Make, Jane, make!: April 2011


Small Share

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Bunny Day Treat

Last week for our mommy luncheon I decided to make a bunny-day inspired treat. I'd been eyeing these super cute, cream cheese muffins baked in parchment bunnies from eye candy food blog since last year. And although I love the type of cheesecake that she put inside, I had a friend honouring Passover that week, so I decided to try to find a good flour-less cake recipe. I figure you can't go wrong with Nigella's Damp Apple and Almond cake, right?

Here is my virtual army of paper bunnies. Bwahaha! We are posed to take over the world with cuteness! This is only the first wave of adorableness, there were two dozen pint sized pairs of bunny ears in total.  I made each with a piece of parchment that was roughly 9 inches square.

I love the look of peeled apples. They remind me all things good from the kitchen - applesauce, apple pie, apple crisp, the list goes on. I can practically smell the cinnamon and cloves as I type... sigh....

Speaking of applesauce...

And as usual, I had the typical weekend snag of baking without a major ingredient, in this case, ground almonds. Our local supermarket didn't carry them either, so I had to grind some blanched ones myself.

Made it easier to justify making the whole cake in the food processor though, since it was already dirty and all...

I used an empty ketchup bottle (the kind you buy for bbqs and picnics) to fill the bunnies. Was a little disappointed that I couldn't fill the bunnies more than half full, due to the fact that the inflation hole rests halfway up the face of the bunny. So I tried filling the bunnies with the hole up top (standing them on the backs of their heads).

A failed experiment with an alternate bunny orientation

This did not work so well as the bunny's folds and creases are most sturdy when standing upright. I don't have a picture - but these bunnies sort of flattened out during baking, instead of maintaining a nice square shape. They ended up looking a bit like a baby who had been left to sleep on the back of its head for too long!

The original blogger advises you to be careful and neat when filling the bunnies because any spatters or spills will burn and be quite visible on the final product. You can see here that I tried to be pretty careful filling them, but completely neglected filling them slowly. As evidenced by the spatter marks all over the inside of the bunnies' heads caused by my rapid squeezing of the ketchup bottle and the subsequent "farting" of the batter.

Fill them slowly! Don't be a victim of batter farting!

Despite some hiccups and imperfections, the taste of the cake was all apple (would've been better if I'd remembered to add a little more lemon juice as the recipe said!) and cute factor seemed to override any poor aesthetics. The origami took some time, but I found the end result really satisfying and I'll definitely be repeating the process with the original cream cheese muffin recipe in the future.

A lone, uneaten bunny.

Moist and yum.


Sunday, April 24, 2011

From My Hubby: Bacon Love

My hubby made this sandwich for himself one evening while we were out and took a picture of it "for [me] to post on my blog". So here it is:

It is a bacon, egg and cheddar sandwich made on sourdough bread. He said, "First I fried the ham, then I fried the egg in the bacon fat, and then I fried the sandwich."

Now don't get me wrong, I often use the bacon fat for grilling my sandwiches too... but I pour off the excess oil first. Hubby didn't. First the egg and then the sandwich were deep-fried in bacon fat. He was in bacon heaven.

p.s. I guess it isn't that different than this Cantonese favourite, Shrimp Toast - although hubby has never heard of shrimp toast, so this was totally his own creation.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Seedling Progress

My seeds are sprouting! I wasn't sure how well they would do since some of the seeds were stored very poorly during our basement reno, but most cells have produced sprouts.

Peas and tomatoes

Silly me, got distracted during the seeding and completely forgot to draw a map of what seeds are where! Hopefully as the seedlings grow larger I'll be able to recognize them for flower or food and plant them accordingly :)

Can tell that the central one must be the pumpkin, due to it towering over the other sprouts!

Still waiting for all risk of frost to pass before buying some more soil for the gardens and sowing some seeds directly into the beds.

Also can't wait to use our own compost! My composting efforts have finally gotten to a critical mass and there seems to be enough bulk in the composter to reward me with some black gold. This is my first full year trying to take as much kitchen compost out to the backyard as possible (so much easier to throw it into the green bin for municipal composting, no trudging through snow to get to the composters!)

Eager for spring to truly arrive :)

Friday, April 22, 2011

Fabric Buckets 2: Egg Baskets for the Boys

Tomorrow is the big egg hunt. Hopefully the weather dries up by tomorrow morning, since right now I can hear a pitter patter on our windows.

I like the idea of fabric egg baskets because they are unbreakable and reusable. Even though your local dollar store will have any number of super cute baskets for quick sale, nothing says "mommy loves you and wants to torture you by making you use her homemade crap" than a monogrammed egg basket.

I know that the colours are not the best match and I could've chosen a more seasonal print, but this is what happens to mommy's own children after she buys special fabrics to make gifts for other kids - mommy's kids get crazily patterned, funkily mismatched franken-projects made from the scraps :)

I used the same basic tutorial from RicRac that I blogged about earlier in my post, "Fabric Buckets for a Baby Boy". I just changed the dimensions so that my resulting baskets would be larger with an oval  (rather than circular) base.

