Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Recipe - Pumpkin Cheesecake

Here in Australia Halloween is nowhere near as big-of-a-deal as it is in other parts of the world, though it does seem to be becoming more of a "thing" each year.  And pumpkin-pie is almost unheard of here ... at least in the way I've seen it in American movies and recipes.  

Anyway, pumpkin and halloween-themed posts are really heating up in blog-land at the moment.  Have you seen them?  And the other day when I was perusing my Facebook feed, the most delicious-looking link popped up for a Pumpkin Cheesecake.  I was hooked with one glance at the cheese-cakey goodness.  We love cheesecake.  But I was a little deflated when I realised it was a recipe with lots of ingredients I'd either never heard of, or just simply aren't available in my local supermarket.  Things like "cool-whip" and "pumpkin-pie spices", and "canned pumpkin".  Yep, we don't have those.  But the thought of pumpkin cheese-cake, and the fact that our last pumpkin from our bumper pumpkin crop was sitting patiently on my counter just waiting to be turned into one got the better of me, and I decided to give it a go.

So, here's my very Aussie, very non-authentic version of a pumpkin cheesecake.  It's SUPER yummy, and we've made it twice already (to share of course).  Oh and pumpkin coupled with ginger ... yummo!  Don't believe me? You'll just have to give it a go yourself!

Ingredients: (Makes 12 individual serves)

- 1 packet Gingernut biscuits (use 3/4 of the pack for the base, and the rest for the crunchy topping)
- 50g butter
- 2 teaspoons Mixed Spice
- 12 individual serving cups ... we used plastic champagne flutes because we were transporting these to a family lunch, but a glass tumbler would be cute too.

- 2 Packs of Philadelphia Cream Cheese
- 1 can sweetened condensed milk
- 250g pureed pumpkin
- 2 teaspoons Mixed Spice
- 1 Tablespoon Powdered Gelatin
- 1/2 cup boiling water


For the base ...

1. If you're using fresh pumpkin like me (I didn't even know that canned pumpkin existed), chop your pumpkin into small chunks and boil in water on the stove until its soft.  Then drain the water and puree using a stick-blender, or mashing thoroughly should work too.  Oh, and a hint ... I weighed the pumpkin after it was pureed.

2.  Break up 3/4 of your Gingernut biscuits (my food processor didn't like me trying to crush them whole), 

 ... then blitz in a food processor until it's consistency of coarse crumbs like this ...  Be sure to save the rest of the pack for later!

3. Add the mixed spice and mix well.

4. Add the melted butter and blitz until well-combined.

This is a fairly dry base mixture.

5.  Spoon the base evenly into 12 serving cups.

For the filling ...
I used my trusty Kitchenaid, but you could totally make this using a bowl and hand whisk if you feel like an arm work-out.

6.  Using the whisk attachment, whisk the cream cheese until it's broken up, then pour in the sweetened condensed milk, and whisk until well-combined.  I started slowly (to avoid making too much mess), then when it was combined a bit, sped the mixer up to try getting as smooth-a-consistency as possible.  I hate cheese lumps in my cheesecake!

7. Pour in the pureed pumpkin and mix well with the whisk.

8.  Add the mixed spice and whisk well.

9.  Tasting is definitely a VERY important step ... it's so yummy at this stage!

10. Dissolve your gelatin in the boiling water by mixing them together in a small bowl until all the gelatin lumps are gone.  Then let the gelatin mix cool for approximately 5 minutes.  Once slightly cooled, pour into cheesecake filling, and whisk again until well-combined.  It will be a runnier consistency now, but don't worry ... it sets beautifully!

11.  Pour the filling evenly into each of the serving cups.  Then refrigerate for approximately 3-4 hours before serving (I made mine the night before!)

12.  To add a bit more texture (and gingery-ness), I blitzed the remaining 1/4 pack of gingernuts and sprinkled this as a crumb over the top of the cheese-cake.  

