Friday, December 31, 2010

Cafe World Challenge Week 41

I'm back in the kitchen. Did I ever leave? No not really, I just took off a week posting while travelling around visiting family over Christmas. Since I have two weeks worth of dishes to report on, this post will be longer than usual. I finished up four more dishes to cross off the list, although one is a new addition.






PITA AND DOLMAS

The Cafe World version has a pita stuffed with Falafel and Dolmas. I have previously made Falafel for the challenge, so I made Tabbouleh instead. It is a fantastic salad made from Bulgar wheat, tomatoes, green onions, parsley and mint with an olive oil and lemon juice dressing. I make it pretty regularly and just estimate quantities and taste. I found a recipe on SimplyRecipes.com which is pretty much exactly how I make mine. So check it out there, it would save me typing it all out.

I've never made dolmas/dolmadas/stuffed grape leaves/stuffed vine leaves...whatever you call them. I've always enjoyed them though and had fun making them. I was in the middle of a biscotti baking marathon for a cookie tray fundraiser, so I chose a crockpot recipe to keep pots off my stove and out of the way of the baking. They turned out great. I made this recipe on the Blog "A Year of Slow Cooking" . This blog is a great resource for crockpot recipes and tips. The year involved was 2008, but the blog is still kept current with new recipes and crockpot related posts. These dolmas are stuffed with a rice and ground lamb and turkey (I used chicken) mixture. Once you get the hang of it, the stuffing and rolling of the leaves is quite easy and fast. I still have a big jar of leaves left so I'll probably make these again.




ATOMIC BUFFALO WINGS

I used a Betty Crocker recipe, it was simple enough except for the whole deep frying in batches thing which takes forever if you don't have a great big pot or deep fryer. It is fried in a seasoned flour and then tossed in a hot butter sauce. I set aside some wings for the kids before coating mine in sauce, it was spicy but not atomic. My husband's were probably ATOMIC as he made up his own dipping sauce using all the remnants of his hot sauces. He loves HOT sauce and the hotter the better. I dipped mine in some yummy chunky blue cheese dressing.




WALDORF SALAD

As my regular readers know, I didn't grow up in North America so I am only vaguely aware of what constitutes a Waldorf salad. The Cafe World game had you gathering walnuts, celery and lettuce and I knew there had to be apples in there. So I came up with my own version, although after further investigation I suppose you couldn't really call mine a Waldorf salad at all. It doesn't have grapes or raisins and isn't in a mayonnaise dressing. But what the hell, no apologies, mine was good, better than good, it was superb!! After using a blue cheese dressing the night before for the wings, I got a craving for some good blue cheese.  So this is my version:

Jen's Apple & Walnut Salad:

A bag or about 12 handfuls of mixed salad greens
2 stalks celery sliced
1 small green apple cored and thinly sliced
1 small red apple cored and thinly sliced
1/4 cup walnut crumbs
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
Vinaigrette or dressing of choice (I used a zesty Italian)

Toss together greens, celery and apple. Sprinkle with walnuts and blue cheese.


BLOOD SAUSAGE

I bought a package of blood pudding and cooked it up with some mash and butternut. I remember blood pudding from my childhood. My dad would buy it and I remember enjoying it and considered it a special treat. I haven't eaten it since then and couldn't even remember what to expect. It was good-ish, although it is very rich and I think it should be eaten in small quantities. No recipe here, just a dish to cross off the list.


CAFE WORLD COOKBOOK ADDITIONS

I unlocked the Waldorf Salad and there is also a new cake - Gem Cake.

Next Up: I'm making Kung Pao Stir Fry this weekend.

Progress: 75/86

Disclaimer: Image owned by Zynga. This site is not owned by Zynga. This site is not the owner of the intellectual property

Sunday, December 26, 2010

My gifts to myself

I was lucky enough to actually get something sewing related for Xmas this year, a gift certificate to a local fabric store, but I decided to treat myself anyway and over the last two months have bought a number of patterns at sales and bought some fabric to use too. Since today is Boxing Day and many people have shopping on their minds, I thought I'd share my loot with you instead of hitting the stores myself.

