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Monday, November 26, 2012

Ginger Sour Cream Bundt Cake

By Kari Baker-Lott

This is a delicious cake that is quick to prepare. I love it because it is as simple as making a plain bundt cake, but the sour cream creates a density and moistness that most bundt cakes lack. It took me about twenty minutes to prep the pan and make the batter and the baking took about an hour.

  • Softened butter for buttering pan (I softened 2 tablespoons but I could have just used 1)
  • ½ cup raw sugar
  • 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup softened butter (2 sticks)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • ½ cup crystallized or candied ginger (chopped)
I pulled all my ingredients out first to make sure I had everything. (There is nothing worse than starting to cook something and realizing you need one more egg than you have.) I prepared the pan after I made sure I had all the ingredients.
To prepare the pan, first you need to rub the small amount of softened butter in the pan with a paper towel. Then you sprinkle the raw sugar into the bundt pan and turn the pan to cover all areas (if you don’t spread the butter over the entire pan the sugar won’t stay properly). I didn’t measure exactly ½ cup of sugar. For this I eyeballed it because you just need enough to coat the pan.


Next, mix the flour, ginger, baking powder and salt together in a mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, beat the butter with an electric mixer. Add the sugar to the butter and beat. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well between each addition. Separate the egg yolk from egg number 5 and add that to the mixture with the vanilla.

Add the flour mixture in 3 additions alternately with sour cream in 2 additions. Mix well after each addition to create a smooth, thick batter. Chop the ginger and mix into the batter.

Spread the batter into the pan carefully as to not dislodge the sugar coating. The cake will rise as it bakes, so don’t be concerned if the batter only comes halfway up the pan. Bake 55 minutes to 1 hour until top is golden brown and a knife comes out with few, small crumbs.

Let cool in pan on cooling rack for 15 minutes. Tap the pan on the counter to loosen cake, and then place cooling rack face down on top of the cake. Flip cake on cooling rack and let cool completely.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Divine Domestics: Thanksgiving Edition

By Courtney PatachKandis HamrickKari Baker-Lott, and Victoria Kulig

Easy, Kid Friendly Crafts (by Kari)

Cornucopia Placemats

As a teacher, I am always looking for easy projects to do with my kids.  For our annual Thanksgiving Feast I needed a cute placemat, but I am completely over the handprint turkeys.  I made these at school with my kiddies (ages 3, 4, and 5) and the children were able to do the entire project with little to no help from an adult.  I printed the cornucopia, fruits and vegetables out on colored paper to save on class time, but they could easily be printed on white and colored.  The children ripped up different shades of brown paper and glued them to the cornucopia to make it look like a basket.  They glued everything down and we finished it off with some craft hay around the border.  We laminated ours because they did eat on them, but if you don’t have access to a laminator, you can use craft laminate sheets from Walmart or a craft store.

Adorable Pilgrim and Indian Centerpieces

I made these with my preschoolers and very soon after beginning the project, I realized that this was not the ideal age for this.  Although my kids were a little young for this project, these turned out crazy cute!!!!  They  painted the  toilet paper rolls for the pilgrims peach.  For the Native Americans, I mixed the peach color with brown paint to get the color darker.  I cut all the pieces out so they just had to glue them all together.  I didn’t have brown yarn, so I twisted pipe cleaners to make the braids for the Native Americans.  Once all the pieces were assembled, we glued the Pilgrims and Indians to a paper plate we painted green and then finished it off with a bundle of hay.

How to Cook a Turkey (by Courtney)

Every year we strive to make the BEST Thanksgiving Day feast and let’s face it, the turkey is always the center of attention. Well unless you’re Vegetarian or Vegan, in that case you get to indulge in all the scrumptious sides!

I’ve been using this recipe for the past 4 years now and my turkey has always come out perfect; golden crisp skin and juicy meat. This is by far the best recipe to date, that I have found on “How to Cook Turkey”!

Easy Pumpkin Mousse Shooters (by Kandis)

A couple of years ago, a friend introduced me to this pumpkin mousse recipe; it originally came from Weight Watchers. It’s super simple and absolute divinity. This a great alternative if you want that pumpkin taste without the heaviness of pumpkin pie. The original recipe calls for vanilla pudding, but I’ve also make it with butterscotch pudding.

