Friday, November 23, 2012

Sopapilla Cheesecake

This recipe is one of my favorite recipes to make for a get-together. It's fast, easy, and everyone loves it! My husband says this is his favorite dessert that I make (and I make a lot of desserts).

Now, don't freak out when you read the ingredients. Yes, this is unhealthy. It's a dessert. I don't recommend eating it on a daily basis (although it's so delicious I wish I could). As a once-in-a-while treat, I feel like it's okay to indulge. :)

*Scroll to the bottom of the post to download a printable version of the recipe.

You will need:
2 pkgs crescent rolls (I like to get Pillsbury's seamless dough, which is their regular crescent roll dough, but it's not pre-cut into triangles).
2 8-oz pkgs cream cheese, softened
1 C sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 stick butter, melted (real butter works better than margarine for this recipe)
1/2 C sugar mixed with 1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350. In a 9x13 pan, unroll 1 pkg crescent roll dough.

Smooth it out in the bottom of the pan.

Put cream cheese, 1 C sugar, and vanilla in a mixing bowl.

Stir by hand until well blended. It will look something like this:

Mmmm, just look at that gooey deliciousness. I could just eat this stuff with a spoon.
Spread this mixture on top of the crescent roll layer.

Unroll the second package of crescent roll dough on top of the cream cheese layer.

Pour the melted butter over the top. The butter will pool up in certain areas. This is fine; use a spoon or spatula to spread it out as evenly as possible, but it doesn't have to be perfect.

Take the cinnamon-sugar mixture and sprinkle all over the top. The 1/2 C I listed is a guesstimate; I don't actually measure that part. If you feel like 1/2 C just isn't going to cut it, mix up some more. It'll be fine.

Bake for 30 minutes and you're done! You should see this golden-brown goodness, and as it cools the cinnamon and sugar will become crispy like a sopapilla.

I would recommend storing the cheesecake in the refrigerator if you will not be serving it for a while. Personally, I like to eat mine warm, but it is also delicious cold.

I hope you and yours enjoy!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Halloween Goodie Basket

At my school, all of the teachers exchange names and have a secret pal for the duration of the school year. Once a month, we are supposed to sneak a little gift to our pal, which is not to cost more than $5.
It's kind-of a cool little system, because at the beginning of the year we all fill out a brief questionnaire asking about some of our favorite things. My secret pal listed that Halloween was one of her favorite holidays, so, as it's October, I put together a Halloween-themed goodie basket.

It looks much larger in the picture than it is. I got a bowl at the dollar store that is about the size of a large cereal bowl. It has little candy corns on it, so it made a cute base and hopefully my pal can use it again. I filled the bowl with Halloween goodies that I put together, combining several ideas I have found on Pinterest.

Here is the array of fun stuff I started with:

First I made Pretzel Skeletons. To make a Pretzel Skeleton, you will need:

Bamboo skewers
White chocolate covered pretzels
Big marshmallows
Brownies (The Pinterest idea for these called for making homemade brownies and covering them with ganache. As much as I love baking, that sounded like way too much work. I used Little Debbie's brownies instead, and they worked just fine.)

You will also need a black edible marker. I found this one, made by Wilton, at Michael's in the Halloween section. You just use it like a magic marker.

You can also find the food writers here:

Start by drawing a little skull face on a big marshmallow.

Next, take one of the bamboo skewers and cut it to about 3-4" long.

Insert the pointy end of the skewer into the center of the brownie base.

Since the Little Debbie brownies are doubled, I just put two skeletons together on the same brownie. They're like a cute little skeletal couple.
Take about 5 white chocolate pretzels and thread them onto the skewer.

Finally, place the marshmallow on top of the skewer, and you have a Pretzel Skeleton!
I wrapped my cute couple in clear cellophane and tied an orange ribbon around the top. While I was not having a problem with the skeletons staying upright, the brownie base was a little shallow, so I was concerned about them getting a little loose during transport. The cellophane seemed to really help keep them in place. Plus it looks fancy.

Next, I made Spooky S'mores packets. To make these, you will need:

Graham crackers
Fun-sized Hershey bars
Ghost Peeps
Sandwich bags
Decorative paper

Let me tell you, I had a heck of a time trying to find those ghost Peeps. The original blog where I found this idea said they could be found at Target, but my Target did not carry them. Neither did Kroger. Finally, I went to the Peeps website and clicked on store locator. I found out that Walgreens was the only store in my area that carried them. So if you want to make these yourself, save yourself the hassle and find out what stores in your area carry them before you go hunting all over town; or, better yet, order them from Amazon.