An there you have it ... Pumpkin Cheesecake.  A perfect dessert, super tasty, and Bethany is convinced it's healthy "'cause it has pumpkin in it" ... of course she's right ... isn't she?

And all that's left is to dig in and have a heaping big spoonful.  Enjoy!!

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

It's spring!! ... And these recent pattern tests are the perfect thing!

See how I rhymed that ... ha ha ... Oh dear!!  I think I'm just delirious because winter is OVER and Spring is HERE ... and with spring comes warmth, and less runny noses and flowers and ... did I mention warmth! ... not that you'd know it today.  Spring lulled us into a false sense of security yesterday with a beautiful warm day, but today is rainy, windy and cold again.  

Anyway, all of that has absolutely nothing to do with this post, which is about some gorgeous pattern tests I've been involved in over the past couple of weeks.  If you follow me on Facebook, you might have noticed I've spent some lovely evenings sewing some beautiful things.  I love love love a good pattern test ... a free pattern, the chance to make some cute outfits and post about them, and a chance to work with some of the most amazing PDF pattern designers.  I find that I learn a new technique (or more) every time I do a pattern test, and there were definitely a few of them here!

I answered a Facebook call-out from Elegance & Elephants for a pattern test opportunity, and was so stoked when I was included.  Heidi is currently putting together a few new patterns which will be released VERY soon.  You can see her LookBook here for a sneak-peek.

Anyway, first up was the Magnolia Skirt and the Hemlock Top ... I was included to sew them up in a size 7 (perfect fit for Bethany).  Here's how they turned out.

I found these great knits at my local Spotlight.  I think with the dreary winter weather we've had lately, the bright happy print just caught my eye.  They scream spring and fun.  Oh, and a skirt that twirls never gets old, does it?  I mean, check that twirl out!  I made the Magnolia skirt first.  It truly was a dream-sew.  Very quick (like about 20 minutes or so of sewing once it was cut out) and it came together really easily.  It's a paneled skirt, and I love this style.  There are two versions, one for knit fabrics and one for woven.  I think I might try a woven one next ... maybe for Hannah ... hmmm, now, which fabric will I choose!!
Then I moved on to the Hemlock Top.  I think this is going to become one of my go-to patterns, to use for making long or short sleeve tops, or to use as a template for designing dress bodices or other fun projects.  The frills on the sleeves are so cute ... just something a little special.  The top comes with long or short sleeve options.  I think it would look great with just the frill, as a kind of cap-sleeve as well!
Anyway, Bethany loves her outfit, and it will come in handy as a great play outfit as our weather warms up.

Next I moved on to the Ponderosa Dress.  This time I signed up as a Size 3 tester, to make this little outfit for Hannah.  And how cute is it!?!
This is another Spotlight Knit Fabric ... they've actually got a few nice ones at the moment.  I coupled it with a little piece of plain red knit fabric that I found in my Mum's stash ... thanks Mum!
This dress was definitely the most technical out of the 3 outfits, but still not too difficult.  I had a little trouble with the sleeves, but I thin that says more about my lacking sewing skills than it does about the pattern.  The dress came together beautifully, and was just perfect for feeding the ducks before the rain came last weekend.  

In fact, we went out for lunch after our duck-feeding was complete and we got so many lovely comments from people about this dress and how cute it looked on Hannah.  

I can definitely see a few more of these in my future as well.  Cute as!

And now I feel the need for some more summer sewing.  I have files on my desktop of pattern links for each of the girls ... lots of sewing fun to be had I think ... yay!

Oh, and I was provided with the patterns for these items in return for testing the pattern and providing my feedback directly to Elegance & Elephants.  I was not compensated for this blog-post, and all opinions are my own.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Tutorial or Two - Winter Dresses from a Raglan Top Pattern

One of the things that first drew me into reading crafty blogs was the generosity of some beautiful bloggers who not only share ideas, but also share patterns and tutorials ... FOR FREE.  This was and is so amazing to me as I work on improving my sewing skills.  I mean, the thought of spending money on a pattern if you're not sure you can pull it off just kinda freaks me out.  Well, I've now bought several online patterns ... ones that I new I'd use a tonne ... and use them, I definitely do.  But I would never have been brave enough to try this had it not been for the super-clever sewists out there who are generous enough to share their hard work.  Thanks lovely bloggy-type people out there ... a big cyber-hug to you!!

