Friday, October 19, 2012

Easiest Pie Ever

I promise, this is the easiest pie recipe you will ever see.

Take 2 bags of mixed frozen fruits. Any two, pick your favorites. Two of the same, two different, whatever you want. If you're feeling brave but squeamish, pick two different blends that have two fruits in common. For example, I used a strawberry-pomegranate-cherry-blueberry blend and a mango-strawberry-blueberry blend. End result, lots of strawberries and blueberries with mango, cherries, and pomegranate. Add some odds and ends and a pie crust, and you're done!

Any two bags of frozen fruit, with a total of  ~26 ounces.

Pre-made pastry crust
1/2 cup sugar (or 1/4 cup Splenda/Sugar baking blend)
1 Tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp orange peel
2 tsp nutmeg

Toss the fruit into a saucepan on medium heat. Stir occasionally as it thaws, but otherwise hold your horses. Until the fruit is fully thawed, it does not play well with others.

Once the fruit is thawed, add 1/2 cup sugar (or 1/4 cup Splenda/sugar baking blend), 1 Tbsp lemon juice, 2 tsp dried orange peel, 2 tsp nutmeg. Stir until everything is dissolved.

Gradually add cornstarch until the filling reaches your preferred consistency. I like mine to be just a bit more viscous than jelly, so I added a lot of cornstarch. Be careful though; you can always make it thicker, but you can't make it thinner.

Set the filling aside, allowing it to cool.

Take the pie crust from the box, and follow the directions for a double crust pie. The directions on the box may or may not tell you to pre-bake the bottom crust; always pre-bake it. 400º F, about 6-8 minutes.

Remove the pre-baked crust from the oven and pour the filling over it, being sure to spread the filling evenly. Put the second crust on top of the pie, pressing the two crusts together at the edge as best you can. Cut a couple slits in the top crust, and return to the oven at 400ºF  until the top crust is golden brown, about 10-15 minutes. 

Serve and enjoy!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Whoopie Pies

I was craving those Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Sandwich cookies the other day. I have a love/hate relationship with them. I love the ratio of cookie to cream, I love the actual cookie part, but the cream is just a little too sweet, and I have to eat the whole box to really satisfy the craving.

So when I got this latest urge, I thought I would try making my own.

I used the Oatmeal Fruit-Nut Drop Cookie Recipe from my great-grandmother's cookbook (Betty Crocker's Picture Cook Book, Revised and Enlarged. 2nd Edition, 1956, this recipe p. 195)

1 cup soft shortening
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 3/4 sifted flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
2 cups rolled oats
(the recipe calls for 1 cup raisins or dates and 1/2 cup nuts; I omitted these)

1. Mix the shortening, sugar and eggs together.
2. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon; then stir into shortening/sugar mixture.
3. Stir in oats (and raisins/dates and nuts if desired)
4. Drop rounded teaspoonfuls 2" apart on baking sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes at 400º. Cool completely.

1 cup heavy whipping cream
coconut cream (to taste)
powdered sugar (to taste)
cocoa powder (to taste)

Beat cream until peaks are stiff, adding flavorings to your taste as you go. Other flavor ideas include almond extract, cinnamon, and allspice.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Pineapple Cake Pudding

Another recipe from my great-grandmother's cook book. I made some cookies from this same cookbook earlier tonight, which left me with half a can of pineapple. I couldn't let it go to waste, so when I stumbled upon the Cake Pudding recipe, I had to try it.

It was delicious! The two of us ate the whole thing, and we were both liking the sides of our bowls. I'll definitely make this again.

1/4 cup sifted flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp grated lemon rind
1 Tbsp lemon juice
2 egg yolks, well beaten
1/2 cup milk
1/4 drained, crushed pineapple
1/4 cup pineapple juice
2 egg whites, stiffly beaten

1. Sift together flour, salt and sugar.
2. Stir in lemon rind, lemon juice, egg yolks, milk, crushed pineapple, and pineapple juice.
3. Fold in egg whites.
4. Pour into 1 quart baking dish or 6 custard cups. Set pan in hot water (1" deep). Bake 50 minutes at 350º. Serve warm or cold, with or without whipped cream.

(From Betty Crocker's Picture Cook Book, Revised and Enlarged, 2nd edition. Published 1956. This recipe is on page 237)

Monday, September 24, 2012


Yesterday, we met my mom, my brothers, and their significant others in Wabasha, MN to celebrate my birthday. And it was also the first time we had all gotten together since our wedding last Spring. 

Wabasha is the home of the  National Eagle Center. When we were kids, our parents would take us to Wabasha to watch the eagles fish in the Mississippi River, and then we'd pick apples at a nearby orchard. 

This is the [un]official place to deposit your admission sticker after visiting the National Eagle Center. There's a 2 hour parking sign somewhere under all of that...

