August 24, 2015

Lemon Surprise Cookies


I tried a new cookie recipe yesterday and am very glad to share this success with others.  It's a chewy, sweet but tart, light cookie that's perfect for summer (or the tail end of summer, as everyone is feeling heading up to labor day).  It reminds me a bit of my chocolate peanut butter surprise cookies as far as technique goes, so I made a batch of those as well for my lucky coworkers.
The recipe comes courtesy of SewLicious Home Decor.  I've only made a few edits to make the instructions a bit easier for me to follow.  Enjoy!

Lemon Surprise Cookies
Yields approx. 2 dozen cookies
Prep time: 1-2 hours (filling needs to freeze before baking)
Bake time: 10 minutes



  • 1 box supreme white cake mix (just using the powder mix; you do not prepare it as directed on the box)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil (not butter)
  • 3.4-oz box lemon Jello instant pudding mix
Cheesecake Filling
  • 4 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  1. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Prepare cheesecake filling, mixing together all ingredients until creamy.  Spoon teaspoon-size dollops onto prepared baking sheet.  Place in freezer 1 hour or more until set.
  3. In a mixing bowl, combine the cookie ingredients (cake mix, eggs, oil, and pudding mix).  Turn dough out onto saran wrap and refrigerate until cheesecake filling is set.
  4. When filling is firm, preheat oven to 350° and assemble cookies.  Scoop 1-2 tablespoons of cookie dough and flatten into a circle in your palm.  Place a frozen dollop of cheesecake filling into center, and roll cookie dough around the filling, being careful to close up all seams.  Roll into a ball.
  5. Place balls of dough with filling centers on baking sheet about 2 inches apart.
  6. Bake 8-12 minutes or until set.  The tops won't brown, but the bottoms will.
  7. Remove from oven and gently press down each cookie with a spatula or the bottom of a cup to flatten slightly.  Let sit on baking sheet 2 minutes, then transfer to wire rack.
  8. Serve warm, or cool completely before storing.
Aaa!  They just look so summery and yummy!  I wish I could give you smell-o-vision, too.

Mmm- delicious filling.

August 23, 2015

Carpenter's Star Christmas Quilt Part 1

If there's one thing I've learned from my overdue blogging, it's that I forget the details from my crafts and recipes.  Trying to avoid that, I'm going to start detailing some of the exciting specifics as I begin piecing together my newest quilt!  It's a gorgeous carpenter's star I first saw on this quilt on Pinterest.  I figured out my own pattern from that (sadly, the link only showed the final quilting- not the pattern), and I made a quilt for my mother-in-law last Christmas.  A couple more baby quilts later, I wanted to revive the carpenter's star pattern for a red and white Christmas quilt for my family.  I am well aware that it is still summer, but I like having plenty of time to poke around and work on a quilt.  I made the one for my mother-in-law in a breakneck 6 weeks last winter and I have no need to repeat that frenzy.

So, those details I mentioned:


Fabric (for twin size quilt)
[Note: will result in plenty of extra fabric (~1/3 yard per color), which I count as a good thing for inevitable bad cuts, poor calculation (cough cough), stains, loved ones running off with bits of fabric, or other quilting- or life-related issues.)
  • 4 yards white fabric
  • 4 yards red fabric
  • 1/2 yard binding fabric
  • 4 1/2 yards backing fabric
  • Twin quilt batting- high loft
  • Red thread
  • White thread

For the quilt top, I ended up getting 4 different patterns of red fabric (1 yard each), 3 patterns of white fabric (1 yard each), and 1 pattern with holly leaves- a mix of red, white, and green, as an accent stand in for some white parts of the star (1 yard).  I got a different red for the binding, and am using one of my red quilt top patterns for the backing (so for that pattern, I got 5 1/2 yards of fabric total).  With a 20% off coupon, the supplies all cost ~$80 I think.

Squares and Half-Square Triangles (HSTs)
  • For each color, cut 12 squares and 24 HSTs
  • Squares measure 5 1/2" square
  • HSTs cut from 5 7/8" squares; end triangle measurement is 5 7/8 x 5 7/8 x 8 1/4; HSTs sewn together will measure 5 1/2" square, the same as your regular squares
I definitely needed to capture these measurements because I did NOT remember my sizes from the last star quilt.  I tried looking up some handy dandy charts online, and unfortunately the one I followed was off, perhaps because I wasn't cutting my HSTs the same way they were.  There are a lot of great tricks to save you time, but they require you to have multiple triangle pairs of the same two fabrics, which is not the case in my quilt.  What I did was cut each larger square, and cut it in half to get 2 triangles.  That likely threw off my end measurements to be bigger than the blossom heart quilts table.  Live and learn, right?  I had a lot of excess fabric so I cut new squares (now 5 1/2" square) to match my larger assembled HST squares.

