Monday, March 29, 2010

J. Stern Designs Top

I finally have some SWAP progress to report. I got a bit of creative blahs and didn't want to touch the stuff I had waiting on the cutting table, so I opted for a top to replace the previously sewn black silk blouse that was in my original plan.

I've said before that I wanted to sew more independent pattern maker's patterns. Well, I had a whole bunch of pre-owned independents that I almost bought, and quite frankly would have only sewn at a later date, but at the last minute decided instead to order a new pattern. I'd spotted this top pattern (top right under patterns) and loved it.

My logic is that even though these patterns may cost more, if we don't buy them new, we're not actually supporting the pattern maker and these patterns might not be around later. I don't see it as supporting the economy, but rather supporting creative people and helping them to prosper.

On the subject of support....I got a lovely note in with the pattern and pointed in the direction of Jennifer Stern's blog. Take a look, it has general sewing and fashion stuff as well as tips and alternatives to her patterns. I read through all the posts on the top before starting and used her invisible zipper tutorial when inserting mine.

So onto my top, I chose to make the version with the mandarin collar and keyhole opening. I used a pink-peach crepe and ivory charmeuse for binding. I've strayed off my original colour scheme, but I brought this fabric back from my stash in South Africa and thought this was the pattern I wanted for it. My other intention was to use a deep red, the remnants from the red silk blouse, for the binding, but I realised that the darker colour would shine through where it overlapped.

This pattern has some interesting features, at least for me. Firstly it has these pretty lined cap sleeves. I used the charmeuse there too. I love that its lined, so I didn't have trouble with unsightly hemming and it just looks so neat and pretty. Also gotta love the soft charmeuse on the arms.

The back has an interesting dart that I haven't seen before. It is created diagonally upwards from the centre back seam with some slight gathering. It adds an nice detail to the back.

I also inserted my first invisible zipper. I used the tutorial provided by Jennifer on her blog. I think it worked out well.

I had a mandarin collar evening dress once, that had a frog closure, I sure loved that dress. So I did the same here. I'm not sure if that would count as the unusual/distinctive closure requirement for SWAP??

For those who know my last name...I did a double take when I first saw J.Stern Designs or talk of Jennifer Stern, I'm also Jennifer and my last name has just one letter different. So I suppose that's got to mean I have to buy some more patterns. Maybe the jeans??

Friday, March 26, 2010

CW Challenge Week 3

This week I have two more Cafe World dishes to cross off the list. One is a breakfast classic and another is a family favourite.

Bacon & Eggs

A favourite of mine, although I don't make it much at home because bacon is EVIL!! I think it goes straight to my hips and butt. I love my Bacon & Eggs in a sandwich and the egg is turned with a hard yolk and no yellow runny stuff. My husband likes his sunny side up, the kids like it scrambled, so a full spectrum of egg tastes in my family.

Veggie Lasagna

This is a recipe I've used many times. I like it because it's loaded with vegetables and although I always use the low fat ricotta cheese, adding fat-free yogurt reduces the calories further. I have Swiss chard in my garden, so I use that when it is available.


12 lasagna sheets (depends on dish size)
2 cups spinach or Swiss chard
3 cups shredded mozzarella ( I use part skim)
1 medium carrot, julienned
1 medium onion, finely chopped
10 asparagus spears cut into 1/4 inch piece
1 red pepper chopped
1/2 cup Parmesan

Cheese mix:
1 cup low fat ricotta cheese
1 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup parsley
red pepper flakes, salt & pepper to taste

Cook pasta according to package instructions.
Preheat oven to 400 deg F. Spray baking dish (I use 8 in square) with oil or non-stick spray.
Combine all ingredients for cheese mix and set aside.
Build lasagna in dish as follows.
Layer 1: pasta, then spinach, 1/3 cheese mix, 1 cup mozzarella.
Layer 2: pasta, carrot and onion, 1/3 cheese mix, 1 cup mozzarella.
Layer 3: pasta, asparagus and red pepper, last 1/3 cheese mix, 1 cup mozzarella.
Top: pasta and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

There have been some changes to the Cafe World Cookbook, I know of at least one theme dish that's been added, but I haven't studied the list to see if anything has been taken away. So I will update my master list with the changes next week.