The downtown area was all decorated for SeptOber Fest.

The scarf I made my mom is now finished and blocked and presented--and this is unfortunately the only picture I managed to take. 

 And then we crossed the river into Wisconsin and ate lunch at the Nelson Creamery. Delicious cheese and wine!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Almond Joy-Inspired Cake: Version 1

A while back, a meme was going around the blogosphere: "Things I'm Afraid To Tell You." If that's not ringing any bells for you, this was a confessional meme bloggers posted and reposted, admitting that we're not perfect and that we only share the best of ourselves online and that that practice inflates expectations to the point that it is no longer real or attainable; these pressures and expectations were just as vexing to the bloggers themselves as they were to the readers. Read more about it here; read some examples here, here, and here.

At the time, I hadn't been blogging very long and I hadn't yet experienced many of the things others described; however, it still made an impact on me. Because of it, I made the decision that mine would be a warts-and-all blog. I'd share successful projects, as well as the ones that ended badly, and the ones that were somewhere in the middle.

This is a Somewhere In The Middle post.

Almond Joy-Inspired Cake. 
(And a messy kitchen counter with failed cookies in the background, they will be a future post)

This is a 4 egg white layered cake, with coconut cream and a chocolate ganache. I used a white cake recipe from "Betty Crocker's Picture Cook Book" (circa ~1966). My Great Grandma Schottler gave it to my mom as a wedding present, who in turn gave it to me as a wedding present. It has been well used, so I have to be careful with it. What I love about this cook book is the way it's set out: a key recipe is presented that is amazing by itself, then variations of that same recipe are presented on the same page and all of those directions refer to the key recipe. It makes it really easy to play around with a recipe--especially in baking where the chemistry is important--and still end up with a tasty product because you have samples already. You can see what has been changed or added in each variation, so you have a better idea of what absolutely has to stay, as well as how other flavors may be introduced. But I digress. 

The Cake: Silver White Cake (4-Egg White) (Key Recipe)
2 1/4 cups sifted cake flour
1 1/2 cup sugar   (I substituted 3/4 cup Baking Splenda)*
3 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup soft shortening
2/3 cup milk plus 1/2 cup milk
1 tsp almond flavoring
4 egg whites (unbeaten)

Grease generously and flour   2 8 or 9: layer pans
1. Sift together into bowl the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
2. Add shortening, 2/3 cup milk and almond flavoring; beat 2 minutes.
3. Add remainder of milk and egg whites, 2 minutes.
4. Pour into cake pans; bake 30-35 minutes in 350º oven.
5. Let cool in pans 10 minutes, then remove cakes from pans and let rest on cooling racks until completely cool.

*Note: if you use baking Splenda, double the recipe. Otherwise the pans are too big and the cakes are pale, flat and shrunken. I learned this the hard way

Coconut Cream:
2 Tbs coconut cream
4 Tbs hot water
1 cup heaving whipping cream
Powdered Sugar (to taste)

1. Beat coconut cream and hot water until they come together.
2. Add heaving whipping cream and powdered sugar, beat on highest setting until it's fluffy. Add as much or as little powdered sugar as you like.

Chocolate Ganache:
1 bag dark chocolate chips
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
2 Tbs powdered sugar

Melt chocolate in double boiler. Remove from heat, stir in heavy whipping cream and powdered sugar. 

Assemble cake:
Additional ingredients:
Shredded coconut or coconut flakes
Sliced Almonds

1. Bottom layer of cake.
2. Spread Coconut Cream onto cake, top with shredded coconut/coconut flakes
3. Top layer of cake.
4. Pour on Chocolate Ganache.
5. Top with sliced almonds.

Next time, I'll do the chocolate differently. The cake was really good as is, but the dark chocolate ganache is a bit heavy compared to the cake and coconut cream.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


I used to love September.

As a kid, I loved going back to school. I counted down the last days of summer with the same anticipation most kids count down to Christmas. I loved the sound of leaves crunching under my feet as I walked to school; I loved how, in the right alcove, the wind would form a little baby tornado, swirling the leaves around and then dissipating, as if it had never been there. I loved back to school shopping. I loved putting on jeans and pulling out the sweaters; the return of pumpkin flavored lattés, caramel-coated apple suckers; fresh notebooks and unsharpened pencils. Depending on the year, my birthday falls either on the last day of summer or the first day of fall (and, occasionally, the penultimate day of summer). I loved that it straddled the seasons.

It's different now.

I'm an adult, I've graduated college. There is no more school to count down to, at least not at this point. Without school, I don't really need fresh notebooks or pencils. I still enjoy pulling out jeans and sweaters, but it's not the same when you work in an air conditioned building and have been wearing those same jeans and sweaters all summer. I still enjoy a pumpkin latté, but less frequently because as an adult I have actual bills that need to be paid. I experience a certain amount of dread with birthdays now, because the anniversary of my father's death precedes it by two days.