After hours of cutting and laying out the pieces in the pattern, here's where I wound up:

As you can see, my designated spot in the living room was too small, so I had to lay out portions on the couch.  That's ok.  :)  You can see the few spots where I swapped out an all-white portion for the holly pattern.  I originally had the holly scattered throughout the white parts and it was too distracting, so I consolidated into designated groups and was much happier.

I currently have 4 or 5 rows sewn together, so I'm about 1/4 of the way through the quilt top rows.  Onward and upward!

June 18, 2015

Summer Squash and Herb Gratin

This delicious zucchini and squash dish comes courtesy of a cookbook my brother and sister-in-law got me for Christmas, The New Southern Table.  Summery and cheesy with amazing crispy breadcrumbs on top!  It's really similar to my cheesy baked zucchini but with a richer taste and texture because it is sauteed first, and of course because of the gratin.  Mmmm.

Summer Squash and Herb Gratin
Serves 2-3 as a side dish


  • 1 large zucchini, cut into slices and then quartered
  • 1 large squash, cut into slices and then quartered
  • 1-2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan, divided
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  1. Place the squash quarters in a colander and generously season with the salt.  Let sit 20 minutes, rinse with cold water, then thoroughly dry with a kitchen towel.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400°.
  3. Heat 1 tablespoon of the butter in a medium-size skillet over medium heat.  When the butter melts, swirl the pan for 2-4 minutes, or until the butter is lightly browned.  Add the bread crumbs and cook, stirring constantly, 2-4 minutes or until the bread crumbs are browned.  Transfer to a bowl, and stir in 1/4 cup of the Parmesan.
  4. Heat the olive oil and remaining tablespoon of butter in the same saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add the squash first, then the garlic, and cook.  Stir often and cook 6-8 minutes, or until the squash is tender and brown in spots.  Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the remaining 1/2 cup of Parmesan, seasonings, and pepper to taste.
  5. Transfer the squash to a shallow, oven-proof dish, such as a pie dish or casserole dish.  Top with the Parmesan and bread crumb mixture and bake 20-30 minutes, or until hot and bubbly.

March 4, 2015

Christopher and the Purple Crayon

My son recently celebrated his 5th birthday, and one of his gifts was the classic book, Harold and the Purple Crayon.  It left quite the impression on my little artist, and he wanted to make his own version of the book.  Here are pics of his book, with some notes to explain it along the way.  Enjoy.

While Harold starts with the moon, Christopher chose the sun.  Maybe it's because he's golden.

Apple trees


Picnic lunch

The hungry moose and porcupine get to eat the lunch leftovers.

Hot air balloon

Hot air balloon lands on the grass at Christopher's house.

February 8, 2015

One Pot Chicken and Rice

Oh little blog, how neglected you are!  I've been cooking and crafting away since the holidays, but not taking time to enter the fun details here.  This recipe is the perfect example.  I made it for the first time December 10th (according to the date stamp on the photo) and have easily made it a half dozen times since then.  Each time I have to go to the pin, rather than using my own tweaked notes!  Crazysauce.  So let's try to remedy that, shall we?

The original recipe comes courtesy of Natasha's Kitchen, and kudos to her for finding such a flavorful way to pull these common ingredients together.  I've tried other chicken and rice casseroles that included broccoli and cheese but somehow failed to come together as well as this one does.  I'm also happy to share that after just a couple times making this recipe, I was able to find the tweaks I needed to get it just right in my eyes.  One of those involves knife skills.  Fun!