You can find mini single-serving graham cracker crusts which will save you some time, or you can use a simple recipe to make your own graham cracker crust. If you want to make shooters you’ll need glasses to put your crust and mousse in. If you’re making your own graham cracker crust, you can follow simple recipe like this one, but then just press the graham cracker into the bottom of each glass. Fill the glass with the pumpkin mousse, leaving a little room on the top to add whipped cream (optional) then sprinkle a little more pumpkin pie spice on top for presentation.

Voila! Now you have a simple Thanksgiving dessert that can be made ahead of time and chilled. Plus, everything will already be portioned into single-servings to save you some time after dinner.

Keeping Thanksgiving Safe for your Dog and Cat (by Victoria)

Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday where everyone likes to gather all around a big table of food with their family, loved ones, and friends and be thankful for their time together. For a lot of families, my own included, this also includes our dogs.

It could be as simple as slipping a piece of turkey from your plate to the dog’s mouth, or clearing your plate after dinner and putting the leftovers in the dog’s bowl. Everyone means well, and the feeling of wanting to include the dog in the festivities is perfectly normal.

It is important to note however, that many of the foods we enjoy over the holidays can be very, very dangerous for our dogs - and cats too, in some cases. So here are a few tips that can help keep the family pets involved, but also keep them out of the emergency room.

To start with, limit who is allowed to feed the dog. While everyone is eating, it’s best to crate the dog, put them outside, or in another room. This prevents everyone from slipping things under the table, or the dog from stealing from the children’s table. This way, at the end of the meal, you can determine what goes into your dog’s bowl based on what is safe for the dog.

Safe is also a fairly relative term. What is safe for my dog, may not be safe for another due to allergies. I know my two little dogs seem to have cast iron stomachs built to handle anything - but my old Shepherd is sensitive enough that  the wrong foods cause him to break out in hot spots. I have a friend whose dog’s allergies are so sensitive that he can’t have any treats that aren’t specifically homemade for him! Not letting anyone else feed the dog is key, especially if you have one with allergies.

It is also important not to stuff the dog. Even though it seems tradition for us to overeat and bask in the food coma all day, over stuffing the dog can lead to vomiting and diarrhea, and that isn’t pleasant in the best of times. It is really important to limit how much the dog is allowed to eat to prevent an upset stomach.

In addition to allergies - there are a lot of foods that are fine for humans that are extremely dangerous for dogs.

Cooked turkey bones. These are extremely brittle. If a dog bites into them, they can easily splinter into tiny shards, which can cause serious damage to the dog’s mouth, throat, stomach and intestines. Note that cooked bones in general are dangerous for this reason, but poultry bones are extremely brittle.

Onions and garlic. Onions and garlic are toxic to dogs.

Avocados. The entire avocado is toxic to the dog. If you have other fruits on the table, do not let the dog have the pits. Most fruit pits contain cyanide.

Raisins and grapes. Raisins and grapes affect a dog’s kidneys and have been known to cause renal failure.

Ham. Cooked ham, or any other foods with high salt contents.

Cooked food, please. Unless your dog is already on a raw diet, raw meat is very likely to upset them. Additionally, don’t feed any uncooked doughs to them. It will rise and expand in their stomach and that can be very painful on the dog.

Chocolate. No chocolate for dogs, ever. Although the amount of chocolate a dog can eat before becoming ill varies, why risk it?

Anything sugar-free. Many sweeteners that are sugar-free use xylitol, which can cause liver failure.

Alcohol. Never, ever, ever give a dog alchohol. It’s bad for humans, it’s awful for dogs. The difference is you know the consequences, the dog doesn’t.

Avoiding the above foods can help make your Thanksgiving incident free. So what can you give your dog?

Go ahead and let the dog eat some turkey (no bones!), some mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes, green beans, carrots, and foods that aren’t heavy in sugar or salt, and foods free of the above items. Remember to go easy and not to overfeed the dog, or you still might have an upset stomach to contend with.

