Sunday, October 31, 2010

Spider Web Brownies

Happy Halloween everyone! I just wanted to stop by and share a tradition from our house, Spider Web Brownies. My mom used to make these with my sister and me when we were little and now I make them for my house. The original recipe is from the Pillsbury website, but this time I only used that as a jumping off point. I made the brownies from scratch with Ghiradelli chocolate and, since I had some left over cream cheese in the fridge, I opted for a cream cheese frosting. Really, anything works for these - boxed brownies with a can of frosting, or making it all from scratch. It's just a fun, festive and easy dessert. Be safe and have fun tonight!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Pumpkin Butter

I first heard of pumpkin butter a few months ago. Being a big fan of other fruit butters, I've been biding my time until fall, itching to try making my own.

The recipe I used is from the Smitten Kitchen website, but I halved the recipe as I didn't have enough of my roasted pumpkin for the original. The quantities I list below are the amounts I used, which yielded just over 1 pint.

Not ever having had it before, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. Maybe something akin to spreadable pumpkin pie? The resulting butter did have a silky smooth texture but was more spicy than sweet. Next time I may adjust the spices, perhaps reducing the ginger, but that is just personal preference. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Butter adapted from Smitten Kitchen


15 oz. fresh pumpkin puree (from two sugar pumpkins)
1/4 c. plus 2 tbsp. apple cider
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
2/3 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp. lemon juice


Combine pumpkin, apple cider, spices and sugar in a large saucepan; stir well. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes or until mixture thickens. Stir frequently. Adjust spices to taste. Stir in lemon juice, or more to taste.

Once cool, pumpkin butter can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge or stored in the freezer.

Important Note: While the Smitten Kitchen version suggests canning for a way to preserve the pumpkin butter, the National Center for Home Food Preservation does not recommend home canning as a safe method of preservation. All pumpkin purees should be used immediately or frozen until used.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Roasted Pumpkin

While visiting my husband's parents recently we had the opportunity to go pick out our pumpkins from a local farm that was only a short drive away. They also had sugar pumpkins for sale, and I couldn't resist. Two came home with me. While it is easy and convenient to bake with canned pumpkin, I've never been one to do things the easy or convenient way. For example, I like film photography, making my own cards, and cooking from scratch, just to name a few. But luckily, baking with real pumpkin isn't actually hard. So today I am roasting one of the sugar pumpkins to be made into something delicious tomorrow. Here's how:

Roasted Pumpkin from

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cut the pumpkin in half, discarding the stem section and stringy pulp. Be sure to save the seeds for roasting. Yum yum!

Lay the two halves face down on a baking sheet. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 1 1/2 hours, or until tender.

Once the pumpkin has cooled, scoop out the flesh and either mash it or puree in a blender. Makes approximately 1 1/2 cups, depending on the size of your pumpkin. This can be used in all of your recipes calling for canned pumpkin.

Check back tomorrow to see what my puree turned into!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Two Minute Halloween Cards

Haven't made your Halloween cards yet? Don't worry, there's still time! Recently while browsing through a local paper store I spied some very simple letterpress Halloween cards nestled in their Halloween display. I decided to try recreating them at home using stamps from my collection. Each uses just one stamp! These are quick, no fuss last minute cards. Hopefully these will jump start your creativity and inspire you with their simple designs.

This first one is made from a single sheet of Old Olive card stock. The "Boo!" sentiment was a $1 Michael's stamp I picked up last year.

This second one is even simpler, as I used pre-made note cards. I stamped the bat image from Inkadinkado's Creepy Crawly onto a small blank note card with deckled edges from Papyrus.

Happy stamping!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Baby Boy Card

I don't know about where you are, but among my friends and acquaintances there is a veritable baby boom in progress. I can't seem to keep enough baby cards on hand as I'm always at least two babies behind! This one is likely destined for a new mom in my Bible study who just had a little boy.

The cute little onesie stamp is from an old SU! set called A Little Love. The onesies are colored with colored pencils. Simple and mass producible if need be. :)

Stamps: A Little Love, Teeny Tiny Wishes
Paper: Whisper White, Certainly Celery, generic blue

Ink: Basic Black

Accessories: 1" circle punch, 1 1/4" circle punch, colored pencils, 1/2" white satin ribbon, paper piercer and mat pack, dimensionals

Monday, October 25, 2010

Embossing Tip & Snowflake Cards

Recently I shared a card I made for a friend's wedding that was soft and pretty and featured lots of embossing. What I didn't tell you was there was a bit of weeping and gnashing of teeth during the embossing step. You know the dreaded little bits of embossing powder that cling to your paper, but not the part that was stamped, creating little dots of unhappiness when you've done your heat set? It looks bad. It looks messy. And it drives me crazy. Well, I had a lot of that happening on that wedding card. I thought perhaps it was due to the fact I was using vellum that more powder was sticking in unlikely places. But it even happens on regular card stock. Grrr!

