Thursday, July 31, 2008

Babies, babies and more babies - quilts that is

The month of August is a busy baby month. Two of my sister-in-laws are due within 2 days of each other. And two mom’s at church are due within days of each other. I have been busy, planning and working on their quilts.

The first quilt I completed was for my brother and his wife. They are expecting a little boy around August 18. The theme for the baby’s bedroom is Ducks and Frogs. I had something in mind with bears but once I knew what they were decorating with I headed to my favorite fabric store to pick up some fabric. Not much out there in Duck and Frog land, but I did come away with some prints in flannel. And a nice bright, neony, green somewhat solid. Away I worked at completing the Zig Zag Quilt over at the Purl Bee. And the finished product.

Back of the Quilt
Folded FrontClose up front
I even attempted to get creative out of my box. I have seen several cards made from leftover scraps of fabric. I found an old thank you card and then stitched together scraps from the quilts. I then wrote a little saying and printed it and then stitched it onto the card.
Front of card
Back of card
Inside of card

The next quilt’s I am working on are for ladies at church. I’m going to alternate pinwheels and solid blocks in a pink and white with bears, because that’s what I have in my stash. Those are in progress but here are photos of the fabric.
And one of the blocks.
I have also completed a quilt for my brother-in-law and sister-in-law, however, I did not get a picture of it before I gave it to them. We will be visiting perhaps this weekend to see the new baby and I will ask if I can snap some pictures of it.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Cookie Carnival July - Blackberry Almond Bars

It's cookie carnival time. I am participating in a monthly cookie carnival hosted by Kate over at The Clean Plate Club. Anyone that knows me knows that I love to make cookies. Friends and family have all been recipients of the Christmas Cookie Baskets and have even purchased a few to pass on. It just seems natural for me to join in a cookie carnival.

This month’s cookie, well, is a bar. Hmm, is a bar a cookie you ask? Sure! It is in my book anyway. I make chocolate chip cookie bars and use the same recipe, just throw the dough into a pan and let bake, sometimes it’s just easier that way.

My first attempt (yes, there was more than one) was for our family reunion on the 4th of July. I made a quick call to my mom to see if she had any of the “main” ingredients. We checked everything off except for the fruit, which I was bringing from home anyway, and the almonds, no problem those are in the pantry as well.

I get up the morning of the 4th to make my dessert, to realize the almonds are at home. No problem, I’ll just adjust the flour and go from there. I should have read the directions better, need a pestle and strainer. Hmmm, not happening at mom’s we’ll just dump everything in. Baked and it actually turned out well. So well, not a picture was taken.
That’s why I had to make it again. Here is the recipe:
For the shortbread:
* 12 Tbs. (1 1/2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
* 2 cups all-purpose flour
* 1/2 cup ground toasted almonds
* 1/2 cup granulated sugar
* 1/2 tsp. salt
For the blackberry curd:
* 2 pints blackberries
* 4 eggs
* 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
* Pinch of salt
* 1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
* 4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 1-inch pieces Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
Preheat an oven to 350°F. Lightly butter a 9-by-13-by-2-inch cake pan.
To make the shortbread, in the bowl of a food processor, combine the butter, flour, almonds, granulated sugar and salt and process until small lumps form. Sprinkle the mixture into the prepared pan and press evenly into the bottom. Bake until the shortbread is golden, about 20 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F.
Meanwhile, make the blackberry curd: In a food processor or blender, puree the blackberries until smooth. Pass the puree through a chinois set over a bowl, using a pestle to press on the solids and extract as much juice as possible; discard the solids. You should have about 3/4 cup juice.
In the top pan of a double boiler or in a nonreactive saucepan, whisk together the eggs and granulated sugar until blended. Then whisk in the blackberry juice, salt and lemon juice. Set the top pan over but not touching simmering water in the bottom pan, or set the saucepan over medium-low heat. (If using a saucepan, take care not to heat the mixture too quickly.) Cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spatula or spoon, until the mixture is warmed through, 1 to 2 minutes.
Begin adding the butter a little at a time, stirring each addition until blended before adding more. Continue cooking, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom of the pan, until a finger drawn across the back of the spatula leaves a path, 8 to 10 minutes more. Immediately remove the pan from the heat. Pass the curd through the chinois set over a bowl and let stand for 10 minutes. Whisk to blend, then pour the curd over the shortbread, spreading it evenly to the edges.
Bake until the curd is set, about 30 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool completely. Cut into individual bars, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Dust the bars with confectioners’ sugar before serving.
Makes 20 bars.
I did make a couple of changes though, based on what I had at home. I used a bag of frozen mixed berries (raspberries, blackberries and blueberries). And, I did not strain the pureed fruit but let it cook a little longer on the stovetop until it became thicker. I followed the rest of the directions.
The kids insisted on helping. They turned the food processor on and off for me. And as the curd was setting, they stirred it to make sure “it was cool enough.” The bars turned out great!!!!
The kids loved them, my husband loved them and as aforementioned my family enjoyed them at the reunion.
Can’t wait to see what August brings us!!!

A sigh of relief....

it's done. The basement that is, well, the contractor work is done. We still have some work, but I don't care how long that takes, we can at least use the space. I will have several posts coming up. Although the blog received a break, I didn't stop thinking of things to write and didn't stop taking pictures!!!!