Thursday, November 16, 2017

chocolate hazelnut caramel + ganache

Too much? Never too much. Or too little. Because I'm a big believer that amazing things come in little packages. And when things are little, I can eat more of them. Right? If you knew me in college, or in LA, or if you know me now! know that I always have a bag of little chocolates stashed somewhere in the kitchen, for those times when I just need a little treat. Sometimes there's a bag in the fridge (cause some chocolate is better cold). And sometimes there's a bag of chocolate chips half-opened and half-eaten (cause they're great on crackers with peanut butter). But in general--Life is like a box of chocolates. And every day should include a small bit of it....with all the caramel strings attached. Seriously. I may or may not be eating chocolate AS I'm writing this post. But what is one to do, when this is their job for the day??? My kids watched me editing these photos and said, Mom, your job is to talk about chocolate?? (this is going to take career day to a whole new level) But yesss. I was contacted by Godiva Masterpieces to share a little story. And to share their cute indulgent chocolates, which you can now buy in a bag at the grocery store! Woohoo! They're individually wrapped (perfect) ((and easy to give away in goodie bags or gifts)) (((and would be so fun in a guest room))) But I'm getting ahead of myself here. Let's jump back to 1992. Yep. That's me with those awesome eyebrows. And when Godiva asked me to share their new Godiva Masterpieces I was like....ummm. Yes! I worked at a Godiva shop in high school! It was blogging destiny. I don't know why I have a photo of me in my Godiva apron, working at the store, when I was 16? My mom must have stopped by the mall that day. But I'm glad I do. It's fun to see these pics side-by-side, 20 (+) years apart. I can still remember that first day on the job when we tried some of the famous Godiva flavors, which is what the Masterpieces are based on--their most decadent, legendary pieces. Like the Milk Chocolate Hazelnut Oyster: Guys. Up until this point in my short life I had never tasted hazelnut before. How is that possible? And when I bit into that thing, it was like part of my life had been found. And now I think of it in two parts--life before hazelnut chocolate filling; and life after. Mmmm. So delicious. Of course there's also the famous Milk Chocolate Lion (which also comes individually wrapped in the Masterpieces bags). And I love how easy it is to purchase high-end chocolates, right at the grocery store, and have a little treat when I need it. They're the perfect little size. I "heart" dark chocolate ganache. Heh heh.So for this post, Godiva asked me to come up with a fun way to use their new Masterpieces for the holidays, and every day. And since my family loves to sit around the table and chat and share stories and laugh (that's my brother and his wife in the photos above), I immediately thought of a dinner party. I grabbed a bag of Godiva Masterpieces, wrote some mixer-game questions on pieces of paper, and taped them to the back of each individually-wrapped chocolate. You could do this so many different an appetizer, or as a post-dinner sweet treat. But the idea is to pass the basket around, each person picks a chocolate and has to answer the question on the back before they can eat the chocolate. Share two truths and one lie. Where would you like to travel to most? What was your best grade in school? Your worst grade? Three things you're thankful for? The craziest thing you did as a teenager? Share something you love about the person on your left? Obviously the questions can be modified to include children in the game too. And you can mix it up with "questions" like, steal the candy of the person on your right and answer their question. And then that person gets another piece of chocolate. I really love this kind of conversation, even with family that I've known for years. You always find out thing you still don't know about a person--even your spouse. And, you get to eat chocolate. Win-win. I highly recommend throwing a dinner party and see where it takes you. Thank you Godiva for letting me relive my high school memories---and for bringing them up-to-date with the Masterpieces chocolates. If you want to find out more you can check out Godiva Masterpieces here (they also have chocolate bars. Mmm). And look for the Masterpieces bags in your local grocery or retail store. Happy early holidays! Save

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Almond Berry Linzer Cookies

I have always wanted to make these cookies.
And I'm not sure why it's taken me this long??
They're so beautiful, like little stained glass windows.
And they're amazingly delicious.
They're the kind of cookies that make your house smell like Christmas.
And puts a smile on every kid (and husband's) face.
Yep.  That's what these are all about.
I guess the reason I finally ventured out and tried this gorgeous cookies is that Crisco All-vegetable shortening asked me to share a holiday recipe with you.  So I tried something new.