I know that there are things I could buy, like Stampin' Ups! Embossing Buddy, or similar tools at craft stores, that help prevent the very problem I am describing. But quite frankly, I didn't want to have to shell out the money for one. And as I had another embossing project to do (see below) I wanted to find a more DIY fix. So I did a little research and think I've found a great solution: corn starch. I'm not kidding. What you do is fill an old nylon with a small amount of corn starch, tie it off, and then rub the nylon over the surface you are going to emboss on. A wee bit of the corn starch powder comes out through the fabric of the nylon and coats your paper. (Apparently it is oils from your hands that the stray embossing powder is sticking to. The corn starch absorbs the oils so the embossing powder only sticks where you want it to.) Then you stamp, emboss, and heat as usual and brush off any residual powder that is still on your project. I used this several times for the following project and it worked amazingly. I'm sold!

This is the set of Christmas note cards I was working on for my shop that prompted this whole embossing revelation. The words "Peace" are embossed in white on each card. I was very happy with the way these turned out, they have a simple but classic vibe about them. It makes me want to watch "White Christmas". *grin*

'Til next time, friends!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Sour Cream Spice Cake with Caramel Frosting

For the wedding I went to last weekend I was asked to bake a cake for the reception. Not the cake, I am happy to say. The bride wanted a dessert reception, so about a dozen of us each selected a cake to bake from a list of flavors the wedding coordinator provided us. Many of the flavors sounded a bit daunting to me or even downright cryptic (no clue was given to what a One-Two-Three-Four Cake might be. Do you know?) so I opted for the most normal sounding flavor left, Spice Cake with Caramel Frosting.

I've eaten spice cakes of course, but I can't remember ever making one before. And I have never had, let alone made, caramel frosting. Not having been given any recipes to work from I decided to turn to Betty for help. Betty Crocker, that is. I like to think that Betty and I are on a first name basis; she has helped me through many a kitchen dilemma. When I get stumped, I often ask myself "I wonder what Betty has to say about this?". So I pulled out my trusty Betty Crocker Cookbook and she didn't let me down. Recipes for both spice cake and caramel frosting were recorded within her tome of wisdom. Bingo!

Not wanting to make something for the first time that would be for the actual reception, I baked a trial run cake a few days before the wedding to work out any kinks. Good thing I did, too. I discovered that merely greasing and flouring is insufficient to release the ornery little things from their pans (I highly recommend the addition of parchment paper) and that trying to take the cakes out of the pans before they are completely cool results in disaster. Also the frosting, as written, wasn't quite enough to cover a layer cake. All in all, I left out a few things and tweaked some others, so the recipe below is mostly Betty's.

On the day of the wedding my worst fear was that no one would eat my cake and that I would have to take it home, leaving me two whole cakes to somehow get through (the trial cake was still on my kitchen counter). Fortunately the reception goers did their part and I was able to take an empty cake stand home. Success! We have been enjoying my first run cake all this week, so I can heartily recommend the following for your fall dessert pleasure. Happy baking!

Sour Cream Spice Cake with Caramel Frosting
from the Betty Crocker Cookbook
serves 16

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup water
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
2 large eggs

3/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
3/8 cup milk
3 cups powdered sugar

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour the bottom and sides of two 9-inch round pans and then line with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, beat all cake ingredients with an electric mixer on low speed 30 seconds, scraping the bowl constantly. Beat on high speed 3 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Pour batter evenly into pans.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely in pans on wire rack, about 1 hour. Remove cake from pans.

To make the frosting, melt butter over medium heat in a 2-quart saucepan. Stir in brown sugar. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly; reduce heat to low. Boil and stir 2 minutes. Stir in milk. Heat to boiling; remove from heat. Cool to lukewarm, about 30 minutes.

Gradually stir in powdered sugar. Beat with spoon until smooth and spreadable. If frosting becomes too stiff, stir in additional milk, 1 teaspoon at a time.

