Underpants Are Fun-derpants!

This blog has been pretty heavy on the food-related stuff, so it’s time to toss in a post about something else!

In an attempt to improve my sewing skills to the point that I can actually sew some of the bigger projects I’m holding onto, I decided to tackle a relatively easy pattern – underpants. I’ve had a bunch of instructions sitting on Pinterest FOREVER – but I ended up going with this instructional because it felt the most friendly to me.

First, I used one of my most comfortable pairs and created a pattern by pinning the existing pair to some kraft paper, sketching around each part, and then adding a seam allowance.

Then I pinned it to some fabric and cut it out.

I got out my sewing machine, put Oz on the TV in the bedroom, and painstakingly sewed everything together. My machine has three speeds and I spent a lot of time on medium.

The first pair was too tight. I had realized, while sewing, that I was using a bigger seam allowance than I had planned. Oops. But the bigger seam was easier to sew than a smaller one!

I retraced my pattern and added an extra inch to the side seams. Re-cut. Sewed all over again.

Played with elastic a bit (easier than expected to sew onto the fabric!) and .. shazam, I had a pair of lovely pink and purple underpants. I washed and dried them, and they still fit, so I’m considering that experiment a success.

I bought some lovely lime green fabric with which to make a few more pairs. If I start feeling fancy I might use some of my rubber stamps and some fabric paint to decorate a pair or two. As long as all goes well, I should be ready to start sewing dresses in, oh, a year or two.

Underpants!

Underpants!

So, the question – why sew underpants? A big part of it is because they require some degree of precision in cutting and sewing but also had a decent amount of forgiveness to them. I got to do some straight-line sewing, some curves, and attach elastic. I also got to use multiple type of stitches from my machine – a good experiment.

In theory, if I were faster at sewing, the cost to make my own would be less than it costs to buy underpants in the store – since I’m plus-sized, I generally don’t find my size at Walmart (especially since I prefer thongs over any other style) which means I often pay about $10 per pair (or I can shell out $25 for 5 pairs) at a minimum when I go to Addition-Elle. The cost of fabric and elastic, per homemade pair, comes to about $2 – not including the “cost” of my time.

At any rate, it’s fun and useful. Two things I like in my learnin’.

Banana-y Banana Bread.

IMG_20150325_104904

Bananay Banana Bread!

 

 

There are probably 990 kabillion banana bread recipes on the internet and in every grandmother’s cookbook. The problem, according to my husband, is that none of those recipes contain enough bananas.  A lot of them tell you to use an overly ripe banana, or maybe two, but depending on the size of your bananas, this one can take as many as 6.

It should not surprise you that this is really banana-y banana bread.

Bananay Banana Bread.

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup of butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 1/3 cups mashed overripe bananas 

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 9×5 loaf pan.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. In a separate bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar. Stir in eggs and mashed bananas until well blended. Stir banana mixture into flour mixture – stir just until moistened.
  3. Pour batter into loaf pan.
  4. Bake for 60-65 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into centre of the loaf comes out clean.
  5. Let bread cool in pan for 10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack.

Notes:

This banana bread is dense and .. well, there are a lot of bananas in it. You can adjust the cinnamon to your preference – we often use closer to a tablespoon because it compliments the banana flavour (and because we like cinnamon).

Carrot Cake!

Carrot Cake!

Carrot Cake!

This carrot cake would have tasted better if I had pulled together a home made frosting for it – but, instead, I used some “cream cheese flavour” frosting from a can. I’m not going to lie – even with subpar frosting, this cake totally hit the spot.  It’s SO carrot-y that it’s a bizarre shade of orange and brown (from the cinnamon and nutmeg) and so incredibly moist!

Carrot Cake

Ingredients:

2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoons salt
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
4 eggs
1 1/4 cups canola or vegetable oil
1 cup granulated white sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
4.5 cups grated carrots

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 325°F. Line a 9”x 13” sheet pan (or two 9″ pans) with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix the flour,baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
  3. In a large bowl (or in your stand mixer bowl) mix together eggs, oil, sugars, and vanilla until well combined.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Mix until well-combined.
  5. Stir in the grated carrots.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for approx. 45 to 50 minutes.
  7. Cake is done when a skewer in the middle is not goopy.
  8. Cool fully before frosting.

