Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Dede/Nana's Perfect Apple Pie

We couldn't have a Memorial Day picnic without apple pie and ice cream!   It was time to pull out my "Perfect Apple Pie" recipe.  This recipe came to me from my mother (Nana) and her mother (Dede) before her and it really is perfect!
Perfect Apple Pie
This pie is easy, peasy to make and gets raves every time.  I usually make my own pie crust using the Cuisinart pastry recipe, but this time I decided that I had to have apple pie at the last minute and I didn't have any homemade pastry in the freezer.  I used a Pillsbury rolled up pie crust and no one (except me!) could tell the difference. 

I have tweaked this recipe a bit over time, but basically stay faithful to the original.  I like a big, tall, stuffed apple pie so I always add lots of apples and this time I also added dried cranberries.  You just really can't go wrong with this recipe - I promise!
Perfect Apple (Cranberry) Pie just waiting for my favorite -
Breyers Natural Vanilla Ice Cream
Perfect Apple Pie
  • 6 or 7 apples (I used 8: 4 gala and 4 granny smith)
  • 3/4 cup sugar (I use slightly less depending how sweet the apples are)
  • 2 (generous) Tbsp all purpose flour 
  • 1 (generous) tsp cinnamon - I love cinnamon so I use plenty
  • dash of nutmeg
  • dash of salt
1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Peel and slice the apples.  (I use my peeler-corer-slicer  Here is one like it.) and place the slices in water with lemon juice.

2.  Drain the apples slices and pat dry with a clean kitchen towel.  

3.  Roll crust out and place on the bottom of a pie plate.  

4.  Mix apple slices with spices and pour into bottom crust. Dot the apple slices with 1 Tbsp of butter.   

5.  Add the top crust and fold the edges under the bottom crust and press or crimp together.  

6.  Cut a slit into the top of the crust to let the steam out as it bakes
(At this point you can wrap and freeze the pie to use later if you like.)

7.  Brush the top of the pie crust with a mixture of egg white and water and sprinkle with sugar.  (I used turbinato sugar for a little sugary crunch.)


  • If fresh, bake for 50 minute at 400 degrees or until crust is lightly browned and apples are soft.
  • If frozen, bake at 425 degrees for 5 minutes.  Remove from oven and brush with egg white wash and dust with sugar.  Return to oven and bake another 55 minutes or until crust is lightly browned and apples are soft.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Baby Towel How-Tos

As promised...if a few days... or maybe a week later...Here are the simple how-to's for the baby towel.

These towels are really simple to make, use just a fluffy towel and matching wash cloth, and take less than 30 minutes to construct once you get the hang of them.  The time consuming part for this towel was all the embroidery that I did before constructing the towel.

Each 4-flower motif:

took about 20 minutes to stitch out and there are 7 of them all together - 6 large ones for the sides of the towel and 1 smaller one for the hood of the towel.  The 20 minutes doesn't count the time to regroup and rehoop after each motif finishes.  

I drew and digitized this group of flowers with my machine when I first got it.  I'm not sure now how I did it...maybe luck?  I can't wait for summer to play with my machine again!  

My embroidery machine - a Pfaff Creative 2170 needs a bit of babysitting while embroidering.  The very moment that I step away a needle breaks or the bobbin thread runs out.  I usually use that time to plan the next project or get some ironing done if I'm feeling really ambitious (not often!).  Usually I just sit there mesmerized while the machine does the stitching! Ha!

I really love the embroidery, though so I think it is worth the time. See: 
Embroidery finished and ready to start construction.
Worth the trouble, right?
Before I had the embroidery machine, I used to stitch decorative ribbon down the front and across the washcloth hood.  That is almost as cute and takes much less time.

The next step is to make the hood from the wash cloth.  To do this I fold the wash cloth in half leaving a 1 1/2-inch border sticking out on the bottom so it is not quite truly in half.  That little sticking out flap piece will be used to connect the hood to the main part of the towel.

Next measure in 2 inches along each of the folded sides of the "hood" and pin a diagonal line down to the opening.
All pinned and ready to sew!
Sew - or serge - along the pin line.  If you are using a sewing machine, sew with a straight stitch, cut off the excess fabric and then overcast with a nice wide zigzag to stop the terry cloth from fraying.
All sewn and the excess trimmed.

Turn it right side out and it is all ready to attach.

The next step is to add a pleat to the back of the towel.  Find the center of the towel and fold it along the center line.  Put in a line of pins 3 inches from the folded edge and about 6-7 inches down the length of the towel.
Stitch with a long straight stitch following your pin line.  Don't worry about the strength of this seam, you will be reinforcing it in a minute.

Forming the back pleat...

Next, open up the sides of the towel and distribute the inside of the pleat to either side of the seam in order to form a pleat in the back inside of the towel.

Stitch down the center on the other side to secure the pleat.

Pin down the pleat along the seam so that the pleat stays evenly distributed on each side of the seam you sewed.  On the other side of the towel (the right side), use a wide zigzag and stitch down the seam that you stitched in the last step.  This will secure the pleat and the pleat seam.  Be sure to reinforce it well at the bottom so that it can endure lots of toddler baths!

