Thursday, February 11, 2016

Whole-Grain Pumpkin Oatmeal Spice Muffins

This past December, Costco had canned organic pumpkin puree on sale for a steal! So I gave flats of canned pumpkin to my family members as Christmas presents. Because the bakers in my family love baking with pumpkin. And it was cheap. Super cheap.

So now that they (and I) have pumpkin coming out our ears, what are we to do with it?

How about this muffin recipe for starters?

These stay nice and moist because of the canned pumpkin.  And as a very big plus, they are made with whole-grain wheat flour and whole oats, so they're packed with whole grains along with a hefty dose of Vitamin A. It's rare when you can get a moist baked product using whole-wheat flour, but because of the pumpkin, these fit that bill.

Each muffin boasts 24% of your Daily Value for Vitamin A, 3.2 grams of protein, and 2.3 grams of fiber. So eating a couple of these babies as part of your breakfast gets you off to a good start for the day! But let's face it, taste is paramount, so best-of-all: these muffins taste great! And that's what I care about most. And my kids.

In fact, this morning was kind of interesting: my 2-year old Bean refused to eat any food. I was baffled by this. I offered her plenty of her usual favorites (yogurt, fresh pear). I even offered her a chocolate chip cookie: not because I was desperate for her to eat (I knew she would eat eventually), but because I wanted to see how far she was willing to go in her denial of favorite foods. She turned the cookie down. Wow.

But after these muffins came out of the oven, her interest in eating resurrected and after eating a bite she declared, "yummy cupcake!" and then requested yogurt and pears to go along with it. Lucky for me, she forgot about the aforementioned and previously offered chocolate chip cookie. Or maybe I'm not giving her enough credit: perhaps after eating a variety of foods until she was satisfied, she wasn't interested in a cookie. Or maybe I'm just overthinking it...

I kind of combined two of my favorite recipes for this (oatmeal muffins that I make on a fairly regular basis, and pumpkin muffins that are also a favorite). What if you don't like pumpkin? Substitute the pumpkin for applesauce and you'll still have a great whole-grain, delicious and moist muffin.

So without further ado, here is the recipe for the "yummy cupcake" whole grain pumpkin oatmeal spice muffins.

Whole-Grain Pumpkin Oatmeal Spice Muffins

yields 24 muffins

2 cups whole oats
1 cup milk
1 cup canned pumpkin puree

2 eggs
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil

2 cups white whole wheat flour
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
3/4 tsp. nutmeg

1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line muffin tins with cupcake liners or parchment liners. Meanwhile, thoroughly mix oats, milk, and canned pumpkin together in large bowl. Allow the oats to sit for 15 minutes to absorb some of the liquid.

2. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs, sugar, and vegetable oil until well mixed, about 1 minute.

3. In a third bowl, sift together the white whole wheat flour, baking soda, salt, and spices. 

4. After the oats have soaked in the pumpkin/milk mixture, add the egg/sugar/oil mixture and mix until combined. Add the flour mixture to the rest and stir together until the ingredients are incorporated. 

5. Fill each muffin cup 2/3 full. Place in oven for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool in pan for five minutes before removing the muffins to a wire rack. Enjoy!

These are going to be a new family favorite for sure!

Monday, February 8, 2016

Conversation Heart Pillow Tutorial

We had another birthday around here. I was all geared up for making some spectacular cake for my new 12-year-old. He's prone to liking lemon cakes. So I was excited to see what we could come up with. But when it came down to it, my newest adolescent asked for a simple Texas Sheet cake. It was uncomplicated and sweet, just like him. I have a feeling raising a teenage boy might be a little easier than raising a teenage girl....but we shall see...

He also (like his older sister before him) requested cinnamon rolls for breakfast and pot stickers for dinner. And he would like to take chocolate chip cookies to school tomorrow (because today is a holiday for him). So yay for a three-day weekend to kick off your thirteenth year! Speaking of holidays....

Valentine's Day is less than a week away! And what says Valentine's Day more than those hard little Conversation Heart candies? Since I'm fond of making plush things, and since I couldn't make a lemon cake, I decided to make a Conversation Heart pillow! I have a purple one in the works too. It's not too difficult, and it makes me feel like I actually decorated for a holiday, so that's a plus!

All that is required is the ability to make a heart shape (or half a heart shape really), and a printer to print off some letters in "Word" at 200 size. I used the font "Calibri" in all caps. Here is what else you will need in case you want to make some of your own:

  • 1/2-3/4 yard fleece color of your choice
  • scrap of red felt large enough for you to cut out your desired letters
  • sewing machine and matching threads (red thread and thread to match the fleece)
  • hand-sewing needle (just a small amount of hand-sewing is required).
  • polyfil stuffing
  • optional: washable glue stick
See? Not much. In case you don't trust your heart-drawing skills, I'll attach the heart shape I used in a google doc. conversation heart pattern here

The pattern will print out in 2 pages, Tape them together where it indicates (the pages will be taped together in landscape), and then cut out your half heart shape. 