I already use Crisco for the Never Fail Pie Crust recipe, and I use it in my favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies, and also in the Gingerbread Softies (Dang.  Are the holidays here yet??  I need all of these).

So I already know how amazing Crisco works in baked goods.  It really gives cookies that really light-and-crisp-but-still-soft kind of touch.  It's hard to describe----it's just that, magic of Crisco!
And I LOVE the Crisco butter-flavor baking sticks because it makes the process even easier.  For this recipe, you just toss in one stick. EASY.

(makes appx. 2 dozen cookies)

1 stick Crisco® Baking Sticks Butter Flavor All-Vegetable Shortening (or 1 cup of Crisco)
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp almond extract

2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup ground almonds (optional)

Berry jam
Powdered sugar for dusting

Beat the first four ingredients in a bowl with an electric mixer for one minute. 
In a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients together.  The ground almonds are optional, but they are SO good in there---they add a lot of flavor.  To create the ground almonds, I took a small package of sliced almonds and ground them in my food processor. If you don't have one, just crunch them up with your hands or use a mallet over a bag.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix, just until incorporated.  Try not to over mix.

Work in small batches and roll the dough onto a floured surface, till it's fairly thin.  It's important to work in small batches so your dough doesn't become oversaturated with flour and become heavy.  You want to it stay light and soft.  I also prefer to roll the dough as thin as possible without it breaking, since you are going to sandwich two cookies together in the end.  This makes for a lighter cookie if you can roll them thin. 

Use a cookie cutter to cut out many stars (you can use other shapes too.  I just like the look of stars, but they're definitely more fragile to work with!).  Use a metal spatula to transfer the stars to a baking sheet.   Then use a smaller cookie cutter to cut out a smaller star from the center, on half of the cookies.  Remove the smaller star with a toothpick.

Bake the cookies at 350 degrees for 6-8 minutes. 
Allow the cookies to cook.  Then comes the fun part...

Use your favorite berry jams to create the little "stained glass" windows.  I used homemade Strawberry Jam, Blackberry, and some other berry mixes.  It looks so pretty to use a variety of colors.  Maybe I should throw jalapeno jelly in there for a real holiday mix!

Spread a small amount of jam in the center of each full star.  You don't need a lot of jam, or it will drip over the side.

Then dust the cut-out cookies with powdered sugar.  Place them on a baking sheet or plate to do this---and shake a small strainer filled with powdered sugar over the top.  Then place each window cookie on top of the jam cookies and carefully sandwich them together.
And you're done!

Mmmm.  I can smell these all over again.
And I definitely won't admit how many I ate while preparing this blog post.
Of course every bit started with,  "I'll just eat one point of the star"....and ended with me having to try every flavor in the mix.
Hooray for the holidays!  And hooray for Crisco.

For more recipe ideas, check out the RECIPES tab at the top.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Everyday Sweatshirt Pattern is HERE!

You guys. This has been a long time coming!
But I'm SO excited to finally announce that the Everyday Sweatshirt Pattern has arrived!

We'll show you how to turn cozy piles of this, into....

I hope you have a blast sewing up all the best sweatshirt options -- kangaroo pocket, high low, tunic length, and optional puffed sleeves. It's the perfect cold weather staple for your boys AND girls, babies AND tweens.


The Everyday Sweatshirt - $9
Purchase HERE.

There are 11 Sizes and 5 Styles.
You'll find all the info HERE in the SHOP.
But here's some more details...

The Basic version of the Everyday Sweatshirt is the classic that you'll reach for over and over again. But it's also infinitely customizable. I love contrasting ribbing! And this lace-overlay version I made for Clara is one of my favorites... so far...

The High-Low version is really one of the reasons I wanted to create this pattern. I love the look of a high-low hemline!

Plus you can make it with no ribbing, so simple. It's also got you covered with a wide size range - 12 months to 12 years.
And finally, I had to throw in another couple fun options. The tunic length is perfect for leggings (or you could even extend it a few more inches for a little dress). And for just a tiny added effort, the puffed sleeves add an adorable little girly touch.