One Pot Chicken and Rice

Prep time: 15 minutes  Cook time: 30 min
Serves: 4-6

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1/2 cup yellow onion, diced
  • 2 large carrots, cut into matchsticks (skinny sticks, ~2" long; see tutorial here), though I prefer julienne
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt, divided
  • 2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 1 cup white wine, such as Chardonnay (or 1/2 cup water:1/2 cup chicken broth mixture)
  • 5 cups hot chicken broth (I usually warm it up in a separate pot, which makes this a two-pot meal, but you can microwave it, too)
  • 2 cups Jasmine rice
  • 1 head garlic, top and some of the peel cut off but leaving root in tact (see here)
  • 1/3 cup fresh curly parsley (not flat leaf), chopped
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
  1. You definitely need to prep all of your ingredients beforehand!  Have them nicely laid out in the order you'll need them.
  2. Heat oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter in a dutch oven (large, heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid) on medium/high heat.  Stir in onion, carrots, and 1 teaspoon of the salt and turn heat down to medium.  Sautee until soft and golden, 8-10 minutes.  If onion begins to brown too quickly, turn heat down to medium/low.
  3. Add chicken, the other teaspoon of salt, pepper, and bay leaves.  Saute until chicken is golden all over, 5 minutes.
  4. Turn the heat up to high and add the white wine.  Boil down the wine, scraping the bottom, until most of the wine has evaporated (3-5 minutes).
  5. Add the hot chicken broth, then stir in the rice.
  6. Nestle the cut and partially peeled head of garlic into the center of the pot.  Bring to a rolling boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 15-20 minutes or until rice is fully cooked.
  7. Turn off the heat, scoop out the garlic head and discard, and stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter until melted and incorporated.  Then stir in the parsley and 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese.  Serve with a small sprinkle of Parmesan on top.
Looks so great as it all cooks up!  I can taste it now.  Gaah!

January 4, 2015

Cheesy Pesto Rolls

I've been loving on recipes from How Sweet It Is for years now, and once again find another winner with this delicious pesto bread.  They're packed with flavor, an amazing balance of soft with crispy cheesy tops, and just right for sprucing up any dinner.
On a side note, this recipe makes the rolls from scratch.  You could easily use store-bought rolls and top them with the pesto and cheeses, but you won't get anywhere near the rich flavor and amazing texture you get with the from-scratch approach.

Cheesy Pesto Rolls

Makes: 14 large rolls  Total Time: 3 hours


  • 1 cup warm milk
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1 packet (2 teaspoons) active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided, plus more for work surface
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1/3 cup basil pesto, divided (I bought a jar of pesto, but you can easily make some by blending fresh basil and olive oil in a blender or food processor)
  • 1/4 cup finely grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese, plus more for topping
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter
  • 6 ounces fontina cheese, freshly grated
  • Chopped fresh basil for garnish
  1. Mix the warm milk and water in the bowl of a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment.  Add the yeast and honey, then the olive oil.  Let stand until foamy (about 15 minutes).  Note: The foaming will be obvious.  If the mixture looks the same as when you started, your yeast may not be good.  If so, start again with another packet of yeast.
  2. Add 2 1/2 cups of the flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 egg, 2 tablespoons of the pesto, and 1/4 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese.  Mix on medium-low speed until just incorporated.  Switch to the dough hook, knead on low speed, and slowly add the remaining 1 cup of flour.  Mix on low speed for 5-6 minutes.  The dough should be slightly sticky but still pull away from the sides of the bowl.  If it's too sticky, slowly add more flour until silky in appearance.
  3. Oil a large bowl.  Turn out the dough into the oiled bowl, cover with a damp dish cloth, and set in a warm place (such as on top of a warm oven).  Let stand 1 1/2 to 2 hours until dough is roughly doubled in size.
  4. Lightly flour a work surface, gently turn your dough out onto the surface, and knead a few times.  Tear off 12-15 equal pieces of dough.
  5. Preheat oven to 350°.  Brush a large oven-safe skillet with melted butter.  Roll your pieces of dough into balls and place in the skillet.  Brush with the melted butter and sprinkle with the grated fontina cheese.  Spread the pesto on top and between the rolls.
  6. Bake 30-35 minutes or until golden and cooked through.  Remove from oven and sprinkle with some more parmigiano-reggiano cheese and chopped fresh basil.  Serve warm.
Little dough balls waiting for the pan.

Nestled in, topped with cheese and pesto.  Already smells great!

Loooook at that golden amazing wonderfulness!

Pro tip: Whenever you make something with a skillet in the oven, put an oven mitt on the handle when you take it out.  This way, when you inevitably reach for the handle, you touch the mitt and not the blazing hot handle.


I don't care that I'm writing this at 9 am.  I want some RIGHTNOW.

December 11, 2014

Broken Herringbone Quilt: Work in Progress Part 5 (Final Part!)

For the FINAL installment in my Broken Herringbone Quilt series, we pick up where we left off in Part 4, and move on with the actual quilting and binding for this amazing quilt.