I used a 1/2 inch seam allowance.

1. Trace your half-heart onto fleece that is folded over. Line the center of the heart (the straight edge) against the folded edge of the fabric. You will need to do this twice as you need two hearts. After tracing, pin the hearts and cut them out. 

You will also need to cut out two strips of fabrics to make up the side of the heart pillow. If you are using the pattern I drew, your two strips should measure 30 1/4 inches x 4 inches each.  

Don't worry if you drew your own heart, I will tell you how to get the measurement for your strips in just a minute...

If you are using your own heart that you drew, here is where you have to get creative to find the length your strips of fabric should be. I used a string to measure along the outside (circumference) of my heart. Then I measured my string and added an inch (to account for seam allowance). I decided to make my strips 4 inches wide, because with seam allowance, that would give me a 3-inch thickness of pillow. You can make your strips larger if you want. 
You can see I loosely taped on some string around the border of the heart (half-heart) I drew. That measurement happened to be 29.25 inches. So I added an inch since I will be sewing the two strips together (to account for seam allowance).
2. Trace and cut out your letters from red felt. As I said above, I printed out the letters I wanted in Word, at a font size of 200, and I used the font "Calibri" in bold and in ALL CAPS. I then cut them out (giving myself a little extra paper around each letter), traced them onto the felt, and cut out the felt. You can have fun, adding whatever saying you'd like!
You can see how I cut out around the letters to make them slightly larger/thicker.

 3. Arrange the letters on your pillow front (on the correct side of the fleece). If you look at real conversation hearts, you see that often there is one word above the second word, which is why I placed my words this way.

Then using a glue stick, I glued the letters on to the front to hold them in place while I sewed them on. I sewed them on using a zig-zag stitch that was a width of "3" on my machine, with a length of 1.5. Feel free to experiment with the size of zig-zag you prefer.

I went slowly around those curves and corners.

sewing letters on with zig-zag stitch

Letters are all appliqued on here (sewed on using the zig-zag stitch).
I guess if you didn't want to do a zig-zag stitch, you could always just do a straight stitch along the very edge, outlining each letter. That would work too. My second "s" is a little crooked. Argh...

4. Sew your strips together, end-to-end (short ends), with fabric right-sides together. This will make a loop. The with the correct sides of the fabric facing each other, pin the pillow top to the loop, matching the seams at the top and the bottom of the heart. Sew with a half-inch seam allowance.
sewing strips together

strips sewn together; I finger-pressed this seam open. 

I pinned the strip to the pillow-top, with right-sides together. 
5. Attach the bottom of the pillow. You will now pin the bottom pillow (heart) piece to the un-sewn part of the strip.with right-sides together. The pillow will look inside-out as you do this. Sew together with a 1/2 inch seam allowance again, but MAKE SURE TO LEAVE A 4 INCH GAP unsewn where you will turn the pillow right side out. 

But before you turn your pillow right side out, you need to clip your seam allowance, especially on the curves so that your pillow will lay/lie? right. (Alright grammar nazi's: which word am I supposed to use there?).

I cut notches out at the top of the heart, and clip perpendicular to the stitches for the rest (see the pics).
notch cut out at top corner of heart

little slits in the seam allowance

pillow with seams clipped, prior to turning right-side out.
6. Turn the pillow right-side out through the gap that you left, and stuff it with polyfil stuffing until your heart's content (see what I did there?). Then pin the gap closed and hand-sew it shut using a ladder stitch (so that it looks invisible). 
pillow turned right-side out, but unstuffed

pin the gap shut and hand-sew it together. 
7. Admire your pillow!
I had to add that little purple raccoon in there. I just finished her yesterday :) She'll be in my etsy shop soon. 

Happy Valentine's Day!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

And here is doll quilt #2!

Here she is: the second doll quilt for my niece! I can't wait to see them both on her doll beds.

This one I did a tad different than the first. The first kind of looked like a sampler quilt and it kinda came together as I went (with not a ton of pre-designing), and this one looks more like a quilt you might see on a bed.
both quilts...taped to the wall. 

I had fun designing it. It required some math skills, though. And I didn't quite get the math right on the all the blocks the first time, so I had to do some of them multiple times. That part was a little frustrating, but at least I learned some quilt math skills along the way.
the original drawing/design of the quilt
It's gratifying to see something you have designed come to fruition. Even if it is just a mini quilt. You can see I designed it the old-fashioned way with graph paper and colored pencils.
I like the big center block with the little pinwheel in the center, set on the diagonal. That center pinwheel was one of the areas that gave me some trouble.

I highlighted the yellow fabric, since that is the color my niece requested.
A shot from the back's only almost a month after her birthday that they're both finished....And I'm sorry to say, that's not the latest I've been with a birthday gift....

But it's like the birthday joy continues, right? To get a present a month later? Sure!