I put two graham cracker squares, one Hershey bar, and one ghost into a sandwich bag. Then I took some decorative paper and cut it the width of the bag by about 4 inches to make a label.

I played around with some lettering and drew the labels by hand. I was only putting together a couple of kits; if you were making a lot of these I would suggest printing out a label to save time.

Then I stapled the labels onto the sandwich bags.

Ta-da! Completed Spooky S'mores kit! These are just too fun! I think it would be cool to make these for a family, with one bag for each person.

I also made a mummified chocolate bar for my secret pal. To make one of these you will need:

Full-sized Hershey bar(s)
White crepe paper streamers
Googly eyes
Glue gun

I started by gluing the googly eyes onto the candy bar. Then I wrapped the bar in the crepe paper, using the glue gun to tack it on the back every two or three wraps.

(Ignore the odd shape of my chocolate bar. It apparently got a little too hot in the car. Yes, it's still warm here, October or not. Fortunately you can't tell the chocolate is oddly shaped once it's all wrapped).

This little guy just makes me laugh.

The last thing that I put in the goodie basket was some Kit-Kats, because my secret pal said those were her favorite kind of candy. I was just going to stick some fun-sized Kit-Kats in the basket, but while I was at Michael's, I ran across these miniature gift bags:

They were just the perfect size to slip a fun-sized candy bar into, so that's what I did.

Once I piled everything into the bowl, I wrapped the whole thing with cellophane and tied a ribbon around it.

I love how the skeletal couple are peeking out. So cute.
I also made a gift tag out of some scraps of the decorative paper and tied it on, but do not have a picture of it because you can see the recipient's name too clearly. You know, anonymity and all that.

Any of these little projects would be fun to do with kids and give out to friends. I hope you all enjoy!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Autumn Spirit Costume

I finally finished my Autumn costume for the Renaissance Festival, just in time!

Literally just in time, like midnight the night before. Nothing like waiting til the last second to complete an elaborate project.

This was the vision I had in mind when I created my masquerade mask a few weeks ago. I've had this picture of a leaf-dress in my head for a while now, so it was exciting to bring it to life.

I started with some gorgeous orange iridescent taffeta which looks almost yellow in some lights and almost red in others. The fabric clearly evoked fall in my mind, so it made a good backdrop.

I picked a pattern and made just a basic strapless dress, with a small flounce at the bottom and a high-low hemline.

The pattern was Butterick 4731, which can be found here:

For once, I didn't really deviate from the pattern, which is not like me at all.  :)

In sewing the dress, I put in this narrow rolled hem.

For a complete tutorial on how to put in a hem like this without a lot of headache, click here.

Once the dress was completed, the fun (and slightly tedious) part began. My vision for the dress was to have a pile of solid leaves at the bottom which then faded out into the dress itself. The remainder of the dress would have a few leaves scattered here and there.
You can get a bunch of artificial leaves from Amazon.

I started by pinning one solid row of leaves around the entire length of the hem.

The best way to attach the leaves took a bit of a learning curve. I only wanted the leaves tacked down in the center, so they could rustle and move and curl naturally. The goal was not to have them stitched solidly down and look like appliques. I tried using a regular straight stitch on the machine, putting in about three stitches, and then stitching backward and forward a few times. This was not strong enough, however, and a few of the leaves started falling off as I went to pin on the next row. I redid the entire first row by hand, and then did half of the second row by hand, as well.

This took FOREVER.

Well, close enough. With two days left until I needed to wear it, I decided that wasn't going to work. I went back to machine stitching, and used a tight, narrow zigzag stitch. I only stitched for about a quarter of an inch on each leaf, but I went over it five or six times. That worked, and was much faster that doing it by hand.

I sewed each leaf, lifted the needle and presser foot, then slid the fabric under the presser foot until I got to the next leaf, and then sewed that one, without stopping to clip my threads between each leaf.

Using this method, I sewed all the leaves in the row before I took the fabric out of the machine and clipped the threads between all the leaves. This saved a lot of time by not having to pull the fabric out after every leaf, clip threads, and then get all the fabric re-situated on the machine.
If you look closely at the above picture you can see the orange thread coming from the leaf behind the presser foot and leading directly to the leaf that is under the presser foot, to better show you what I mean.

All together, I sewed three solid rows of leaves around the bottom of the skirt, and then added a fourth row of leaves spaced a little further apart. From there, I just placed a few randomly here and there on the rest of the dress.

