Friday, July 29, 2011

Golden Summer Cake

Rick came home from the store the other day with a buttload lot of nectarines.  Who asked him to get any nectarines?  I didn't.  Once I got close to the bag of said nectarines, I knew exactly why he bought them.  They smelled heavenly.  But they were all ripe, so I had to spring into action and figure out how to use a bunch of them fast.  There was no way we could eat them out-of-hand fast enough.

A quick search located this really great recipe.

Fruit Topped Golden Summer Cake (my name, not theirs)

1 cup flour (thanks to my friend Patty's recommendation, I used King Arthur's White Whole Wheat)
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup softened butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp Fiori di Sicilia (this is my addition to the recipe and I must say that it made a huge difference, but it is completely optional -- you could try some lemon extract instead or leave it out entirely)

2 nectarines, cut up
1/2 TBSP sugar mixed with 1/2 tsp nutmeg.

Cream butter and sugar until smooth.  Add eggs and mix completely.  Add flour, baking powder and salt, stirring to combine.  Turn into greased 9" x 9" pan.  Scatter fruit over the batter and sprinkle with sugar/nutmeg mix.  Bake at 350 for 45-50 minutes.

I know what you're thinking:  those don't look like nectarines!  and that isn't a square pan!

The first time I baked this cake, I used nectarines, but had to double the recipe to be able to use more than 2 nectarines!  The next time I baked it, not only did I double it, but I was finally running low on nectarines, so I added a bunch of fresh cherries -- a delightful combination!  The latest version (in the photos) uses both blueberries and cherries -- another delightful combination!

I really overloaded it with fruit, which doesn't seem to affect the recipe, but the berries did sink a bit.  I don't see this as a problem.

This cake is especially good topped with some vanilla ice cream. 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

What's on my Work Table?

While Jet is still taking huge chunks of my time, I'm forced to figure out how to get some actual work done in preparation for the Alaska State Fair and my fall show season ... and keep up with consignment orders and hopefully some additional wholesale orders. Just typing all that has exhausted me. I'm getting old.

Since earrings are the "bread & butter" of my business, I've spent what time I could keeping those earring boxes full. The boxes are finally bursting at the seams so I recently switched to making some sterling silver necklaces.

What you see here, in the two bottom rows, are a bunch of pendants -- trios and duos -- ready to be put on chains. The pendants are fun to put together. I enjoy finding interesting groupings of gems. The cutting of the chain (I buy the chain in bulk and cut it to length, then add a clasp) and assembling the necklaces is quite boring.

In the two rows above the duos and trios are paired gemstones for earrings.  As I said, I'm taking a reprieve from the earring making, so these will have to wait!

*Hint -- click on the photo to get a much better look at some of my gemstone combos!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Making Earring Cards

One of the less glamorous aspects of making jewelry (seriously though, are there any truly glamorous aspects?) is the need for earring display cards.  I've always made my own, using Corel Draw. 

Three times in the past 14 years, I have had to upgrade my version of Corel and I live in fear that my existing files will not be compatible with the newest version.  I did my last upgrade this past December and all went well, so I'm probably safe for another 5 years or so.

Since I have not been able to give up this task to a commercial printer, I continue to buy 80 lb cover cardstock and print my own.  Cutting them has become a science for me.  I'll take you through the process and if you fall asleep, I'll wake you when I'm done.

Each sheet (printed front and back) is printed with 12 cards on it.  The cards will measure 2" x 3 1/4" when cut.

First I cut them vertically.

Then I cut them horizontally.

My not-so-heavy-duty paper cutter will only cut 3 sheets of this cardstock at a time, so I print in multiples of 3.  This batch was 9 sheets.  Why don't I get a heavier paper cutter, you ask?  I don't have a good answer for you.

The completed stack.

And the back, printed with "Sterling Silver".  I leave space under that to write the names of the stones in each particular pair of earrings.


Now I bet you're wondering how I put those little holes in the cards that hold the earrings.  I'll tell you anyway.

Years ago, when I first started this silliness, Rick saw me using a safety pin to poke holes in the cards.  Granted, I didn't need very many cards back then, but still, this was the height of ridiculousness.  He built me this little low-tech gizmo that works like a charm.

It is simply 2 pieces of plywood connected with a hinge.  On the right, there are 2 small nails.  I put a batch of cards upside down over the nails and close the little "book".

Why upside down? Because the nails make a bit of pokey-outie when they go through the paper and that looks terrible on the front of the cards.

Now they're ready for earrings!

A funny story:

I customize the back of the cards with either Sterling Silver, Gold Filled or Niobium.  One time, I printed a small batch (3 sheets) of Gold Filled cards with a serious typo.  I left out the "l" in Gold.  Yes, there were some God Filled earrings out there.  I have no idea how many people even noticed.  I didn't until I used the last card.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

An Ambitious Cooking Project :: Egg Rolls!

I've made these egg rolls at least one time in the past, if I can believe the notes I made in the cookbook.  It was at best a dim memory.  So this recent attempt felt like the first time ... all over again.

The internet abounds with recipes and I will provide mine if you request it, but for now, I'll simply entertain you with photos of my egg roll experience.

Preparing the filling of cabbage, onions, carrots and water chestnuts, with a tablespoon (or so) of soy sauce and about a teaspoon of sugar:

Whisking the extremely thin batter -- in one direction only! -- while the pan in heating:

The pan is lightly oiled before I pour in the batter.  Pam worked better than liquid oil, as it gave a more even coating.  The pancakes are thin and cook relatively quickly.  The trickiest part is turning them to cook the other side.

They are stacked under a moistened towel to keep them soft.  I think the recipe made 8 or 9.

I wasn't able to get a photo of the actual filling and rolling and forgot to get a photo while they were frying.  So here is a picture of the finished product:

I served them with a selection of 4 dipping sauces.  We ate every single one. And then we had dinner. :)