabric store or craft department, fat quarters (fabric cut to be 18" x 22") can be a great way to add a lot of options to your fabric stash without breaking the bank coming home with yards and yards of fabric. The problem? They aren't large enough for bigger projects unless you like to patchwork them together.

That's why I decided to make this little list of projects that can be done entirely from fat quarters! It's also a great list for people who maybe don't have a lot of time to do their crafty projects, as working on a smaller scale often helps me with the actual finishing of projects.

So what can you make from a fat quarter?

You can easily sew 2 fat quarters together (same fabric or two different fabrics), add some stuffing and now you have a fancy new throw pillow! If you use two different fabrics, it's even reversible. You could even get fancy and use piping around the edges if you wanted. I often make little appliques to sew onto one of my fat quarters to give it a little something special.

Coasters are another great fabric project that can be done with fat quarters. If you get a bunch of them in coordinating colors, you can make several sets. I generally start with 4" squares for my coasters, then layer them with some quilt batting or felt for added cushion. To see a full tutorial on how to make these coasters click here. I'm extra proud of these as I made them with my first ever fabric I designed myself at Spoonflower.

You could also make a bunch of these adorable boxy pouches with the addition of a zipper. The full tutorial for these can be found at Three Bears. This is a cute little blog, this tutorial is great, and I see a lot of adorable little boxy pouches being made this holiday. I may even forgo buying wrapping paper for my smaller gifts and use these instead. :)

If you have a little one, or know someone who does (or will have one soon) these baby booties from Heather Bailey Design are another great fat quarter project. The full tutorial, complete with pattern is included in this pdf. *Photo from Cherry Plum

Finally, don't forget about my fat quarter giveaway. You have until the 17th to enter, and wouldn't it be great to have some fat quarters to try out all of these projects with?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Birthday Giveaway!

Whew! After a great birthday weekend, I am back with this giveaway! A bundle of six fat quarters (as picture above). I love the yellow/gray/black color combination. It's a great way to move from the sunshine of Summer into the rainy gray of Fall and Winter.

To enter:

Post a comment on this blog post. Are you looking forward to the cooler weather, or are you mourning Summer's departure? What would you do with the prize if you won? Or just tell me you really want to win! Make sure you include an email so I can reach you. You may enter now through October 17th at 9pm PST. Winner will be chosen at random and announced on October 18th. Because I am feeling extra generous, giveaway is open internationally (winners outside US, please allow extra time for delivery due to customs).

This contest is now closed, thanks to all who entered!
Congratulations to Amy Vanderhoof! I will be contacting you shortly!
Everyone else please stay tuned for blog giveaway #2 this month, or join my newsletter for a chance at another prize as well!

There will be two more giveaways this month as well, one on the blog, and another through my newsletter. To make sure you qualify for both feel free to go here and sign up for the monthly newsletter. This month it will feature instructions on how to enter for the super special newsletter giveaway as well as an extra special recipe!

*This giveaway is sponsored by me, myself and I.

Also, a special thank you goes out to everyone who sent me birthday wishes! I had a great birthday weekend filled with food and parties. Here is an adorable little birthday cake two lovely ladies got for me, so there was indeed cake after all:

Have a great week and good luck!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Friday Food Craft: Yeast Dinner Rolls

With a week of Portland's cool Fall rain behind me, my mind is starting to turn a little towards Holiday time. In particular, Holiday dinners, though this recipe is great any time. What dinner at any time of year couldn't be improved with some delicious dinner rolls? This recipe yields 16-18 small dinner rolls, but if you are cooking for a crowd I would recommend doubling it, who can resist seconds or thirds?

To make these dinner rolls you will need:

1 cup warm milk
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 stick), room temperature (you can microwave to soften, it's ok if some is melted)
1 egg
3 1/2 cups flour (plus a little extra for your counter tops when kneading)

Start by warming your milk. This can be done in a microwave or in a small saucepan on your stove top. It should be around 108-110 degrees, too hot and it will kill your yeast (not a yummy thing). Put your milk, yeast, sugar and salt in a bowl (or stand mixer) and mix it together a little bit, let stand for about 5 minutes.

Next, add in your butter and egg, plus one cup of your flour. Mix this together until your egg and any butter lumps are worked into the dough (sometimes I just melt all of my butter to avoid the lumps altogether). Then add in the rest of your flour and mix until it has come together. Remove onto a floured surface and knead by hand for a couple minutes, if your dough is too sticky you can add a bit more flour (with all the rain we get here I often have to add up to an extra 1/2 cup). Don't add too much extra, this dough is a pretty soft dough, you just don't want it to be a sticky glob.

Place dough into a greased bowl and cover with a tea towel and allow to rise for an hour, or until it has doubled in size. Punch down, and allow to rise an extra 30-45 minutes (until doubled in size again).

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Form your dough into balls and place on a parchment lined baking sheet (you could also just grease the bottom of your pan, but I like keeping my pans clean and ensuring easy removal). Allow formed rolls to rise an additional 15 minutes or so before baking. You may brush the top with an egg wash if you like. Bake 12-14 minutes until tops are golden brown and delicious! I generally brush the tops of mine with a little butter when they come out of the oven as well. Allow to cool slightly before serving (I almost always burn myself a little tasting one as I simply can't wait, don't be like me).


Thursday, October 6, 2011

Happy Birthday to Me!

Today is my 30th birthday! I sure don't know where all the time went since the above picture was taken, but I know I am jealous of that Bert and Ernie birthday cake. What happened to those days where a pretty cake with your favorite tv characters on it was all you needed to have a great day? Shockingly enough, this year I don't have a cake. I know, I know, me with all of my sweet and tasty food crafts and no cake? I'm ashamed.

I'll be having a celebratory giveaway this weekend, stay tuned and check back with all the info on the fabulous prize(s) and how to enter!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Zombie Makeup Tutorial

With Halloween fast approaching, I thought I would share this tutorial with all of you on how to apply your very own zombie makeup.

I myself am not exactly gifted with the whole makeup thing, so I had to pounce when my cousin, Carli, posted it on her tumblr. Try not to be intimidated, she has step by step photos and instructions to help you out (Though I am sure her amazing skills as a comic book artist don't hurt in the drawing/makeup department).

For those of you in Wisconsin, specifically the Green Bay area, Carli and her sister, McKenna, can both be seen spooking you out at Terror on the Fox.