Place one cake layer, rounded side down, on serving plate or cake stand. Place 4 strips of waxed paper underneath cake around the edge of plate. Spread about 1/2 cup frosting over the top of the first layer. Place second cake layer, rounded side up, on frosted first layer. Coat side of cake with a very thin layer of frosting to seal in crumbs. Continue frosting the sides and top of cake. Carefully remove waxed paper strips. Serve and enjoy!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Something Blue

A lovely lady from my church was married this past Saturday and this is the card I made for her and her groom. I really like the way it turned out, with the very soft white on white and vellum layer.

The sentiment and flourish were done by stamping them in Versa Mark onto the vellum and then embossing them in white. By the way, I finally got myself a heat tool. Bliss! Don't laugh, but I've been embossing the old school way over the stove. A gas stove. Which works pretty well all things considered, if you don't mind living in terror of burning your project, your kitchen, and your house down every time. Ha!

Back to less dangerous things. . . I added rhinestone stickers to the centers of the flower images and tucked a layer of white that had been punched with my Martha Stewart doily lace edge punch underneath. I think it adds a nice little touch. Then a bow of bluish aqua seam binding finished it off. I hope they like it!

Stamps: Baroque Motifs
Paper: Whisper White, Vellum
Ink: Versa Mark

Accessories: white embossing powder, rhinestone stickers, Martha Stewart doily lace edge punch, seam binding

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

I know, I know. Banana bread? Everyone and their mother has a recipe for banana bread. But I came a across this version recently and it was so good I made it twice in one week. Seriously. And if my house likes it that much maybe yours will, too. :)

The recipe comes from Molly Wizenberg's memoir/recipe book called A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table. If you prowl the food blogs you may recognize Molly as the author of Orangette. She is a very entertaining writer and has a truckload of good recipes to boot. So check it out from your local library and make this bread. It's uber moist and hey, who doesn't like chocolate in their bread? Just be sure to double the recipe and make two loaves. You don't want to run out. *wink*

Monday, October 4, 2010

Accordion Flower Christmas Card

Have you noticed all of the do-it-yourself flower embellishments that are popping up in the paper crafting world? Do a little searching and there are tutorials on how to make your own flowers from just about anything: punches, die cuts, twisted ribbon, felt, distressed paper, and the list goes on and on.

Today I tried a test run of the accordion flower. Atomic Butterfly is one of my paper crafting heroes and she has a great tutorial on how to make these little embellishments, something she frequently uses in her own work. So this is sort of my ode to her style. :)

As Glen Miller would say, I'm still "In the Christmas Mood" with my cards so that is the theme I ran with today. I wanted to use lots of patterned paper so I rummaged through my stash looking for green and red ones to use. The paper I used for the accordion is the same red that is in the bottom panel. The stamp set I used is a holiday favorite of mine, SU!'s Winter Post. I love the vintagey look of the images, especially the ice skating couple. In keeping with that old time feeling, all of the layers have been sponged for an aged look. On the bottom panel I stamped the postmark image from the set directly onto the patterned paper. I then stamped it again onto vanilla card stock and cut out just the round portion. The round image fit nicely on a 1" circle of Old Olive and then I popped it up with foam tape to mimic the dimension of the main accordion flower.

In Atomic Butterfly's tutorial she says that she originally would attach her flowers using glue dots, but has since changed to using a glue gun. I would highly recommend the glue gun approach as my flower burst apart after a day with only glue dots holding it together. No good!

Whew! Sorry I was a little on the verbose side today. If you made it all the way down here to the bottom you're a trooper. Thanks for sticking with me and thanks for reading!

Warning: If you try one of these yourself, follow directions! Don't do what I did and skim the instructions, think "no problem", then blithely go ahead and make your flower twice the diameter you wanted it, exactly the way she tells you not to if you were paying attention. It's that pesky math again. Ha!

Stamps: Winter Post, Polka Dot (background)
Paper: Crumb Cake, Old Olive, Very Vanilla, Bella Rose dp, unknown striped SU! dp, Plastino dp by Bella Blvd.
Ink: Chocolate Chip, Creamy Caramel, Old Olive
Accessories: Cutter Bee circle cutter, 1" circle punch, foam tape, mini glue dots

Saturday, October 2, 2010

1,000 hits!

Hello friends, yesterday my little one month old blog reached an important milestone: 1,000 hits! I'm just blown away by the support you've given me in this fun new project. Thanks to everyone for coming and sharing a part of your days with me! Stay tuned, I'll have another Christmas card for you in the next few days! *hugs*