The First Decision of the Week-end

This past week-end, I woke up feeling a little crazy. I say this because usually when I’m forced awake at 5:30am on a Saturday by a baby who refuses to continue sleeping, my first instinct is to roll back over and go to sleep and let my husband deal with it…. errr….  I mean….. get up and feed my baby immediately!  Hahah… well, it changes depending on how many consecutive nights of rest I’ve gotten.  If you’re a parent, I’m hoping you can relate.

Anyways, this week-end, I was woken up at 5:30am (which is unusual, I usually bank on at least another hour or so) and for some reason, I thought it would be a great idea to make a fresh baked bread for breakfast!  (What was I thinking, right?)  Had I actually planned ahead, maybe I could have made something more deliberate.  As it was, I had to survey the contents of our kitchen.  Luckily, we had 2 ripe mangoes screaming to be used, and I always have a good stock of baking ingredient options in case the bug ever hits me.  I had just gotten some pecans so I thought that mango and pecan in a breakfast bread may work.

I never really baked with mango before and I was a little apprehensive of it’s flavor really coming out in baking.  Something surprising for me with some fruits is how mellow their flavors are upon baking, like strawberries.  Strawberries, when they don’t have a lot of help (sugar) are fairly mellow in flavor.  Sometimes you forget from all the commercialized flavoring of strawberries what they really taste like, but I digress.

So Mango Pecan breakfast bread!  I was pleasantly surprised at the result.  It was sweet, while not being too sweet or overpowering, and the softness of the mango was complemented nicely by the crunchiness of the pecans.  My daughter LOVED this.  She ate her entire slice and half of mine.  And by eat, I mean “picked out all the mango pieces and left some bread for me”.  All in all, not bad for a 5:30am inspiration.  If only I could be this inspired and determined every morning!

I simply used this recipe from my previous post, but substituted in 1 whole mango in lieu of the raspberries and blackberries.  I used a Tommy Atkins mango (from Fresh Direct), which is the mango with the red/green/yellow skin.  I normally like the yellow-skinned mangoes because I feel they have a more robust flavor, but this is just what I had.  If you don’t know how to cut a mango, this is what I did:

Using a vegetable peeler, peel off all the skin.  The mango is a little oblong in shape and the pit is also oblong and flat.  Find the thinner, flatter portion of the mango and stand this perpendicular to your cutting board.  Cut about 1/2″ on either side from the centerline of the mango (what an architectural description… hahaha) so that you are cutting around the pit.  This will be your main “meat”.  Then cut around the perimeter of the seed to get the rest of the meat.  For the rest around the seed, that’s my treat to eat away!

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Flowers, Flowers, Everywhere!!!

I had previously come across a tutorial for making felt flowers here that I had wanted to try.  I decided to use this flower to make some barrettes for my good friend’s eldest daughter.  I thought it would be a great “new big sister” gift as well as a birthday gift (she just turned 2 AND my friend just had her second daughter!)   She has these really large blue eyes and a cute crop of strawberry blond/red hair like her father so I thought something with pink and red would be so cute on her!

These were very easy flowers to make.  The red one was from the above link and I had first planned on making a bunch of these.  However, once I made it, I thought that the flower was a little too big for a barrette on a little girl.  I thought about how I could use this and thought of a couple ideas.  I finally settled on a headband.  However, I thought that it needed more than one flower.  Since I’m in test mode, I decided to try a different flower tutorial to see how they compare.  In the end, I liked the look of the first flower (in red) more and ended up having to trim down the pink flowers a bit because I thought they were too tall.  I also tried making the first flower using just a glue gun, but found that sewing the pieces together ultimately resulted in a tighter and neater looking result.  These was super easy to make, and I encourage you all to try this out yourselves!

Materials:

1 sheet red felt

2 5″ square sheets pink felt

1 sheet green felt

1 headband (I went to the drugstore and got the Goody wide-band headbands, like these)

hot glue gun

needle and thread

Step 1: Make (3) flowers from the flower tutorials linked above.

Step 2: Cut out 3-4 leaves from the green felt.  I liked them in different sizes and I embroidered some veining on the leaves to add a little detail to this.

Step 3: Glue the flowers and leaves onto the headband using the hot glue gun.  Wait for it to cool.  Voilá!  you’re done!