Progress: 5.5/54

Next Up: Steak Dinner

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

Friday, March 19, 2010

CW Challenge Week 2

This week, as promised, I made French Onion Soup, or as my husband called water with onions in it. It was rather disastrous.

French Onion Soup

So let me begin by saying that I love French Onion soup and have ordered it many times in restaurants, but have never made it myself. So I was rather let down by the results. I will definitely be trying this one again, so I won't cross it off the list just yet. In this instance I don't believe the fault lies with the recipe, but rather the cook. I made two "errors" that if corrected will dramatically improve the taste.

Error 1
I didn't cook the onions long enough. I suggest they should get the nice caramelization to add some flavour, but I had hungry kids so I made the boo-boo.

Error 2
I used my homemade beef stock. I love making my own stocks and then freezing them, but this particular batch of beef stock wasn't very strong flavoured. Next time I will use the store bought variety.

So here goes for the recipe, I'm sure if you follow the above hints it will turn out better than mine. If it doesn't let me know and I will find another for my next attempt.


6 onions, sliced
2 litres/quarts beef broth
2 tbsp butter
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp tarragon
French bread/baguette
cheese, I used sliced Swiss

Melt butter and cook onions over high heat for 5 minutes and then turn down heat and cook onions till golden brown, about 30 minutes.
Add broth, tarragon and bay leaf.
Continue cooking over medium heat for 15 minutes.
Remove bay leaf and ladle into oven proof bowls.
Place bowls on a cookie sheet, top soup with bread, then cheese. Broil till cheese melts.

Oh and remember that those bowls will be HOT!!! Don't make my mistake.

Giant Dino Egg

My youngest and I went on some prehistoric travels and used some nifty team work to steal a very well guarded dino egg.
Result..yummy breakfast for a hungry little time traveller.

Progress: 3.5/54

Next up: In the mood for some Bacon & eggs?

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

Friday, March 12, 2010

CW Challenge Week 1

Today I bring you 2.5 completed dishes and they were interesting choices, as they really highlighted the differences between the "North American way" and the "South African way" or at least how I grew up eating things.

Hotdog minus Garlic Fries

As explained in yesterday's post, this was the introductory dish to the challenge. I've counted this as a half dish, as I didn't make the garlic fries, but plan them for later.
Since this is considered a junkie, non-healthy dish in my house, I upped the nutrition by serving them with wholewheat buns and adding sweet potato fries as well. I didn't take a photo, because quite frankly, a hotdog is a hotdog and you really didn't need to see mine. I have the Cafe World version in the pic below, so you can see the inspiration.
Now the difference between the way my husband eats hotdogs, being brought up in Canada, and myself, who grew up in South Africa is the choice of condiments or fixin's, as they say here.

My husband reaches for ketchup and what I refer to as Kiddie mustard, which is your standard variety bright yellow stuff. He would also ladle on relish and onions if it was served, but since I'm making them, these aren't options.

I also have ketchup, but in South African we call it Tomato Sauce, and I bring my hotdog alive with a healthy dose of Colman's Hot English Mustard, Keen's would be the equivalent more commonly available in North America. This mustard is much hotter then the tame kiddie stuff and can clear your sinuses beautifully if not careful.

Powdered French Toast

Next up is the French toast for breakfast, which I quite enjoy and make a few times a month. Again, I eat mine somewhat differently, I prefer savoury toasts and put kethup on mine instead of syrup. I have never powdered mine with sugar, which I find too sweet combined with the syrup for breakfast. Now I ask other South African readers, other than my family, is the tomato sauce on french toast thing South African or just something odd I've grown up doing? (you can answer in the comment box below) I've never been quite sure on that one....

So here is my version and you can compare it to Cafe World's version. Mine is served with Pure Canadian Maple syrup, of course, and fresh strawberries, unfortunately not local this time of year.