Notes:

You could add a cup of nuts and/or a cup of raisins to this if you felt like getting crazy with things. I am not a huge fan of raisins and was totally not surprised when I discovered that mine had expired a year ago – and decided not to use them.

This cake is really, really moist because it is full of oil. If you’re the sort of person who prefers to eat a bit lighter in the calorie department, consider swapping out some of the oil for some applesauce.

Éclairs.

Mmmmm.

Mmmmm.

For some reason, this recipe didn’t make it here – so I am posting it now, even though there are no delicious éclairs in my kitchen right now.  I wish there were, and I would definitely be making some now if I had the ingredients handy, but it is ridiculous cold outside and I can’t bring myself to put on pants.

From my notes:

SO EASY! It was like magic watching them puff up. They really DO seem super-duper fancy and they really ARE super-duper easy to make. This looks like a really complicated recipe, given all the ingredients and steps, but it’s way easy.  For real. Trust me.

Chocolate Éclairs

Makes about 10 éclairs.

Ingredients:

For the choux pastry:

1/2 cup butter
1 cup water
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
4 large eggs

For the custard filling:

1 package instant vanilla pudding mix
2 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt

For the mocha frosting:

1 stick butter, softened
2.5 cups icing sugar (make it in your blender!)
1/8 cup cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup strong coffee, cooled


Directions:

Make the pastry:

  1. Preheat oven to 450F. Place a silpat mat on a large cookie sheet and grease lightly.
  2. In medium saucepan, combine 1/2 cup of butter and water. Bring to a boil, stirring, until butter is melted.
  3. Reduce the heat to low and stir in flour and salt with a wooden spoon until the mixture begins to form a stiff ball of dough. Remove from heat and move into the bowl of a stand mixer.
  4. Add eggs, one at a time, stirring vigorously after each addition to ensure they are incorporated. Work quickly so the eggs don’t cook before they’re mixed in!
  5. With a pastry bag fitted with a large tip, pipe the dough onto the prepared cookie sheet into 10 strips that are approximately 1.5 inches wide and about 4 inches long.
  6. Bake at 450F for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 325 and bake for another 20 minutes. They’re ready when they’re puffy and golden and sound hollow when lightly tapped on the bottom.
  7. Remove them from the oven and immediately push a butter knife through the end, almost all the way through. This will let out steam and moisture – it’s also where you’ll be piping the custard in, so make sure the hole is large enough for that.
  8. Let cool completely.

Make the filling:

  1. Combine pudding and milk and mix according to package directions (easy!).
  2. In a separate bowl, beat the heavy cream with a handheld mixer until soft peaks form.
  3. Beat in 1/4 cup of icing sugar, 1 tsp vanilla, and 1/4 tsp salt.
  4. Gently fold the whipped cream into the pudding.
  5. Scoop the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a medium tip – you may need to enlarge the holes in the éclairs to fit the tip.
  6. Pipe the filling mixture into the éclairs until each one is full. You will likely have filling left over.

Make the frosting:

  1. Combine the butter, powdered sugar, cocoa powder, salt and vanilla.
  2. Mix until slightly combined, then add 1/4 cup of the coffee.
  3. Whip until the icing is light and fluffy.
  4. Smear onto the top of the eclairs. Or, if you’re fancy, do something fancy with a piping bag or, y’know, whatever.

Notes:

Store in the fridge. These get soggy after a day, though, so don’t expect to be able to make them too far in advance of eating (which sucks, because once people try them they really want you to make them for all occasions!) Even though the recipe makes about 10, they will disappear really quickly.

Sriracha Brown Sugar Bacon Wrapped Onion Rings.

Oh god yeah.

Oh god yeah.

My friend Kevin is gleefully married to Brenna (who bakes). Together, they make all sorts of delicious foods. When Kevin posted a photo of this recipe on Facebook, I kind of lost my mind and immediately asked my husband (who was out grocery shopping) to please bring home some onions and some bacon.