Done with the pleat.  This is looking at the towel from the right side.
Now you are ready to attach the hood.  Find the center of the hood and pin the hood flap to the inside of the towel matching the center of the pleat on the inside of the towel.
Attaching the hood...See where I matched the centers?
Stitch down around the sides and bottom of the washcloth where it is touching the towel.  I use a large zigzag.  Be sure to reinforce it at the sides where it meets the towel.  That spot gets lots of wear and tear.
All stitched down.
Now... the final step... flip the towel over and stitch along the top edge of the towel where it meets the hood.  Again, I use a large zigzag. Careful not to catch the front of the hood in the stitching.
The final step!
All done!  

You could add your label here in the back to hang it with if you have a pretty one.  I usually add mine to the bottom inside of one of the front flaps.

The finished towel all ready for years of snuggling in after bath time!
I have a ga-zillion projects in my head lined up for summer...4 more weeks!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Baby Gift-Palooza

I finally managed to sneak in a little sewing time this weekend and it was a Baby-gift-palooza day!  Baby gifts...Perfect for Mother's Day weekend, right?

I have a friend who is on bed rest expecting a sweet baby girl any time now so it was definitely time to sew up some girlie-girl baby stuff.

First up was this super easy baby girl bib!
Don't cha just love the chunky rick-rack!
I got it in a grab bag at an upholstery store.
I found this pattern on pinterest and followed it to this blog - Lots of Pink.  She has a really good tutorial and a free pdf pattern.  
The pattern needed a bit of straightening where the 2 pieces
come together.  Probably because of differences in printers.  No biggie!
I didn't follow her directions exactly at all, but that is just because I didn't really need them.  If you are new to sewing, her directions are very good.  

After reading her directions, I found I did a few things differently.  

  • I used a heavy weight fabric for the top piece so I didn't use any interfacing as she suggested.  
  • I cut the 2 blocks out first and then sewed them together because I was trying to squeeze them out of some scraps.
  • I did use lots of pins when I was sewing the two sides together - as she suggests.  Minky can have a mind of its own and tends to move around as you sew so taking charge and pinning are a must.

I just realized that I didn't take any pictures of the back which is the softest minky fabric in baby pink.  Got my girlie fix with this one for sure!
The best part?  It took about 20 minutes start to finish!
Part 2 of the baby-palooza was another baby towel.  I'm working on a mini-tutorial for my next post.  For now...Here is a sneak peak:
Embroidery for the baby girl towel
Hoping everyone had a wonderful Mother's Day Weekend and got to do a little something that makes your heart sing!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Lemon-Tarragon Crab Cakes with Arugula-Parsley Salad

I'll bet that some of you thought that I had given up blogging!  I'm still here, but...It has been a really busy Spring full of many happy events.

Sewing is at a virtual stand-still, but the dinner time keeps rolling around each night so at least I'm getting in some cooking. I did get some time to shop at a cool fabric store in Harrisonburg (Rag Time Fabrics) and was able to pick up some stretch lace so I have a new project on the horizon.  I also have a hooded baby towel and a bib to make for a baby girl that is waiting to make her appearance soon. So maybe some sewing pics soon?

On the top of the list this weekend was DD #2's graduation!

Our new college graduate!
Tonight to celebrate her first night back at home we had a yummy crab cake dinner from this month's Cooking Light Magazine.  

Lemon-Tarragon Crab Cakes with Arugula-Parsley Salad
We liked the crab cakes a lot (I mean how can you go wrong with fresh crab, lemon and tarragon!), but the surprise hit of the dinner was the salad.  It was tossed with a lemony-Dijon dressing with just a hint of sweetness from agave syrup.  I have been seeing this ingredient in a lot of recipes lately so, on impulse, I bought it the other day.  I like the flavor and, with the intense sweetness, a little goes a long way.

I think that the secret with somewhat bitter greens like arugula and parsley is to dress them a bit ahead of time so that they kind of wilt a bit and absorb the dressing flavor.  This salad had a nice bright crunch and the sweet tangy dressing finished it off perfectly!

My husband commented that this was the first time he has ever eaten parsley. Ha!  Little does he know that I go through a bunch of parsley each week and...he is definitely eating half of it!  I guess he also hasn't noticed it growing in the garden each summer.  Maybe he thinks the chipmunks eat it???  

I'm hoping that you have had a Spring time full of celebrations - every day variety celebrations and special occasions both!

Lemon-Tarragon Crab Cakes
Cooking Light Magazine 5/13

  • 1 1/4 cups fresh breadcrumbs, toasted
  • 1/4 cup minced shallots
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 tsp grated lemon rind
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice (Juice the whole lemon and use the rest for the dressing)
  • 1 tsp fresh tarragon (mine from the garden is just tall enough to harvest after the winter)
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/8 tsp ground red pepper
  • 1 pound lump crabmeat, shell pieces removed
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp olive oil
1.  Combine all ingredients except olive oil in a bowl.  Toss gently.  Divide crab mixture into 6 equal portions (about 2/3 cup each), shaping each into a 1/2 inch thick patty.  (Mine were slightly thicker)

2.  Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add oil to pan; swirl to coat.  Add crab cakes to pan; cook 4 minutes on each side or until lightly browned and heated through. 

Serves 6 (5 Weight Watcher Points)

Arugula Parsley Salad
Combine 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice, 2 tsp whole-grain dijon mustard, 1 tsp agave syrup, 1/4 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper in a large bowl; stir with a whisk.  Add 5 cups baby arugula, 1 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, and 1/2 cup vertically sliced red onion to bowl; toss well to coat.

Serves 3 (3 Weight Watcher Points)