Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Pumpkin Spice Battenberg

I made a Pumpkin Spice Battenberg from a recipe in this month's Southern Living magazine.  Generally, I love the recipes in Southern Living because they're very well tested in the magazine's test kitchens and they're usually delicious and fairly easy in spite of the fact that they typically have a jillion ingredients.

I didn't know what a Battenberg was before I saw the picture in the magazine, but the minute I saw it I wanted to make it.  I've been baking since I was very young and fancy baking has been somewhat of a hobby of mine in the past.  It's a hobby I've sort of departed from as the healthier eating movement invaded the world.  My husband does not eat sweets - at all - so when I bake something, either I eat it all, which is very not good or I give it away - which I love to do, or I take it to work, which I have done frequently in the past.

Dave and I have been reading a book called The Artist's Way, which has exercises in it that are supposed to help you become more creative.  One of the exercises is to write down 20 activities you love to do but maybe haven't done in a while.  Then you are supposed to choose two from the list and spend some time rediscovering them.  One of the activities I wrote down was baking.  I saw the recipe a few days after that.  I really enjoyed the whole process.  I enjoyed thinking about baking the cake and planning the baking and figuring out what I was going to do with the cake.  And I really enjoyed the actual baking.

My cake is pictured above, and Southern Living's is pictured here.  Of course they look very different!  For one thing, you can see how unevenly I divided the layers.  And for some reason, the portion of the batter I added the pumpkin mixture to became much more dense.  The marzipan I bought was not white, it was decidedly off-white. (Although it looks lighter in the photo.  Maybe theirs does too).  And there's no way I could have rolled it thinly enough to cover all six sides of the cake.  I had to settle for not having any marzipan on the bottom, which was really okay.

I didn't actually purchase the marzipan myself.  It was on the list when Dave did the shopping last week.  I told him what aisle it was on, but he still had a little trouble and since he couldn't find a store person (can anyone ever find an employee when you need one?) a nice couple shopping the same aisle helped him look.  One of them asked him what marzipan was exactly and he said he didn't know but thought it had something to do with pumpkin!  Funny!

I have to admit, I ate most of it.  I took several pieces to my sister and brother-in-law and Grace came over on Saturday and had some.  All said it was delicious.  I don't know if it made me more creative, but I certainly enjoyed eating it!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Fellowship Food: Plummy Parsonage Bars

We have a coffee fellowship between worship and Sunday School each week and people bring all kinds of fun snacks - doughnuts, cake, cookies, even chips and salsa!  Last week at our welcome luncheon the congregation gave the parsonage a microwave oven - it didn't have one before.  So I wanted to make something in the microwave for coffee fellowship time and found these:
I couldn't remember the name of the recipe at church yesterday so we decided to call them "Plummy Parsonage Bars." 

The real name is Microwave Oatmeal Jam Bars and I found the recipe at the food.com website.  
  • 34 cup butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 34 cups unsifted flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 12 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 12 cups quick-cooking rolled oats
  • 34 cup raspberry jam (I used plum, but you can use any fruit jam or preserves.  I have some homemade apple butter a congregation member made and I think that would be delicious.  Will definitely make them with strawberry jam during strawberry season.)
  1. Lightly grease an 8-inch, heat-resistant, non-metallic baking dish.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, cream butter and sugar together until fluffy. Stir in flour, salt, baking soda and oats. Combine until well blended.
  3. Press one-half of mixture into bottom of prepared baking dish.
  4. Heat, uncovered, on FULL POWER 5 minutes.
  5. Spread jam evenly over baked oat mixture.
  6. Crumble remaining oat mixture over jam and press lightly.
  7. Heat, uncovered, on FULL POWER 7 minutes. Test for doneness with a toothpick.(It should come out clean).
  8. Allow to cool and cut into bars.

They were delicious and it was easy to make them in the parsonage kitchen, which doesn't have a lot of equipment.  Note:  the parsonage microwave is an 1100 watt oven.  You probably need to consider adjusting the time if you have a more powerful one.  These were not too dry - nice and chewy on the bottom and slightly crumbly on top.  Yum!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

It grows and grows!

This is my grandmother's flower garden that I've been working on for a couple of years.  I love English Paper Piecing.  The last time I posted a picture it looked like this:

Quite a difference!  I had this quilt on the design wall for the longest time, until one day when our exterminator came by for his quarterly service appointment.  He came downstairs and grinned at me and said, "So, I see you're still working on that same quilt."  Apparently he had several quilters on his regular route and knew the routine well!

This is the project I usually take along on trips because EPP is so portable.  Because of that, I try to go by a quilt shop wherever we are and buy some fabric that represents that place.  You can see on the border the little red, white and blue saleboat from a trip to the coast.  (That's what we Texans say when we're going to the Gulf Coast of Texas - we just call it "the coast."  I've also got some other "symbolic" stuff worked in - music, holidays, names, words, animals, Texas.  I have really, really old fabric and brand new fabric.  I just finished a strawberry flower because my husband is now pastoring in Poteet, which is the strawberry capital of Texas!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

What to do, what to do

Oh, blog, I have no idea what to do with you.

I wanted to have a fun, quilty, cute blog that people would read, where I could show my quilts and crafty things that I make.  I wanted to share recipes once in a while.  I wanted to write stuff people wanted to read.  Maybe make a friend or two.  But life certainly gets in the way of what I want waaayyy too frequently.  And that has never been more true than recently.

I love to read blogs.  You can check out the ones I follow.  They're mostly about quilting and crafting and homelife.  In my very wildest dreams, I even thought I could maybe do some quilt designing and share patterns like Judy Laquidara or Shelly Pagliai.

A big issue for me in blogging has been where to draw the "share" line.  I could never quite figure out exactly how personal I wanted to get.  Most of the blogs I read are by writers who share all the fun and happy stuff they are doing, the joys their families are experiencing, their fun vacations and jobs they love and that's great.  But all of life is not fun and happy, at least not for me.  And I know everyone has their "issues," trials and tribulations.  I don't blame them for not feeling the need to share those bumps in the road with the world of people they don't even know.  In fact, I sort of thank them for not sharing their problems!  But at the same time it does seem sort of false that all we read is the good stuff and it even gets me down sometimes.  I hate that jealous, wish-I-had-her-life feeling.  Plus, there's the privacy issue.  I'm a pretty private person.

For me, the most basic block to writing the blog has been the "time" issue.  I started the blog when I was working full-time and then some.  Trying to create creativity in my time away from work was tough!  I'm currently working something between part and full-time.  Meaning, I have one actual part-time fund raising job, but also do freelance grant writing and fund raising work "on the side" with a consultant friend.  So that suggests I should have a little more time available for writing, and I guess maybe I might.

So I'm not sure I'm ready to give up completely on blogging.  I'm thinking I might try one more time.  I have some goals for this next stage of my life, and one of them is to be the "me" I really want to be.   My daughter is grown and has left the nest, (with frequent return flights to Mom's kitchen and laundry room).  I do have a bit more time, given my somewhat reduced workload.  I love to write.  I love to share creative ventures. (but not too many personal details).  And I think it would do me some good to concentrate on my own "fun and happy stuff" instead of my "issues, trials and tribulations."

So, good luck to me.  I hope this works.  I have no idea who might read this!  Does anyone know My Quilted Nest even exists?  I wonder.