Oh, and as an aside, have you seen and "liked" my Facebook page.  In an effort to get on top of my Facebook page a little more, and make it a resource that might be helpful, I'm going to be posting regular links to cute freebie patterns and tutorials I find in the blogosphere.  Check it out for some inspiration.

Anyway, one of my favourite things to do in my effort to become more creative with my sewing is to find a good base pattern, then play around with it to make it into something else.  That's what I'd like to share today.  Here's a couple of really quick tutorials I've made, using a basic Raglan-sleeve top pattern to make 2 different style winter dresses for my girls.  I used this Ranglan top pattern that I found for free on Scattered Thoughts of A Crafty Mom.  If you haven't seen this blog, check it out.  Jamie is one of my faves!  I first used this pattern when I made this Disco Diva top for Bethany, and it's a great pattern, and the sizing is really good too.  I'm pretty sure any raglan-sleeve top pattern would be fine for this project if you already have one you like, or if you're feeling brave you could always try drafting your own.  I did it 2 winters ago when I made some Raglan-sleeve PJ's for Bethany.  I found a great tutorial on how to do this here, at another of my all-time favourite sewing blogs!

Anyway, this was my first raglan-dress attempt.  Seeing as it's winter here, I used some gorgeous printed fleece fabrics for these dresses.  This fabric caught my eye the minute I walked into my local fabric store ... it was one of those fabrics that just jumps unaided into your arms, and you can't put it down without buying it ... you know what I mean?  I'm not convinced Daddy believes this story, but I'm sticking to it! 
It uses the raglan-sleeve top pattern, lengthened to a drop-waist length, and with a gathered skirt attached.  I added the navy-blue ribbing to the sleeves and neckline because I only had navy-blue or white ribbing on hand, and the flowers in this fabric are actually a cream colour ... white clashed a bit I thought.  But pink and navy is one of those timeless colour combos, and I love this little dress.  I'll admit that I made both girl's dresses a size bigger than they really need, so they are a tad big on them just now ... well you can't blame me for trying to get at least some of next winter from these outfits too!
For Bethany's dress, I modified the raglan-sleeve top pattern to create an A-line dress, then cinched the waist.  I like it, and so does Bethany (Phew!!).  And who ever said wet-weather should stop a photo-shoot ... how good is wet-weather lighting!!! ... and add an umbrella ... whoa ... both of my girls were fighting for a turn in front of the camera!  Oh, and how adorable is this baby deer fabric.  It's another printed fleece.  I tried to get more because I loved it so much, but it was sold out when I went back ... boooo!!!

Anyway, here's a couple of super-quick tutorials in case you want to modify your favourite raglan-sleeve top pattern to make a dress too ... 

Dress 1: Raglan Dress with a Gathered Skirt

You'll need:
- About 1 metre / yard of fabric.  This would work with any fleece or knit fabric, depending on what level of warmth you want.
- A small amount of coordinating rib fabric (for the sleeves and neckline)
- Raglan-sleeve pattern (like this one)
- Sewing machine and coordinating thread.
- Overlocker / Serger (if you want to use it, though knit and fleece fabrics don't fray, so you can always leave the raw edges unfinished!)

1. Use your pattern and cut all your pieces out (ie front, back, sleeves).  You could add a couple of inches to the length of the front/back pieces if you want to make the dropped-waist a little more ... well ... dropped!
2. Assemble and sew your raglan-sleeve top together as per your pattern instructions, but leaving the bottom edge un-finished.