PATTERNS: (see captions below)
















Okay I was having a meltdown trying to get pics and captions to align, so the captions are here, from top to bottom with links taking you to the company website for details:

Butterick 4613, out of print, I've wanted this one for a while, will be making up View A in the navy wool crepe (see below)
Butterick 5558, a Maggy London dress with interesting waist pleats
Butterick 5562, cute knit tops
Butterick 5570, wardrobe pattern
Simplicity 2508, Project Runway Coat pattern
Simplicity 2692, dress pattern
Simplicity 3827, dresses, tops and skirts
Vogue 1205, Kay Unger Dress
Vogue 1206, another Kay Unger dress
Vogue 1209, Rachel Comey dress
Vogue 1211, Guy Laroche jacket
Vogue 8692, Claire Shaeffer Custom Couture jacket, my next project in the navy wool crepe below.

I also bought the Palmer/Pletsch Pants for Real People DVD:




I also made an order from Denver Fabrics:

A navy Blue 100% wool crepe for the skirt and jacket mentioned above. Also two cotton shirtings, one blue/green check (bad image quality, not the fabric) and another in pink/blue grey. I've found a few Burda magazine blouses for the shirtings to go with the navy suit. I haven't received the fabric yet, but it gives me time to finish up the other projects first.








Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!!

Merry Christmas to all my readers and happy holidays. I wish you all wonderful times with your family and here's to hoping Santa got it right for you!!

My little ones have their version of a Christmas classic for you, if you don't understand little boy speak...it's supposed to be Jingle Bells:

video

Friday, December 17, 2010

Cafe World Challenge Week 40

This week I tackled a delish Mexican dish and discovered a new-to me blog/recipe website, Simply Recipes. Unlike some other recipe sites, this one is operated by a women, Elise Bauer and her family and all the recipes have been tested before being published. There are also some great posts to read. I've printed out a few recipes and will be using them over the next few weeks. Both the recipes used in the week's post came from this website.


TOSTADA DE CARNE ASADA


For those not familiar with Mexican cuisine, Carne Asada is grilled sliced meat and a tostada is like a taco, except just flatter.

As I mentioned above, I used this recipe for Carne Asada and I also made Pico de Gallo ie. Fresh Tomato Salsa, also from the same website.

Below you'll see the results:

The Flank steak marinating, before it gets grilled.



The fresh salsa and avocado toppings.


Two Tostadas ready to be devoured.



CAFE WORLD COOKBOOK ADDITIONS
I completed a catering challenge and unlocked Unbirthday cake. There are a few more but they are still locked for me, so they won't go on my list.

Up Next: I have Dolmas cooking up right now and have a feast planned...will post on this next week. I'm also looking for a recipe I can use for Atomic Buffalo Wings.

Progress: 71/84

Disclaimer: Image owned by Zynga. This site is not owned by Zynga. This site is not the owner of the intellectual property

Monday, December 13, 2010

And the Pattern goes to....

Ruthie who authors the blog, Sew Ruthie (formerly RuthieK Sews). I'm very happy the pattern is on the way to Ruthie, as I love following her blog and her various sewing collections.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Raincoat Update

Even though I've been quiet on the sewing projects lately, I have actually been sewing. I just haven't finished anything in a while. This last month has been devoted to my raincoat using Burda 7750 View A (Left Below).


The main attraction of this design was the hood. I have a few raincoats at home but never use them because they have no hood. Because I'm usually wearing my glasses, I need a hood or umbrella to keep the drips off them, it is a serious pet peeve, I HATE getting my glasses wet.

I've made mine in a black rainwear fabric with a mocha polyester lining, which is visible in the hood. I'm not done yet, I still need to insert sleeves and sew up and insert the lining, but I've decided to put this away for a few months. I've gotten a bit bored with it, but also want to focus on some winter clothing now. I'll pick it up again closer to Spring, so that I can wear it when I need it.

I had a few problems while sewing it up, basically caused by my left/right confusion. When the instructions and pattern refer to left and right I get confused as I'm never sure if it's my left and right as I'm wearing it or laid flat in front of me. I should've just read through the instructions better as I could've figured it out with the diagram for later instructions. I also figured what's the difference anyway? WRONG!!! Big difference, yes the opening flap is facing the other non-conventional side..but my problem was the zipper which is then reversed and is either on the wrong side or upside down. I eventually fixed it somewhat by removing the top zipper stop and sliding the pull onto the others side. The zipper still isn't perfect, it keeps wanting to curl around, but it works and its hidden by the front flap. The snaps under the flap, keep everything in place and no one but me is any the wiser.

On the subject of snaps - this was my first experience at inserting no-sew snaps, I used the brass snaps and needed to practice a bit, but they turned out fine. I think that was on my sewing goals list (in my head), I'm always thinking about doing new things.