The original recipe called for Vidalia onions – which, for those unaware, are a trademarked onion. This is why it’s hard to find them at some stores, or at various points in the year. Whenever you see a recipe that specifies Vidalias, you can pretty much always substitute a “sweet onion” (of whatever type).  The only caveat is that Vidalias are usually very large, so you may need to pick up an extra sweet onion to compensate for them being smaller.

Enough talking, let’s make these delicious onion rings!

Sriracha Brown Sugar Bacon Wrapped Onion Rings.

Ingredients:

2 large sweet onions
3 tablespoons sriracha garlic sauce
1 1/2 cups of light brown sugar
16 slices of bacon (thin cut – NOT thick)

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 400F and make sure the rack is in the middle of the oven. Line a baking sheet with foil, place a cooling rack on top, and lightly spray the cooling rack with non-stick spray.
  2. Peel the onions and cut them into 1/2 inch rings. Do not separate the rings. Set aside.
  3. Place the brown sugar in a shallow pan (pie plate, brownie pan) and break up any chunks.
  4. Place the Sriracha in a bowl. Find a basting brush. If you’re an organized person, you’ll know where that brush is. For everyone else, look through all of your drawers until you find one shoved into the back behind the turkey baster.
  5. Separate the onion rings into double slices (two rings that fit together). Keep only the larger sizes of rings – you can use the smaller rings For this dish you want the larger rings. The smaller, inner rings you can set aside and use in another dish or compost or put in your sandwich. Whatever works for you.
  6. Take 2 strips of bacon and dredge them through the brown sugar, making sure to coat both sides. Here’s hint number one: the more brown sugar, the sweeter and gooey these will be – and the more likely your oven will start to billow smoke halfway through cooking. We all make choices and we live with them.
  7. Using your basting brush, paint the sriracha sauce all over the onion ring. Make sure you’re still keeping the two rings together – no need to get between them with the sriracha!
  8. Wrap the bacon around the onion – overlap slightly and keep it snug (but not too tight). The bacon will shrink a bit during cooking. It will take two slices to go around the ring fully. Don’t overlap too much because the bacon underneath won’t cook as well if you layer it.
  9. Set each wrapped-up onion onto the rack. Space them out nicely. Admire them. Note how they look a lot like bacon-wrapped donuts. Appreciate that fact.
  10. Place the tray into the oven and bake for 20 minutes. When the timer dings, gently flip each ring over.
  11. Cook for another 15-20 minutes. You know how bacon looks when it’s cooked perfectly? That’s how you’ll know when these are ready to come out of the oven.
  12. When they’re ready, take them off of the trays and put them onto a plate. They will be super soft and gooey (very gooey, if you used a lot of brown sugar). The bacon will get crispier as it sits, assuming you don’t just burn the hell out of your hands and mouth by eating these as soon as they hit the plate.

Notes:

We basically created a room full of smoke by using a pretty substantial amount of brown sugar (that subsequently dripped down onto the tray and burned). To prevent this, you can either use less brown sugar (what?!) or you could switch out the lower tray for a clean one after the first 20 minutes of cooking.

Here’s a photo of my husband in our smoke-filled kitchen.

A teensy bit of smoke. No biggie.

A teensy bit of smoke. No biggie.

Cowgirl Candy.

Doesn't look too fancy, right?

Doesn’t look too fancy, right?

There are recipes all over the internet for something called “Cowboy Candy”. This recipe is pretty much the same thing – it’s just that I’m a lady, I’m the one who makes these, and I love these sweet and spicy jalapenos.

So, y’know, that makes them Cowgirl Candy in my books.

Cowgirl Candy is delicious in nachos, on burgers, on their own, with cream cheese on a cracker, on their own, in soups or casseroles, on their own.. you can find plenty of uses for them if you like spicy sweet foods.  It is not actually candy. This will not fool your kids.

This recipe makes approximately 7 (250mL) jars of candy, depending how tightly you pack ’em, and will also leave you with approximately one jar of delicious jalapeno syrup to add to mashed potatoes, swirl into your quinoa bake, or to use as a marinade for meat.  As you can see (sorta’) in the photo, I don’t pack them very tightly – I like each jar to have a bit of extra syrup in there – but that means the peppers will float a bit.