3. For the skirt section, measure the bottom of your top.  Hannah's was 12 inches wide.  Then multiply this number by 1 1/2.  So Hannah's skirt width was 18".
Measure your munchkin from their hip to knee (or whatever length you're after) and add 1 inch.  Hannah's was 9 inches + 1 = 10".  This is the height of your skirt section.

4.  Cut two rectangles as per the above measurements ...so Hannah had 2 pieces measuring 18" x 10".
5. Place these pieces right sides together and sew the side seams (using 1/4 inch seam allowance).  Then turn the bottom edge up 1/2" and hem around (I find it easier to do this before attaching it to the top!)

6.  Using your sewing machine's longest stitch length (mine is number 6) sew a gathering row of stitches along the top raw edge, 1/4" from the edge, and from one side seam, all the way around and back to the same seam.  Don't backstitch at the beginning and end, and leave some threads so you have something to pull for gathering.  Then pull either the top or bottom thread to gather the skirt to fit the top like so.

7.  Insert the top section into your skirt section right sides together, match up the side seams and pin all around like so ...

... then sew all around, using a 1/2" seam allowance.

8.  Flip your dress right-side-out and sew a top-stitching row around the waist, while pushing the seam allowance on the inside up towards the top of the dress, so that it gets held in the top-stitching.  This just helps to keep it all flatter, and I love a bit of top-stitching!

And you're done!  A very simple, yet effective little dress!  And just as warm as any sweater too!

Dress 2: Raglan-Sleeve Dress with an Elastic Waist

You'll need:
- About 1 metre / yard of fabric.  This would work with any fleece or knit fabric, depending on what level of warmth you want.
- A small amount of coordinating rib fabric (for the sleeves and neckline)
- Some 1/2" wide elastic ... enough to fit around your munchkin's waist, plus 2-3 inches to make it more comfortable.
- Raglan-sleeve pattern (like this one)
- Sewing machine and coordinating thread.
- Overlocker / Serger (if you want to use it, though knit and fleece fabrics don't fray, so you can always leave the raw edges unfinished!)

1.  Measure from your munchkin's waist to her knee (or whatever length you want) and add 1/2".  Then place your pattern on your fabric as per the pattern's instructions, extending the bottom of the pattern by the above measurement to make it a dress.
2.  Draw a line from the armpit of your front pattern piece on a diagonal out from the pattern to the bottom of your fabric like so ... this is effectively making the pattern into an A-line style. I measured approximately 4" out from the edge of the pattern piece, and at the bottom of the dress, and this was a good angle for Bethany's size 7 dress.

3.  Cut along this line, and around the top sections of your pattern piece ... like so ...

4. Repeat for the back pattern piece, and also cut out your sleeve pieces as per your pattern.

5.  Assemble your dress as per your raglan-sleeve top pattern instructions, and hem the bottom.

6.  Turn your dress inside-out.  Measure down from the armpit to the approximately location of your munchkin's waist.  I estimated Bethany's waist to be approximately 7" from the arm-pit seam.  Mark this spot with a pin, and repeat on the other side.
7.  Draw a line from one pin to the other like so.  Also measure this distance.  Bethany's was 17 1/2".

8. Cut 2 strips of fabric that are 1 1/2" wide and the width you measured above (plus 1/2 " to cater for the seams) ... so Bethany's strips were 1 1/2" x 18".

9.  Sew the strips together to make a belt-shape casing like so ...

10.  Thread the dress into the casing and line up the side seams.  Then tuck the raw edges of the casing under, and pin to the dress.
 ... then sew around the top and bottom of the casing, approximately 1/8" from the edge so there's enough room for the elastic to go through.  On the bottom edge, leave a 1" gap at the beginning of your row of stitching to allow threading of the elastic.
11.  Use a safety pin to thread your elastic through the casing ...
... then join the ends of the elastic by overlapping slightly and stitching wiht a zig zag stitch.

And you're done.  

Two dresses, from 1 top pattern, which was available free online!  Yay for that!  Hope you have as much fun as I did!

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