First, lay the quilt top on the batting.  Leave a good size excess past the quilt top in each direction (in this case, 2-3").  Trim excess past that.

Trimmed to make it manageable to work with but still leave extra.  As I quilt from the center outward, the quilt top will expand a bit so I need to know I'll have batting to quilt onto by the time I reach the edges.

Flip the quilt top and batting over and lay down the backing fabric.  For this quilt I just wanted a crisp white back.  I had to cut two pieces of fabric and sew them together to get the right length/width for my lap quilt.  The yardage just wasn't wide enough on its own straight from the bolt, and this is pretty common.
Fold the fabric in half over itself and spray the batting with spray adhesive. Carefully lay the backing fabric onto the sprayed portion of the batting, and repeat for the other side.  Flip the quilt over gently and spray the quilt top into place as well.

I didn't use adhesive on my first quilt and I can say it did make a difference while it retained its stick.  I took weeks to quilt this bad boy, though, so by the end the adhesive had worn off.  Maybe it's because I used this tacky spray instead of one specifically made for quilting.

Sprayed and smoothed out.  Now we pin!

It helps a lot to use these curved safety pins that reach down into the layers and then come back up so smoothly, rather than a straight safety pin.

I pinned in most of my herringbone rectangles, but I ran out of safety pins.  This proved troublesome later so I recommend you invest in a mountain of safety pins so you can pin each square/rectangle in your pattern.  You don't want things stretching out of place as you quilt.

Make sure your pins go all the way through the layers, too!  I'd periodically flip the quilt to make sure I saw them peeking through the backing fabric.

And now the quilting can commence!  I was delighted to realize I did in fact have a quilting foot that came with my sewing machine.  Especially with this pattern, the quilting foot was a LIFESAVER.  You can go in any direction without having to constantly stop, move the back button, restart, etc.

Laying out the quilt and starting in the middle of the quilt.  All the tutorials I read stressed how important that is.  So starting in the middle, I began tracing the white lines in my herringbone pattern.  I want that blank white back of the quilt to show the herringbone pattern clearly!

I've also learned to roll the excess quilt that I've already sewn or haven't yet sewn into this neat bundle under the sewing machine.  Just keep rolling/unrolling as you work and it makes that volume of fabric more manageable.

A little sneak peak of how tracing the herringbone pattern on the quilt top translates on the back of the quilt.

Quilting done!  Ermahgerd!  Time to trim the leftover batting, which you can see was pretty much what I started with.  Hmm.  Not sure if the stretching that takes place while quilting is as dramatic as I thought it was, but oh well.  Not a bother at all. :)

This point is so deceptive.  It's super exciting because it's SO CLOSE to done, but binding is no small feat.  Sigh.  Onward march.

I'm binding the fabric in navy blue, and I've already cut 5 strips that are 3" wide, and as long as the width of my lap quilt (WOF).  I need to attach the pieces end-to-end perpendicularly.  So step one is to attach the ends at an angle like this and pin in place.

Then draw a straight line across the diagonal where they meet.  Stitch in navy thread to be all coordinating and feel overly proud of yourself.

Cut off the part past your seam, leaving about 1/4" past the seam.

When you unfold, the strips are now attached at a diagonal.  My strips never lined up perfectly but I guess it's no big deal as you walk through the folds and everything that takes place with binding.

Once the strips are all sewn together, it's time to fold them in half (definitely iron so the fold stays put) and pin them in place along the edge of the quilt, raw edge lining up with the raw edge of the quilt.  You'll have a lot of excess binding at the beginning and end.

Just kind of pin that excess out of the way.  You'll need to carefully sew the beginning and end to each other when you finish up.  I have no hope of explaining that process well myself, so I'll just direct you to the tutorial I used here.

Once that's done you sew along the edges (1/4" seam allowance), and fold the fabric over to the back.  Hand stitch in place.

AND THEN YOU'RE DONE!  Eeeee!  Look at that herringbone design all over the back.  Ahhh.

Close up!

The quilt is done!  Time dance around the kitchen like a crazy person.  Post to FB about 2 seconds later.

I seriously love this quilt so much.  It looks beautiful and colorful and I love the patterns.  It's a great size for my 4-year-old son to snuggle up with, or even little me for that matter.  For my tall husband it just covers his lap when he's lounging on the couch and that's fine.  Big pat on my back for this one, and a mental note to enter it in the fair next summer. ;)