Cowgirl Candy

Ingredients:

3 pounds jalapeno peppers, washed
2 cups cider vinegar
6 cups granulated sugar
½ teaspoons turmeric
½ teaspoons celery seed
3 teaspoons granulated garlic
1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

Directions:

  1. I highly recommend that you wear gloves while working with any hot peppers – but I can’t force you to be sensible.
  2. Slice off the stems and tips from all of the peppers. Toss these into your compost bucket.
  3. Slice the peppers into uniform 1/4 inch rounds. I like to use my mandoline because I enjoy taking my life into my own hands around sharp blades. Also, it makes the slices very neat and tidy. But you can totally do this with a knife. Set the pepper slices aside.
  4. In a large pot, combine the cider vinegar, sugar, turmeric, celery seed, granulated garlic, and cayenne pepper. Over medium-high heat, bring this mixture to a boil while stirring.
  5. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
  6. Add the pepper slices and simmer for exactly 4 minutes. For real. Time it. You don’t want them to get mushy and they’re going to get softer later when you process them.
  7. Use a slotted spoon and transfer the peppers into clean jars. Fill to about 1/4 inch line and pack them as tightly as you want them to be.
  8. Turn heat up in the pot and bring the syrup to a full rolling boil. Boil hard for 6 minutes. Time it. For real!
  9. Spoon or pour or ladle the boiling syrup into the jars – covering the pepper slices. Fill each jar to the 1/4 inch line.
  10. If you want to keep a jar or two of syrup, fill those up too!
  11. Wipe the rims of the jars with a damp paper towel – get all the goopy sticky seeds and whatnot off.
  12. Put on your lids and bands. Process for the usual 10-15 minutes (depending on your altitude)
  13. Set aside to cool overnight and look for the happy ping’ed lids that mean everything has sealed up properly. If they haven’t sealed, put the jars in the fridge and eat ’em soon (I recommend nachos.)

Spicy Scalloped Potatoes.

There is no photo to accompany this post because, well, this was not an attractive recipe. My shoddy photography skills would have made it even worse.  And since these turned out to be really delicious, I don’t want to scare you off with a hideous photo.

At the age of 39, I realized that I have never made scalloped potatoes. I skimmed through a bunch of recipes, settled on one that didn’t sound bland, and decided to make it – with a few changes along the way.

This came out delightfully spicy (which I like!) but you may want to adjust your ingredients to make it more, or less, spicy. If you don’t like any spice whatsoever, well, you may want to look for a different recipe.

Spicy Scalloped Potatoes

Ingredients:

4 tbsp unsalted butter
4 tbsp  all-purpose flour
4 1/2 cups warm milk
2 cup shredded habanero cheese (or other spicy, melty cheese!)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground pepper
3 lb white potatoes
2 cups chunky salsa (hot!)
1/2 cup drained pickled or marinated jalapeno pepper slices (like Cowgirl Candy!)

Directions:

  1. Melt butter in a medium saucepan, over medium heat. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.
  2. Whisk in the warm milk and continue whisking constantly for 3 to 5 minutes – or until beginning to boil and thicken. Add more flour, slowly, if needed to thicken.
  3. Remove the pot from the heat and whisk in the cheese, salt, oregano, cumin and pepper. Set the pot aside for a bit.
  4. Preheat the oven to 375F.
  5. Peel and thinly slice potatoes. Use a mandoline if you’re afraid of losing a finger.
  6. Arrange about one third of the slices into a thin layer in the bottom of a greased 9×13 baking dish.
  7. Spread half of the salsa on top of the potatoes.
  8. Repeat steps 5 and 6, making happy potato and salsa layers, then layer the remaining potato slices on top.
  9. Pour the cheese sauce over top to cover evenly and reach the sides and bottom of dish.
  10. Sprinkle with jalapeno pepper slices.
  11. Cover with foil and bake for 1 hour. Uncover and bake for another 30 minutes or until lightly browned. The potatoes should be tender.
  12. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Notes:

You can make this more, or less, spicy by choosing cheeses and salsas that are more or less spicy. You can also skip the jalapeno slices on top for less kick. I have no idea why you would want to make it LESS spicy, but, hey, it’s your dinner.