Ginger Plum Pork Chops

Totally yummy and completely quick and easy. Even my 4 year asked for the leftovers the next day instead of the french toast, so it must've been good.

I used plum butter, which I love and would use the jar up quickly. You can use plum preserves or whatever plum ingredient tickles your fancy. I used the dried ginger as I didn't have any fresh on hand.


Pork chops, I used 5.
About half a cup plum preserves/butter
3Tbsp cider vinegar
2 tsp dried ground ginger or use 1 Tbsp fresh ginger
1tsp vegetable oil.

Brown the pork chops in the vegetable oil. Mix the other 3 ingredients and add to the chops, heat, serve and enjoy!!!

Very easy, less than 10 minutes.

Next Up: French Onion Soup for this weekend and some other dishes. See you next Friday for Challenge Week 2.

Progress: 2.5/ 54

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

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Cafe World Challenge

I play Cafe World (amongst other) games on Facebook. Yes, I know, it's a terrible time waster, but a REALLY fun one. Cafe World is basically a virtual restaurant, where you prepare and serve various dishes to customers. It's all about time and resource management and its fun to advance through with your friends' help.

Now a few days ago I was tired and hadn't planned anything for dinner, ugh what to make? Something quick? So I was actually busy virtually serving up some "Hotdog and Garlic Fries" while quickly playing some Cafe World, and thought hey wait, not bad, it'll be minimal effort & the kids will love me for it. So that night I made hotdogs (on wholewheat buns, of course) and used frozen regular and sweet potato fries. I love garlic fries and haven't made them in ages, but realised that my favourite garlic topper was finished, so I've ordered some more.

So that got me thinking about the other dishes in my cafe. Mmm, some are good classics, some are just for fun, like Stardust Stew & Dino Eggs, skip those and some would be interesting to try out.

So why think and not do!!! I've decided to blog my way through the dishes in Cafe World. So when I have a few dishes complete I'll post them here and keep track of the progress. I'll still be doing my other stuff, like SWAP.....I know not much progress reported, but I'm busy, just haven't finished any one thing in a while.

Okay, I was going to make a list of all the dishes here, but that's not going to work. I've just copied down the entire list from the cookbook and am flabagasted at the number... 54. Wow this is going to take a while, it always takes just a few clicks to get through the list on the game. So I will make the list at the bottom of the right margin, so scroll down for the list. I will mark off the recipes as they are completed. Otherwise I will just have a counter with each post.

I have a life outside of the computer ie. blog & facebook games, so I think I'll aim to do a Cafe World post once a week. So I'll declare tomorrow as Foodie Friday and see if I can post the recipes & reviews every Friday. So check back tomorrow for the 1st installment.

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

Monday, March 1, 2010

Happy Birthday Hubbie!!

Well, it's my husband's birthday today and I thought I'd share the menu. Something a little different and a delicious treat.

Now have you ever seen these things (below) in the store and wondered WTF is that and what do you do with that. Well, here is an option.

The purple thingie is rutabaga and the gnarly root whatsit is celeriac or celery root. Now don't misunderstand...this selection in no way reflects my feelings for my Peter. ALTHOUGH, he does look like he just crawled out the ground in the following shot (taken in Afghanistan)

I've never used either of these before so it was a good discovery. I was browsing through a publication of "All you need is Cheese" brought out by the Diary Farmers of Canada and was looking for something interesting to make and this Rutabaga Oka Soup kind of popped out at me. The website even has a demo video, which I've only now discovered.

I garnished my soup with Gouda Cheese, since I didn't have Oka at home and I concentrated my apple puree more than the recipe intended, producing a sweeter puree more like apple butter. I would really recommend serving this with the apple puree, as the soup itself is mild flavoured and the little touch of the apple and cheese in every bite really complements the soup. Overall a great choice, even if the veg were a little rude looking to start off.

* Please mind the soup shlosh, terribly messy of me!! On the list of to-do's...get better at photography/set-up

The dessert I made has been sitting on the to-make list for a while. Chocolate, Pear & Almond Tarts are little bite size glories. Check out the recipe, they've been a hit in my house.