Apparently, Pancakes are a Baby Girl’s Best Friend….

My daughter just turned one not too long ago and has now graduated to eating all the foods that my husband and I eat.  She seems to have a very discerning palate, veering away from blander foods and opting for whatever happens to be on our plate.  Well, it’s always a challenge to figure out what to feed her, especially since she doesn’t seem to like eating the same thing over and over again.

One week-end, I was lying in bed before going to sleep, and thought that it had been a really long time since I had made pancakes!  Suddenly, I had a craving for pancakes and resolved to make them the next day.  I know that my daughter’s daycare gives them pancakes sometimes for breakfast so I figured I’d give it a try.  I made a really simple pancake recipe from scratch, smothered some good organic maple syrup on top,  and took her organic apple sauce and spread it onto the pancake.  I cut it up into pieces and put it on a plate in front of her.  I am not kidding you, these pancakes disappeared so quickly I didn’t even know what happened.  I didn’t expect her to finish a whole pancake so I actually ended up giving her half of one of my pancakes since she kept pointing insistently at my plate!

I have since made this recipe a number of times, but sprinkle in chocolate chips for the “adult” version.  It’s a very fast recipe and very easy to make with ingredients that are usually laying around in the pantry.

Pancakes – makes (5) 5″ round pancakes

1 C all-purpose flour
1 T granulated sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 beaten egg
1 C whole milk
2 T cooking oil

1. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients and form a well in the center.

2. Pour the wet ingredients into the well and whisk everything together until just combined and the large lumps have been incorporated.

3. Turn heat on low and ladle batter into a small frying pan until the batter just covers the bottom completely.  Let the pancake bubble and pop and wait for the edges to look dry.  Using a spatula, run it around the edges to loosen it from the pan and check to see if it is lightly golden.  Flip pancake and cook a 2-3 minutes on the other side or until golden.  Place on plate.  Smother with maple syrup and organic applesauce and serve.  Yum!

Loop-di-loop

I’ve made quite a number of hats now, and while I enjoy coming up with new designs for hats, I started to think of other items I could crochet to try and broaden my horizons and improve my skills.  I started looking on pinterest for different crochet ideas, and I thought that making a baby afghan would be such a great challenge!  Just the size itself is something to keep me occupied for a while!  I had the idea to make it for my very good friend who had her second daughter this spring.

When I first started on my crochet craze, I shared with my sister-in-law what I was making and she suddenly offered me 2 large unused skeins of babysoft yarn.  I thought that these would be put to good use for the afghan.  I began looking for different patterns to use and actually started two patterns before I settled on this final one.  I started a granny square blanket, but this didn’t seem to be as interesting in just one color.  Most granny pattern afghans I see are interesting not just in their pattern, but also in their color choices.  Since I had two balls of yarn of a gauge that I didn’t normally use, I wanted to try and use it all up.  I didn’t want to buy more colors of the same type of yarn, so I was going to make a monochromatic blanket.

As I was browsing pinterest for interesting ideas, I came across an image for the broomstick lace crochet stitch here that I thought was beautiful!  I wasn’t sure how this would turn out for a blanket, but I figured I’d give it a go.  My first round of this stitch, I followed the directions on the blog.  But, I found I had difficulty keeping the loops the same size when they were all just hanging out like that.  I researched a little more and saw that some sites suggested using a thick knitting needle to hold all of the loose stitches before gathering them and crocheting them together.  Since I don’t have any knitting needles on hand, I scoured my apartment for something that would serve and ended up using one of our wooden cooking spoons.  My husband was a little confused when I went to the kitchen and came back triumphantly wielding a wooden spoon to hunker down and crochet with!  Haha!  Well, it works, so you use what you have, right?

This was my first afghan and it definitely had its challenges.  I had quite a difficult time keeping track of all the stitches and ended up dropping a number of stitches and having to pull out half of my progress at one point, which set me back about a week of work!  It was frustrating, but in the end, I’m glad that I did it since it really made a difference to the end result.  Finishing this blanket left me more relieved than anything, but I’m glad that I took on the challenge!

Seeing Double

A while back, when I first started my hat craze, I learned that one of my colleagues that I know from work was having twin baby boys. I was very excited to make little twin newborn hats for them, welcoming them to the world! Something that stuck in my mind was a conversation I had with the father about how he abhorred the idea of having his sons wear all the same clothes all the time because they were individuals.