As for cats, be aware that their dietary needs are even more strict than dogs. All of the above foods should be off limits for cats well, but don’t forget that many cats are lactose intolerant and giving them milk can make them very ill. Turkey is one to be very careful about as well - while some cats can tolerate a little bit (it is a bird, after all) - many times we cook the turkey with items like garlic and onions, or even brining them, which can make the cat very ill. Some cats may have very sensitive stomachs and may not be able to tolerate the change in their food. It might best if you purchased a treat specifically made for cats, to be on the safe side.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Altering Vintage Clothing

By Priscilla Burgos

For as long as I can remember, I've always had a love for all things vintage & unique, and a need to make things 'my own'. I've been upcycling clothing since high school, and began to apply that same craftiness to my ever-growing vintage collection several years ago. I had this collection of dresses and skirts that I had yet to wear, for fear that they might look a bit 'dated'. When I realized that all something needed was a snip and a hem, I began to create new and totally unique things for myself! You'd be surprised by how simple it really is. Since I began, I've done anything from simply hemming a dress to a modern length, to turning a dress into a skirt, or even upcycling a thrifted men's t-shirt into a mini skirt. Below are a few of my past successful projects.

1990’s dotted teal dress, hemmed.

1970’s yellow sundress, hemmed.
1980’s blue daisy dress, sleeves shortened and hemmed.
1980’s peach skirt, hemmed to mini.

If this all seems a bit involved to you, don't worry! It really is so simple. I'll be posting tutorials with step-by-step instructions on how you can alter your own thrifted or vintage items, and create something unique for yourself. So if you decide to follow along and try any of the projects, don't be afraid to get a little crafty and jump right in… and most importantly, have fun! If you'd like to get your hands on some of the lovely dresses I've featured here, you’re in luck! They're all for sale in my Etsy store, ReStitch Vintage. Along with vintage handbags, jewelry, shoes, and more! Also, be the first to know when new items are added to the store, by following the ReStitch Vintage blog. I'm always updating the store, so be sure to check back often. Happy sewing!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Simplifying Socks (Cuff-down)

By Kandis Hamrick

As a beginning knitter, I was incredibly intimidated by anything more complicated than knit and purl. I desperately wanted to knit socks but feared I wouldn't be able to figure it out alone. Unfortunately, I didn't really have the option of taking a class so I decided just to go for it.

After recently deciding to give socks as Christmas gifts, I went in search of an easy way to calculate stitches for different sized socks. Most resources I found seemed so complicated that I quickly navigated away and nearly gave up. That's when I found Tessa Lau and her basic sock pattern. It was just what I needed!

She simplifies the math for customizing your pattern and her directions are clear and concise. If you want to knit socks, I recommend starting with her pattern. I won't repeat the pattern here, but listed below are the different stitches you'll need to know and links to video tutorials. I've also added some tips of my own.

Stitches you'll need to know:

k - knit
p - purl
ssk - slip slip knit
k2tog - knit 2 together
p2tog - purl 2 together
ktichner stitch (also known as grafting)

You may also find these videos helpful: ribbed stitch & stockinette stitch.

My Advice:

Change your needle size. I can't remember where I first found this, but I read once that you should go down a needle size when you cast on your socks. I ignored this because my DPN (double-pointed needle) collection is very limited. I found that my sock cuff was really loose. Since I meant this pair to be comfy house socks, it didn't really matter. For the next pair, I wanted a snugger fit so I decreased the number of stitches I cast on and did a simple increase after the ribbing. To see how to do a make 1 increase, click here.

Knit the gauge! The gauge is a swatch that you knit using your chosen yarn and needles that you then measure to determine your stitches per inch. The size of needles and weight of yarn can drastically change the size of an end product. I always used to think this was a waste of time, but it really is vital if you want to make sure your end product is the right size.

Bulkier yarn makes for faster projects. Use bulky yarn and larger DPNs to complete a project more quickly. This will make warm, comfy socks more suited for lounging around the house than for daily use, but they'll go fast! Just think how accomplished you'll feel when you can brag to everyone about how quickly you made your own socks!

Trust the pattern and trust yourself! At first some of the directions may seem strange, but trust me when I say it'll make sense in the end. You may second-guess yourself and your abilities. I've been there. Don't do it. I once went to a yarn shop and told the owner I felt that I needed to take classes with real knitters because I was afraid that I wasn't doing things properly since I was mostly self-taught. She looked at me and asked: "Did it unravel?" I shook my head and she asked: "Did it turn out the way you wanted it to?" I nodded. She smiled and told me: "Then you did it right. The rest doesn't matter." And that's the thought I want to leave you all with.