Thursday, October 30, 2014

Crochet Pattern - Pumpkin Hat for Baby

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Remember the Strong Man Quilt I made for my niece?  Well, I was right.  Her baby is a strong little man!  

This strong little baby decided to make his grand entrance into the world six weeks early!  And my niece's labor was only like 2 and a half hours long or something like that!  WOW!  I couldn't believe it.  

The baby arrived at a wopping 3lb 8 ounces and 17 inches long.  Tiny but healthy! The little booger is strong as an ox!  He only needed oxygen and a feeding tube for a few days.  He also got sent home from the hospital when he was only 4lb 1 ounce.  The hospital said they usually keep babies until they are 5 pounds, but this little baby needed nothing from them so they sent him home.  

The only thing this little guy really needed  at home was that he had to wear hats to keep his body warm.  My niece commented one day that she only had one hat and that she needed to wash it.  I told her "You needed only to tell me that!  Aunt Gigi and her crochet hook to the rescue!"  

Overnight I was able to crochet for him four little hats of various patterns. 



 I made one like a football (Just a simple double crochet beanie changing colors for the white stripes at the top and bottom of the beanie like the, similar to the one I made for my other great nephew when he was a baby.  It's here:


I also made the new baby a simple, soft mint green one and a solid gray one.  I think the BEST one I made was the pumpkin hat!  And they all fit his tiny head perfectly.

I didn't have a pattern on hand for a pumpkin hat, but Pinterest to the rescue as usual!  I made this hat over my lunch hour and on the ride home from work, with yarn that I already had on hand.  It was so easy and quick to make.  So easy, in fact, that I made another one for another great nephew a few days later (just increasing my stitches to make a bigger hat).  

Anyway,  here is the pattern for the pumpkin hat.  It's on Ravelry.  And the author of the pattern encourages you to make these and donate them - like to a hospital charity.  I'm sure she does not authorize sale of these hats using her pattern as she stresses donation in her message.  I love crocheting baby hats so much that I'm definitely going to check out donating them to the NICU units of our local hospitals!  

Here's the link to the pattern!  So easy even though I only have a limited knowledge of crochet - I regularly use google and You Tube for help with my work.  If I can do it, you can do it!


(You have to register with Ravelry but registering is free and you will find so many wonderful patterns there.)


Enjoy!


Gina

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

My apple pies always SMILE! (Recipe)

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Years ago, I was a big time reader Taste of Home magazines.  I read them cover to cover and gleaned many wonderful tips and recipes from them.  There were always cute and funny pictures, comments, and memories shared back in the day (before Taste of Home changed to its more recent, more professional format).  It was in one of those magazines that someone shared a picture of their apple pie smiling.  So, being a mom of two little girls, the next time I made an apple pie, I made cuts in the crust to make my own smiling apple pie.  I never made an apple pie after that without giving her a smile.

My girls are both now grown.  They can make their own pies in their own kitchens, but once in a while I get to spoil them.  A couple of weeks ago, my college daughter was home and I baked a whole smiling apple pie for her to take back to Kansas City and share with her boyfriend.  She was thrilled!  And just as it was coming out of the oven, my older daughter came in the house and said,  "MMMmmmmm!  I just LOVE apple pie!"  It was torturous because I was sending the whole pie home with Rachel LOL.  (Although, I never expected Rebecca to want to eat the pie.  Rarely does she eat sweets.)


Last night I was making a big pot of homemade spaghetti sauce and Rebecca was coming over for supper, so I surprised her with a smiling apple pie.   I decided to share the picture (because new traditions are always fun) and my basic recipe (for future reference) on the chance that your family might like a Smiling Apple Pie!  (My crusts are not beautiful but this pie is yummy!)


Here's how I make Smiling Apple Pies AT HOME MY WAY:




Smiling Apple Pie

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Crust (for double crust pie):

2 cups all purpose flour (not straight out of the bag - fluff it a little before measuring)
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cups shortening
6-8 Tablespoons ice cold water

Mix flour, salt well.  Add shortening and use a fork to blend well until shorting is crumbly the size of peas.  Add water, stir to blend as well as possible.  Knead with hands-getting all the flour in - until if will form a round/disc.  Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour.

After refrigerating, divide the disc so that one half is slightly larger than the other (larger half is the bottom crust).

Roll on floured surface and place in your pie plate.  Roll the other half so it is ready.  Trim the crust in the pie plate slightly larger than the plate.  Leave unbaked until you add the filling and the top crust.