Two years ago, at about this time, I was managing a quick service restaurant, living in my own tiny apartment, and had just started dating my now-husband. My restaurant was struggling; I was working a ridiculous amount of hours, struggling to find and hire and train and keep strong team members. My recently-retired Dad had volunteered to drive delivery for me, on an as-needed basis. I was lucky to get one day off per week. My parents would invite me over for dinner that same night every week, and I would always decline. I was tired. I had just enough energy to catch up on laundry and keep my apartment in a vaguely tolerable condition, but not enough energy to socialize and be decent company.

Monday, September 20th was a perfectly normal day. I was working a double shift, but Mondays were typically slow. A good day for getting things done, and I had been fairly productive. I was prepped and ready, waiting for Monday's dinner "rush"--which is only a relative rush, the phones were beginning to ring. I answered the phone. It was my mom. I knew that tenor of her voice, I had heard it a month or so before when she had broken her wrist and called to ask me to give her a ride to the hospital. When she got home from work, Dad was sitting in his La-Z-Boy as usual, asleep with the newspaper open on his chest. Except this time, the sound of the door opening didn't wake him up.

I called my boss; she arrived in record time and took control of the restaurant. Time seemed to crawl as I drove to the hospital, just four blocks from work. I missed the first turn. There was literally one turn, and I missed it. As I circled the block, I reached Mom on my cell; from her voice, I knew he was gone.

I met my Mom at the hospital, my grandmother had gotten there just minutes before me. Mom confirmed what I already knew in my heart: Dad was gone. Gramps arrived just before we went in to see him with the priest; as he hugged my mom, his daughter, he was already crying, "it should have been me." I hadn't wanted to see his body, I wanted to remember him alive; but I also didn't want to be left alone.

My recollection of the rest of that week is spotty. I remember pulling a hard lemonade from the fridge at my mom's house that same day, and the look on my teetotaling aunt's face. I remember gamely trying to celebrate my birthday with my mom and brothers. I remember deciding who I would or wouldn't trade to have my dad back. I remember the outpour of love and support, but mostly I remember the emptiness, the feeling like an invaluable but unappreciated appendage had been amputated.

Most of the year I'm fine, but every September that feeling comes back.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Maddox's Lancelot

My cousins* had a baby just weeks before my wedding, so of course I didn't get the baby's sweater done before he was born. I didn't even get to start it before the wedding! I did finish it, and gave it to the proud parents earlier tonight at the baby's baptism. 

The pattern is "Lancelot," by Solenn Couix-Loarer. As written, the pattern has you twist the stitches without using a cable needle. I tried doing it that way in my swatch, but I couldn't get it tight enough and so it looked all wonky. I "cheated" and used a cable needle on the actual sweater. I put "cheated" in quotes because while some may disagree, I don't think there's anything wrong with choosing an easier method of doing something if the end result is the same. 

There's a button detail on the placket that I had trouble photographing. This is the best one, but it still doesn't quite capture it. 

Mom was delighted. 

*that sounds weird. They're not "kissing cousins," they are my cousins by marriage, and are not actually blood relatives to each other. My husband's cousin Zack is the dad, whose wife is also named Amanda.  

Saturday, August 18, 2012

With 'nary a wrinkle

I started a sewing project today, the Hot Pad Apron by Destri Bufmack, from "Fabric-by-Fabric One Yard Wonders." I am not an accomplished sewer. I am not even a competent sewer. I am a "...but I tried so hard!" sewer, however, I felt good about this project. I LOVE the fabric (and it was on sale!), and the apron is awesome. Hot pads for pockets! Genius!

I washed and dried it, I squared the grain, I measured and measured again and cut, piece by piece, with nary a wrinkle. I get to the last piece to cut, the very last one. I need to end up with four 9 inch squares. I measure once, I measure twice, I measure three times but it's just not going to happen, the laws of geometry are against me: my fabric is one inch short.

I really wanted to do this tonight, but I absolutely do not want to go back to the store tonight. And my husband doesn't want to, either. I cut two 9 inch squares out of the fabric I have; I'm planning to get some coordinating solid fabric for the other 2 squares and put those on the inside. Disappointing, but it is what it is.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Introducing: Squoval

As you may have guessed, that "sneak peak" the other day was of my newest pattern! Names "scquoval" for it's squarish/ovalish shape, it's a fitted beanie that's also a lot of fun. Emphasis on the fun. 

The pattern itself is easy to memorize and is also a great introduction to Fair Isle. The vertical stripes highlight the square-ish aspect, and as a pleasant side effect make it fold very neatly.

Available in 5 sizes-- toddler (18in.), child (20in.), teen/adult small (22in.), adult medium (24in) and adult large (26in)--it's great for gift-knitting.