I could have been finished here, as originally planned, but the dress was a little loose and tended to slide down a little. I could have easily altered it to fit more snugly so it would stay in place, but I opted not to. I knew I would be wearing the dress all day, walking around outside, so I wanted the comfort of a looser dress.
I decided to add a strap instead. I went for an asymmetrical strap that cut across my back and over one shoulder, because I felt like it was more in keeping with my original vision than two symmetrical straps would have been. I sewed an orange ribbon into the dress at the places I wanted, then sewed leaves across the entire length. I tacked these on by hand so that I could hide the stitches better, since these leaves would be a little more visible.

With just a few hours to spare, my Autumn Spirit costume was finished!
Here's a view of the back of the dress:

I think the line of leaves falling across the shoulder and back is kind-of cute, and I love the leaves trailing behind on the little flounce.

All in all, I was very pleased with my autumn-y gown, especially when paired with my mask, and had a lot of fun wearing it!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Professional Narrow Rolled Hem

Have you ever wanted to make pretty, professional-looking hems like the one shown above? Have you ever despaired when trying to create a rolled hem on a delicate, hard-to-work-with fabric, or on a curved edge? I know I have. I used to spend hours pressing hems and manipulating fabric, only to be less-than-pleased with the results.

Then I learned this technique, and now I have no problems with hems on all types of fabrics, and I do not shy away from curved edges. My hems look more professional with a lot less headache. (Yay!) This is a technique that I learned when I did alterations in the bridal industry.

Start by marking your hem about 1/8-1/4" longer than you want the finished hem to be. You will fold along this line. Leave yourself at least 1/2" excess below your fold line; if possible, leave a couple of inches, and it will be a little easier to work with when you get to the cutting stage.

You can pin it if you want to, but if you're working on a curved edge, sometimes the pins will cause more of a headache than they are worth, because it's hard to pin the fabric evenly all the way around without any weird gaps or "bubbles" in it. I usually just fold over the part I'm working on and about 1-2" in front of the presser foot and hold it with my fingers. Stitch close to the folded edge.

Again, just worry about the part about 1-2 inches in front of the presser foot. Especially if you are working on a curved edge, it may seem like the fabric is not going to cooperate. Trust me, if you fold over and stitch just that little bit at a time, it takes next to no effort to get the fabric to do what you want. Once you've done this a few times, it becomes second nature and you can do this about as quickly as you could any other seam.

After stitching all the way around the folded edge, cut the raw edge close to the stitching.

Cut closely like this all the way around.
Now you're ready to complete the hem. Simply fold the edge over, encasing the raw edge, and stitch on top of your first row of stitching. You'll find that the fabric typically wants to follow the guide you set for it in your first stitching.

Yes, you end up sewing the length of your hem twice, but these professional results are worth it. Just look at the right and wrong sides of my hem in the following pictures--any seamstress would be proud of a delicate hem like that.

So there you have it--a narrow rolled hem without fighting your fabric!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Masquerade Mask

I've had this vision for a costume for quite a while now, and finally acquired all the materials to make it a reality. The costume itself isn't actually finished yet, but I just finished the mask and couldn't wait to put some pictures up! So here's the finished product:

I absolutely love masquerade masks; I think they're beautiful! Of course, I wasn't able to find one even close to what I was envisioning. Hubby and I went to a huge costume shop in downtown Houston, which had a large selection of masquerade masks, and he helped me pick out a mask to use as a "base". Here's what I started with:

We loved the unique shape and the half-and-half qualities of this mask, even though the colors were far from what I wanted. I also thought the outlines of some of the points lent themselves well to being used with autumn leaves. Little by little, I transformed the mask to match the image in my mind.

First, I popped off the purple rhinestones and painted the mask.

I started with this supposedly "gold" paint on one half, but decided it was too beige-y. So I repainted it with a metallic gold, which I liked much better, and painted the other half scarlet.

Don't you agree that the second gold color looks much better? At this point I was already liking the mask much better, and was excited to add my leaves. I played around with several colors and placements. I really liked the dark red leaves and the gold/brown leaves because they complemented the mask colors, but the rest of the costume is going to be an iridescent orange/yellow, so I also wanted some lighter leaves to tie it all together. Once I figured out which leaves I wanted, I sewed them on. That was fun, sewing through a couple layers of plastic--not! But the leaves are much more secure than they would have been if I had glued them.

I arranged the leaves so that they followed the original shape of the mask. In this next picture you can see the bottom point of the mask...

...and then how well the leaf lines up with it. I did this on the top points on the gold side, as well.

Once the leaves were finally sewn on (seriously, that took much longer than anticipated), I was finished!

I love how the top leaf on each side plays off of the mask color on the opposite side, bringing it all together. The lighter leaves add some pleasant contrast, and are really going to bring in the costume color. Hopefully I will get the costume made this next weekend (fingers crossed!) and will be able to upload pictures of it all together.