I have no idea why, but Clara has decided that glasses are her new favorite accessory for photoshoots. But I completely agree.

Whatever style you choose, it's going to be a party.
And if you've been subscribing to our newsletter....
You know that we announced and released this pattern yesterday to you guys!  That's right, another high five for reading our newsletter.

Plus, we gave away FIVE FREE PATTERNS to newsletter readers as well.
Woot woot.
So subscribe to our newsletter over there in the right-hand column.

When you're ready to sew your Everyday Sweatshirt, we've also created a HEADQUARTERS page----with additional links, fabric info, tips, FAQs, and other tutorials. This will be an ongoing resource page that grows over time.   So check that out as well.

Now walk your little fingers over to the SHOP!
Happy Sweatshirt Sewing my friends.

Friday, October 28, 2016

How to be Nick Wilde the Fox from Zootopia

Owen is a pretty funny kid.
In groups and social scenes, he's somewhat quiet and shy.
But ask him to dance or model for photos?....and he totally hams it up.

In fact he wasn't an ounce embarrassed to be walking the streets dressed like a fox, with mom and camera close behind. 

Like Nick Wilde, I think he enjoyed the attention of owning the moment.
What a guy.

Oh, this fox head was so much fun to make.  And could be used for so many different animals ---- bear, pig, bunny, elephant.

The best moment of the season is when Owen walked in the room and saw the finished fox head and bellowed out, "EPIC!"  Haha. 
Making Halloween dreams come true for everyone.

Now, in all honesty when Owen said he wanted to be Nick the fox from Zootopia, I first looked on Amazon so I could click and purchase a costume.  I'm kind of in that "we can only make one kid's halloween costume a year" mode.
But I was totally unimpressed with what I saw.  The costumes were all those onesie type things, where the shirt and pants are attached and the whole thing velcros in the back?
No gracias.

So we put together our own look, with the fox head being the star.


You'd be surprised how hard it is to find a green shirt!  So....RIT Dye to the rescue. 

• I found a white cotton shirt at Old Navy and dyed it in a bowl in my sink, using this liquid Apple Green dye.  His shirt in the movie is actually a green print with palm leaves, but this was close enough. Make sure your shirt is 100% cotton or it might not dye properly (see next bullet point)

Use my tutorial here for info on dying fabric and elastic.

 It's also hard to find simple blue/pink striped fabric. So....

• I cut out a tie using my Everyday Necktie Pattern, in navy blue fabric.  
• I sewed skinny satin ribbon to the fabric to create the stripes, spacing them about an inch apart.  I just used the width of my ruler to help guide me.  I sewed the ribbon the whole length of the outer tie fabric (it didn't take as long as you would think).   And I actually love how it turned out.  The satin makes the cotton fabric feel a bit "fancy".  I might have to try this technique for reals on other ties.


As I mentioned above, the real star of this costume is the head----kind of like adding a yarn wig to your ensemble.
I'll have to do a full tutorial for this later.  But here are some photos to get you started:

• I used the same concept as the Bat Costumes, Kitty Cat Costume, and the hood in the Beach Robe Pattern.
• I used white faux fur for the outer head and orange cotton fabric for the lining.
• I drafted my own patterns and sewed everything first.  Then I spray-painted everything with orange paint.
• For the tail, I added stuffing and bunch of floral wire stems so the tail could bend and stick out.
• Once the orange paint dried, I used black spray paint to add some accents.
• Then I sewed the ears to the head (similar to the Cat and Bat costumes)
• I added two ties at the bottom of the hood so it would stay on his head (but this is optional.  It would have stayed on without the straps also).  I used pieces of bias tape with velcro attached.

And there you go!
Hat and tail ready to go.

(And, another goofball who likes to get into character.
The moves were all her own.  I merely asked her to try it on for size. )

• The tail is attached to the back waistband of the pants with a couple safety pins.

I pinned the tail from underneath...meaning: when you're pinning, hold the tail UP toward the shirt, then when you flip it over it helps it to stick out more.  

Then throw on your brown pants and make your sly way to the party. 

Happy Halloween from Willardtopia!
Have a festive weekend!