I'm making some progress on my sewing to-do list. This raincoat was officially planned in January 2009 for the SWAP contest at Stitcher's Guild. I then revisited it in September 2009 for the Autumn 6pac at Stitcher's Guild. I finally cut out and started it in November this year, when I was just sick of not having a proper raincoat. So although it's not finished, I'm thrilled to have the major work done.


I'm holding the sleeves that haven't been sewn in, they're not weird wing attachments or something.


With my hood on. The kids have been watching lots of Star Wars with daddy, so think I look like an evil Sith Lord when I wear the hood.

Next up I'm clearing the sewing space and making up two patterns I picked up today at a Thrift shop, both from the 90's it seems. I'm making a long black denim skirt and a casual matching top and jacket. I need some "mindless" sewing while I'm waiting for my fabric to arrive for my tailored jacket.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Biscotti and planning

I decided this was a great week to take a break from the Cafe World Cooking Challenge. My husband was away and with just the kids and I, the remaining dishes were just too much work to tackle. I volunteered to bake cookies for fundraiser cookie trays, so I decided to make biscotti from Buddy Valastro's Book. Click the link on that page for "Bonus content: Recipe" and you'll find the recipe I used.

I made mine with chocolate chips and toasted hazelnuts...a great combination that screams Nutella. Since I also ordered a cookie tray, I opted not to make an extra batch for home, which is great because I have enough of the end pieces and the pieces that broke to last us a few days until we get the tray.



I was busy with the biscotti today, but I've spent the entire week totally absorbed by wardrobe planning and sewing goals. I made some pretty big decisions regarding my next few months of sewing. These will include a wool skirt suit and cotton blouses to coordinate as well as a casual ensemble of a denim skirt (which has been on my to-do list FOREVER) and a top to go with it. I'll post on the specifics in the coming week as well as share the pattern bounty I received in the mail yesterday.

Just a reminder about the PATTERN GIVEAWAY (see previous post), I seem to have very shy readers or no one wants a FREE pattern, if no one comments by the deadline, the pattern will simply go to the first poster after that.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Christmas Wishlist Pattern Giveaway!!

There's been much chatter about Christmas wish lists and since I never seem to get anything on mine that's sewing related, unless I get it myself, I decided to make sure someone else does.

I'm giving away any pattern you like in the current catalogues of Simplicity/New Look, or McCalls/Vogue/Butterick .

All you need to do is speak up and leave a comment with your 1st and 2nd choice below in the comment box. The deadline is Saturday midnight 11 December (I'm not picky..your time zone is fine, wherever you are) and I'll post the winner on Monday morning, so you can check back then and you can contact me through my profile or I can contact you through yours or your blog. I'll choose the winner by random number generation. Anyone can enter, it doesn't matter where you live.

Have fun and I hope to hear from you.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Cafe World Challenge Week 39

It's week 39, 13 more weeks till a full year (52 weeks) and currently 13 more dishes to complete, so that's just one a week, can it be done? YES IT CAN!!!

This week I finished two dishes, my usual buttermilk pancakes, which I have probably made more than 20 times since I started the challenge, but just haven't had the time in my busy mornings to take photos or make it look pretty. I'm usually cooking and serving as they get done and sometimes I don't even get any if hubbie and kids are hungry. But this week, I made some for lunch when my husband was at home and we got to sit down together (sans kids) and enjoy breakfast for lunch.

I also made burritos, I made enough filling to have them twice and enjoyed them both nights.



BUTTERMILK PANCAKES

This is my go-to recipe, I don't even look in a book anymore, I know the quantities in my head. The other good thing about this recipe, is that if you use fat-free buttermilk, the pancakes are fat-free. I also cook mine in a non-stick pan with fat-free non-stick spray, so the only fat will be what you add on top. My topping of choice is usually just maple syrup, we always have a litre bottle at home, fruit and sometimes if I have some whipped cream. My son James loves blueberry pancakes, so I just toss those into the finished batter.

Recipe:

2 eggs
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

Whisk these together until frothy and add:

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup buttermilk

Stir until flour is just moistened.

Ladle into a hot pan coated with non-stick spray and turn when bubbles form on surface and start to break.
Repeat until all pancakes are cooked. It usually makes about 10  4/5 inch pancakes.

Another great practical reason I like this recipe, is the quantity of buttermilk. I usually buy a litre box which contains 4 cups, so I can make these pancakes 4 times, use all the buttermilk and it's used up by its best before date.



RED BURRITO

I love Mexican food!! I loved living in Colorado and exploring the South West and I got to eat tons of great food in my explorations. If I want Mexican fare here, I almost only have Taco Bell to choose from and so I'd just prefer to make my own.