(I sometimes cut these crusts to the right size and roll them with wax paper, and freeze in zip bags just like store bought crusts.  They work perfectly once thawed.  That way I don't have to make homemade crusts every time I decide to make a pie.)

Apple filling:

7 cups apples (peeled and sliced) (I use granny smith or jonathan apples)
1/2 cup white sugar 
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 Tablespoons flour
1 Tablespoon butter/margarine

Blend sugar, cinnamon, and flour, then stir in apples and pour into the crust that is already in your pie plate.  Place random small pieces of the margarine/butter on the apples.

Gently lift the top crust and place on the apples to top your pie.  Trim, leaving a little overlapping the bottom crust.  Seal the top and bottom crust together, and crimp edges.

Sprinkle with some cinnamon sugar.

CUT THE SMILE:  I use my knife and cut two upside down U shapes for the eyes and a nose and a big fat smile.

Sprinkle with Sugar.

Bake in preheated 425 degree oven for 15 minutes.  Then, turn oven down to 375 degrees and bake for another 40 minutes.  

You can cover the edges with foil if they seem to be browning too fast but I didn't need to do that.

TIP:  I place my pie on a cookie sheet in the oven so that any apple juices are caught instead of burning in the bottom of my oven.


Enjoy!



Gina




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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Homemade Crackers (Saltines)

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So... yesterday I posted a recipe for Homemade Tomato Soup.  And you gotta have crackers with tomato soup, right?

YUP!

This weekend I also tackled my first batch of homemade crackers.  Crackers are one of those "bucket list" recipes for me that not everyone would think to make at home, but I really wanted to try them.  I found my recipe on a favorite, one of the most informative sites ever- The Prudent Homemaker.  This site is a wealth of information for making everything homemade and for all kinds of tips on how to save the hard to earned buck.  I encourage everyone to hope over there and check it out!

I was very pleased with the crackers.  They will be a terrific base recipe for adding all kinds of seasonings, oils, cheeses. I made Brandy's basic recipe and added my own twist on seasonings, a little salt, etc.  They turned out GREAT!  The key is to roll them absolutely as thinly as possible.  Note that they don't rise so very little space is needed between crackers on the cookie sheet.  Storage seems to be a key also.  I find that storing the completely cooled, crisp crackers in glass jars or tins keeps them crispier.  Of course, I didn't manage to get them as crispy as your favorite boxed saltine, and they are more like a pita chip in texture and that is perfectly fine with them.  I know what's in them!  That's the key!

(I might try to roll them in a pasta maker one of these days!)

One more item where I can "Ditch the Box"!  Success!

I think the possibilities are endless.  I think I will try using butter for the shortening or even olive oil.  I think I will try blending in some parmesan cheese and cracked pepper or garlic powder.  Also maybe taco seasonings or chicken bouillon?  

My only advice for making this is that this recipe makes a ton of crackers.  Halfing this recipe the first time seems like a wise choice so that you don't get burned out on cracker making.  

Also, I think young children would have a ball cutting the crackers into shapes with cookie cutters- a fun activity that would produce a savory snack instead of sweets (cookies).

Here's how I made Homemade Crackers (Saltines) AT HOME MY WAY:

Homemade Crackers/Saltines

  • 4 cups all purpose flour (a little more for rolling/cutting)
  • 8 Tablespoons shortening (melted) (I plan on trying olive oil)
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt (more for sprinkling)
  • Optional (spices:  I used 1 teaspoon onion powder)
Instructions:

In a mixing bowl combine flour and salt.  Combine melted shortening (or oil) and water.  Stir all ingredients together.

On a well floured surface, knead for 3-5 minutes.

Divide dough into six even pieces.

Roll each piece as THIN as possible!  Cut and move pieces to a lightly sprayed cookie sheet.  

Brush crackers on the cookie sheet with water (a spray bottle would work GREAT here) and sprinkle with more salt.  I also pricked a few holes in my crackers with a fork to give them the "cracker look".

Bake in a fully preheated 400 degree oven for 10 - 12 minutes.  Make sure the crackers are just browning before removing them from the oven to insure crispiness.

Let them cool in the air, uncovered, until completely cold before storing them (glass works best).


Enjoy!



Gina


Here are some pictures along the way!


Rolling & cutting.



Brushed with water and a few holes pricked.



Starting to brown in the oven.  (The puff up a little.)
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