I thought about this comment and resolved to make little twin hats that looked similar but were each unique! Since I this is back when I just began learning how to make hats, the design is fairly basic. I wanted them to look similar, but to each be different, so I decided on alternating stripes.  I added a red pom pom to the top to add a little color and interest to the colors of the hat.

I was very excited when I finished these and ended up putting them on some of my daughter’s stuffed animals to see how they might fit.  They looked pretty cute and I left them on as I left the room to go do something else.  Well, my husband happened to come in the room after me and see the hats on the stuffed animals and burst out laughing.  I guess it would be a pretty funny sight to walk in on!

You’ll have to excuse the quality of the photo as well.  We had just received our new digital SLR so I was still learning how to use it.  I was very happy with these hats hope the the new owners got some good wear out of them before the weather turned warm!

Boston-bound

Unfortunately, I was unable work on anything to post for this week because I went away for the week-end. One of my very good friends got married so we drove to Boston to celebrate the big occasion. It was wonderful to be back, even if it was only for one day. We had a great time seeing old friends and showing my daughter my old neighborhood.

While we were there, we were fortunate enough to eat at a wonderful little bakery called Flour before our drive back home.  It was right around the corner from our hotel, so it was really convenient!  We walked by and there was a crowd of people waiting outside.  We figured this was a good sign and stood outside by the door, where, inadvertently, a line formed behind us of people waiting to get inside!  Haha… oops.  I guess we looked like we knew what we were doing!  My daughter was asleep in her stroller, so when the doors opened, I went to stake out a table while my husband got pick out goodies for us to try.  The place reminded me of a starbucks-type setup where there was the order bar and a location to pick up your orders.  It looked mainly like a bakery to me with a series of single tables and a long communal table.  We ended up getting some croissants and a scone for my daughter, since one of my friends had raved about their pastries.  The croissants were delicious.  Flaky, buttery, crispy on the outside but chewy and light on the inside.  Yum!

As we looked around, the place really filled up quickly.  It soon became apparent to us that people came as much for the pastries as for the hot breakfast items.  Breakfast sandwiches, quiches, you name it.  It all smelled delicious.  Unfortunately, we were in a bit of a hurry so as my daughter woke up to the sound of coffee being brewed and the smell of bacon being fried (what a way to wake up!), we hurried her through a mid-morning breakfast on a currant scone, which she thoroughly enjoyed, and prepared to drive home.  If you’re ever in the Cambridge, MA area, I would recommend checking them out, but get there early!  They fill up quick!

A Pound of Goodness

Baking time!  This week I made a lemon pound cake for our weekly breakfast venture!  The weather had been getting really beautiful and I just feel like lemons and spring are in the air!

This next bread is a twist on a classic that I grew up on.  Ever since I was little my mom has been making pound cake.  This recipe is really easy and can be adapted in many ways.  I remember my first time taking a bite of this cake and thinking “oh my god, this is so fluffy and the crust is so crunchy!”  It was such an amazing blend of flavors and textures that I asked my mom to teach me how to make it.  I think I then proceeded to make an entire bundt pan of it each week for the next couple weeks and finally my dad asked me to stop because of how many eggs were in it!

Anyways, I love this cake and I’ve put my own twist by adding the lemon juice and zest.  For the plain pound cake, just don’t add these items.  I hope you enjoy it!

Lemon Pound Cake (makes 1 5×9 loaf pan or if you double it, 1 bundt pan)

1/2 C butter, room temperature
1 1/2 C granulated sugar
3 eggs (imagine a double recipe…. 6 eggs!)
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 C flour
1/2 C whipping cream
juice of 1 lemon
zest of 1 lemon

1. Grease loaf pan and set aside.  Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy

2. Add vanilla.  Using a hand mixer, beat eggs in one at a time until well incorporated.

3. Add flour 1/2 a cup at a time, mixing after each addition. Pour in whipping cream and beat on med-high speed for 5 minutes until the batter is smooth and fluffy looking.  Pour in the lemon juice and the zest and mix well.

4. Pour into the greased loaf pan.  Put pan into a cold oven and turn temperature on to 375°.  Cook for 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.  Remove from oven and place on a cooling rack in the loaf pan for 10 minutes.  Remove from pan and cool completely.