I made a big batch of Beef and Red Kidney bean filling and used that with onion, cheddar and sour cream inside the burrito, rolled it up and drizzled some Taco sauce on top. Just delicious!!! I loosely followed THIS RECIPE


Next Up:  Not sure yet, something easy as it'll be just myself and kids.

Progress: 70/83

Disclaimer: Image owned by Zynga. This site is not owned by Zynga. This site is not the owner of the intellectual property

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Pattern Cyber Sale still on Today

If you want a GREAT deal on patterns, go check out the McCall Pattern Company Cyber Sale which ends today.

The sale is on the new patterns, just click the link on each page, Buttericks and McCall's are $1.99 and Vogues are 3.99. The other awesome news is that orders over just $15 can enjoy free shipping to the US AND Canada. It's not often such shipping deals are extended to Canada too.

It's a good thing that the sale spanned two days, because I spent the whole day yesterday checking out patterns and deciding which I should really buy. I originally had a list of 24 patterns, which I've culled down to 9 or 10. I need to rethink my pattern storage, mine is now overflowing!!!

I'll place my order today and share the pattern haul soon. Check it out and have FUN!!!

EDIT:  I've just ordered and realised the free shipping was only on yesterday, but the prices are still fantastic.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

African Fabric Stash

My parents work in Ghana, West Africa, so I've been lucky enough to get beautiful Ghanaian fabric as gifts over the last few years. I thought it was about time I took the fabric out again and contemplate the projects that they could inspire. The fabric is all cotton, so they would be more suited to summer wear, so it is a funny time of year to be hauling these out, but I was actually pulling out "winter" fabrics and decided to put these aside too.

Photo 1: All the brights...All are 100% cotton Made in Ghana wax prints, all but one were produced by Akosombo Textiles Ltd.



Photo 2: An orange and black large scale print (see apple size for reference). When I researched the company name, it came from China, so not Ghanaian, but in that style and at least bought in Ghana.


Photo 3:  The two blue fabrics have a coating on top and are textured. They would probably work for a big bag??? The brown wax print is slightly thinner than the others in the collection and says "London Wax Print".


Photo 4 & 5:  My favourite, a beautiful turquoise and gold design with a gold and black border. It is printed with "sukhotthai style" in the selvage, so it is probably from Thailand. I want something really special with this fabric.




So what do you think? Which is your favourite? Do you have any suggestions for patterns to use? I was thinking about summer dresses, skirts or loose tunic styles. My husband has some beautiful examples of the men's shirts made from this fabric, but I thought I'd leave you a photo of the little men in my life wearing their Ghanaian shirts.

Here are Willem and James with their cousin Daniel last Christmas in South Africa. It is Daniel's 2nd birthday today, so HAPPY BIRTHDAY little Danny Boy!!!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Cafe World Challenge Week 38

Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers. I hope you all had fabulous food and some fun with your families.

I had some fun with my boys making cupcakes this week, but unlike the Cafe World version, which is for birthdays, mine is just because its fun to eat cupcakes and we decorated with a Christmas theme. The boys have been bugging me to decorate the house and put up the tree, but its not even December yet, so I'll wait till next weekend. I did compromise and put up the wreath, helped them make their Christmas list (so we can write to Santa) and we made Christmas cupcakes.


CUPCAKES

My husband loves spending hours wandering through bookstores, so I accompanied him and browsed the cookbook offerings. I was steering towards buying a book dedicated to baking, but really didn't want one of these huge baking "bibles" that, though great to have, will probably cause my over stacked cookbook shelves to fall over. I discovered the Cake Boss's new book. Buddy Valastro has a show on TLC, which admittedly I've never watched, but I found the book intriguing. The first part is basically a biography of his family's bakery and the recipes are at the end. I used his recipe for Vanilla Cake found here.

I was very impressed with the recipe, the cupcakes were great. I cheated with the frosting and used store bought vanilla frosting, but I first removed it from the container and gave it a vigorous whipping and then piped it on. I used Christmas candy decorations on top of that and I used Christmas themed cupcake liners.

The cake turned out so well, I'm thinking I'll try his recipe for Biscotti next. I volunteered to make cookies for holiday cookies trays, so I'm leaning towards Chocolate and Hazelnut Biscotti.




Progress: 68/83

Next Up:  I will need to look at the remaining dishes and see what fits in to my next week, check back next Friday.