Available for purchase on Ravelry (no membership required).

Below, I've included some pics of the original prototype. They also happen to be some of our engagement pictures :)

Monday, July 30, 2012

Time Struggles

It's been quiet on the blog lately. I do have several projects in the works, but nothing's ready to show yet. And it doesn't help that the two projects that are making the most progress are the only two that have to be kept secret. One of those is a pattern that I hope to release mid-August, the other is a gift I hope to finish around the same time. That will then free me up for other things, I hope.

I'm at a point where it's hard to plan what to knit, and when and where to knit it. For the first time since college, I have a job that affords me the opportunity to knit at work (we'll call it Baboushka). However, if I knit something of my own design at work, it would legally be Baboushka's intellectual property. I doubt Baboushka would choose to take any action unless it involves lots and lots and lots of money, but I don't want to take that chance. (And if I do somehow make lots and lots and lots of money from knitting patterns, I think I would like to keep it.) So better safe than, sorry, right?

So in my head I have two knitting queues: Baboushka knitting and Creative knitting. Knitting other people's patterns, and knitting what I make up. And there's also the queue of things I'm dying to make, like Array and Color Affection. I've even bought the yarn for these two. But how do I manage my time so that I can get everything done?

Right now, the Baboushka knitting queue consists of two overdue baby sweaters, and a scarf. The scarf was tacked on recently by the request of a coworker, who has been teasing me about knitting him a scarf. I thought he was just messing around, until he facebooked me outside work and was more direct about it. Which is fine, I don't mind. He's offered to cover the cost of the yarn, the project itself shouldn't take too long. But now that I've taken this request, will there be others? Will they keep me from knitting the projects I see on Ravelry and have a burning desire to make? Don't get me wrong, these projects are all things I genuinely want to do. I'm not sure how to do it.

Because I also have non-knitting projects I'd like to do. I want to sew a jacket. I have a pattern, I have the material. But not the time. I also want to make a quilt for our bedroom, to tie all the colors together. Same thing, I have the fabric, the pattern, just not the time. Because I also have to sleep. And eat. And spend time with my husband and my other people. And attempt to keep the home place reasonably tidy, and keep us in clean clothes. And work. Working does come in handy when it comes time to pay for things. Somehow I'll figure it out. Someday.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Harvest Home Farm Artisan & Fiber Festival

On June 16 my mom and I attended the Harvest Home Farm Artisan & Fiber Festival in Whitehall, WI.

There were sheep far away in the pasture.

And blueberry bushes!

These brothers were checking out the llamas.

And there was a sheep shearing demonstration! Shortly before this, I had read something about shearing and was intrigued. When you've shorn a sheep, the fleece is supposed to be in one whole piece; I was trying to figure out how they do it. The answer is complex, but to grossly simplify, you start with the underbelly where the fiber length is too short to use, and throw that part aside. Then, starting with short strokes around the neck and face and other nooks and crannies, then do the bigger areas. That is, again, grossly simplified. They do not do it in one continuous stroke of the shear, like I had thought. The wool more or less stays together as it is shorn, so it easily stays in one piece. And after several sheep, you have a big burlap bag of wool and some freshly shorn sheep.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Rounding Out the Wedding Photos

One half of our smallest attendants: Logan and Amelia.
Not pictured: Leo and Kinsey
©Marcus Kantz

©Marcus Katnz 
Logan poses while his mom (Nicolle) straightens him out.
©Andi Stempniak

Ben got the guys cuff links. From left to right: Dinosaurs (Alan), a comic book character I don't remember (Michael),  a Tardis (Ben), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Cam), and Legos (Carl, my brother). Not pictured: University of Michigan (Ben's dad), pigs (Carl, my Gramps)
©Andi Stempniak

The Orchestra/My Cousins: (L-R)  Anna, Emily, Sarah and Ben Bachmeier.
©Andi Stempniak

Our moms lit our individual candles.
©Andi Stempniak

Gramps walks me down the aisle
©Andi Stempniak

Ben and his brother Mike have the same expression!
©Andi Stempniak
My accessories
©Andi Stempniak

©Andi Stempniak

©Andi Stempniak

I can't believe my luck.
©Andi Stempniak

©Andi Stempniak

He's a comedian!
©Andi Stempniak

©Andi Stempniak

©Andi Stempniak

©Andi Stempniak

©Andi Stempniak

Maid of Honor Paula, myself, Maid of Honor Kelsey, and Nicolle.
©Andi Stempniak

Best Man Michael, Ben, Groomsmen Alan and Cam.
©Andi Stempniak

Our joined families:
My brother Cam, my brother Carl, my grandpa Carl, my grandma Kathy,
my mom Barb, me, Ben, his mom Anne, his dad Jim, and his brother Michael.
©Andi Stempniak