Disclaimer: Image owned by Zynga. This site is not owned by Zynga. This site is not the owner of the intellectual property

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Cafe World Challenge Week 37

I had a very good cooking week, not only did I make 3 of the Cafe World dishes, but I also had yummy mushrooms stuffed with scallops and made homemade fettuccine Alfredo. The pasta making is really getting so much easier each time I attempt it, the fettuccine turned out perfectly.

I also had a lovely lunch with my husband (without kids) at the buffet restaurant inside Caesars Windsor, so I'll consider that research for the Vegas Buffet dish. Not Vegas, not Caesars Palace either, but close enough. When I went to Vegas, I didn't eat at one of the famous buffets, we were too busy watching shows, casino hopping and consuming absurdly vast quantities of margaritas. If my husband hadn't sworn to never, never go to Vegas again, I'd have thought it would've made a great victory weekend after finally finishing this challenge. Maybe I can still convince him.




PHILLY CHEESESTEAK

I love Philly Cheesesteak, not that I've ever been to Philly and had the real thing, but I love the various versions you get at sandwich shops.

I didn't find the nice bigger hero/sub rolls I wanted, so I had to make do with regular wholewheat rolls. So here goes my version:

Recipe:

Hero/sub rolls, split
vegetable oil
onion, thinly sliced
green pepper, cut into strips
1 lb sirloin cut into strips
salt
hot sauce
shredded cheese

The quantities you use will depend on how many sandwiches you're making. I made enough for 6 rolls so, I used 1 large onion and 1 regular green pepper.

Wrap rolls in foil and warm in a 350F oven. Heat on in a large skillet and add onion and green pepper. Cook until vegetables are soft. Add meat and cook until no longer pink. Season to taste.
Divide meat mixture over rolls and top with cheese. Place in oven for a few minutes until cheese melts, remove, replace top and enjoy hot from the oven.


ESCARGOT

I lucked out with this one, because I was searching for a few days for escargot in shells, as depicted in the game graphic, but finally settled on buying the canned version. I didn't want to eat the escargot, so I was buying scallops for myself at a fish store. What did I find in the same freezer as the scallops....escargot in shells!!! So I bought them and I still have a $1.99 can of escargot in my cupboard. The package said the snails were already cleaned and ready to cook, so I just made an adapted version of the snail butter recipe in Joy of Cooking and plugged the shells with the butter.

Snail butter recipe:

In a blender combine:

1/4 cup softened butter
salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp minced shallots
2 garlic cloves minced
1tbsp parsley
1tbsp minced celery

Plug the snail butter into the snail shells and cook for about 15 minutes in a 300F oven or until the butter bubbles. Serve with toasted wholewheat bread to soak up the excess butter.



CARAMEL CORN

To finish off the week, I made a super easy batch of caramel corn. I generally prefer plain salted popcorn. I always have a huge box of microwave popcorn available and it makes the best quick snack for myself and hubbie while we watch some TV and the kids adore popcorn when they watch a movie on the weekend. My little one calls it "Cocorn", very cute.

I found the caramel corn to be very filling, I can usually eat half a regular package, but I struggled to even eat a quarter of the package, so the kids had extra.

Recipe:

1 package light butter flavoured microwave popcorn (or your favourite type)
1 package (170g) toffees (I used Mackintosh's Mack toffees - the package said "great for baking")
1 1/2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp milk

Prepare popcorn as usual. Empty into a LARGE  bowl  (you need to stir popcorn around without it overflowing everywhere) and remove unpopped kernels.
Unwrap toffees and place in a glass bowl or measure, add butter and milk. Microwave on high for 2 minutes or until it starts boiling. Stir once during cycle. Give a good stir and pour over popcorn, stir popcorn till coated. Pour out onto a wax paper lined tray and allow to cool and crisp for 15 minutes.


CAFE WORLD COOKBOOK ADDITIONS

I admit I haven't really been playing regularly, so I haven't unlocked any of the new dishes. You now get new dishes when you complete a catering order with a 3 star rating. I'm finding it almost impossible to get them done in time, since guess what...I have a REAL life too. So I won't be adding those, but over the Thanksgiving period, it seems you can cook Deep Fried Turkey and unlock Chocolate Pecan Pie. The latter would be great in real life though.

Next Up: Cupcakes...although not specifically for a birthday, just because I can.

Progress: 67/83, which, read my lips, equates to 16 dishes left. Whhooohooo!!!! Okay that is until more get added or something, but the end is near.

Disclaimer: Image owned by Zynga. This site is not owned by Zynga. This site is not the owner of the intellectual property