First, I decided how large I wanted the base to be and cut that out of the last bits of quilted batting I had left in my scrap pile. (You'll also need to replicate this shape onto your outer fabric and lining fabric.)

I chose to only use batting in the base for stability. I opted for interfacing only for the sides of the basket to make them more flexible and lightweight.

Then I measured around the circumference of the base to determine how long the strip of fabric that wraps around the base (to form the sides of the basket) should be.

Added an inch for seam allowance and cut a strip of fabric that was 28 inches long and 8 inches tall.  I also cut the same strip from my lining fabric and some medium weight interfacing. (I would have used heavy weight if I'd had any, but the interfacing pickings are getting slim in my stash.)

These strips are actually twice the height because I was preparing to make two identical baskets.
Also wanted to add a cut-window with my boys' initials. So after ironing on the interfacing, I marked a egg shaped window onto the back of my interfaced flower (outer) fabric 8 inches in from one of the short edges. I cut out a slightly larger yellow egg (to be seen inside the window) and a slightly larger blue egg (to line the window).

Sewed the blue egg onto my window, right sides facing, using the pencilled on egg shape as my stitching guide.

Cut out the window leaving a small seam allowance and clipped all around the seam allowance.

Turned over to the other side and pulled the blue lining fabric through the window and ironed it all down.

Cut out one son's initial and appliqued it onto the yellow egg.

Placed the yellow egg in my open window and sewed it in.

From here on out you would basically follow the instructions from the RicRac tutorial, or if you've ever made a lined bag before you could probably just go on by instinct.

This is one of the few times you'll catch me pinning. I'm notorious for short cuts, and pinning and unpinning is definitely a corner I cut often... except when easing in curved seams. Learned the hard way that this is one short cut you should not take!

And for those who wonder about sewing that death trap of pins. It IS as awkward as it looks, although today's buckets were made a lot easier by virtue of their large size and longer curves.

Here is the lining and outer bucket both individually sewn up (except for a small turning hole in the lining layer, more on that next). Minimally pinned and ready to be attached together.

All attached and ready to be turned the right-way-out through my little hole. Just have to reach in the hole and grab hold of the outer bag...

... start pulling...

And voila! Your bucket is revealed!

Hand or machine sew shut that turning hole. (Machine sewn, of course for lazy me!) Tuck the lining in, iron it down, and sew around the top edge to keep it all in place. Then add some handles and the kids are ready for the mad-grab!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Chinese Scallion (Green Onion) Pancakes

I crave this simple green onion pancake every once in a while and although they are easily obtainable at many Chinese restaurants and found in the frozen section of a lot of Chinese grocery stores, sometimes I want them when I want them :)

They are a fun morning or afternoon project that results in a freshly fried snack. What more needs to be said? They are also a great way to use up a bunch of scallions that you may have forgotten about in the back of the fridge.


Scallion Pancakes (Yield: approx 8 large or 12 medium pancakes)

3 cups flour (white or a mix of whole wheat and white)
about 1 cup boiling water
1 bunch scallions, chopped
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp white pepper
sesame oil

Place the flour into a large bowl and, while stirring, slowly add the boiling water.

If, like me, you add too much and the dough gets a little too wet like this....

... just add a little more flour. You want the dough to come together and be soft enough to knead, but not so soft that it sticks to everything.

Knead it until it starts looking nice and uniform.

And when it's ready, pop it into a bowl and cover it with a damp, clean cloth to rest for about a half hour. This will relax the dough and make it a little less elastic-y and a little easier to roll out.

While the dough is resting, chop up your onions. I like to slice the whites of the onions vertically before chopping to reduce the amount of rolling and flying about that those little onion pieces do.

Place them into a bowl and combine with your salt and pepper. Mix it around and set aside until your dough is ready.

Get some sesame oil into a bowl with a small spoon or a brush for spreading.

Not the best or tastiest brand of sesame oil... but beggars can't be choosers when they're shopping at No Frills.

When you're ready to roll :) - flour your work surface liberally (because it's likely to get quite sticky with the oil and onions popping out everywhere) and pinch off a piece of dough. If you want to be really exact then you can roll your dough into a long cylinder and cut the cylinder up into 8 to 12 evenly sized pieces. Roll out your little piece of dough into a large thin circle and spread on some sesame oil.

Sprinkle a spoonful of onions over the surface and spread them around.

Roll up your pancake, like a scroll.

Pinch the ends of the tube closed (in a vain attempt to keep the oil and onions inside) and give the whole tube a quick squeeze along its length to seal the edges.

Now roll your tube up like a snail and tuck the ends under.

Flatten down your snail a bit with the palm of your hand and roll it out into a thin or thick pancake. The thinner your pancake and the hotter your pan, the more flaky and airy your pancakes will be. A thicker pancake gives you a crispy outer shell with some flakiness and a softer, chewier inside (kinda like the bottom crust of an apple pie).

And that's how you get all those layers of pancake and onion in such a small thin package. btw, I've never been able to roll out my pancakes without some bursting of seams and subsequent mess making. Which is why I usually roll these out on a cutting board - easier clean-up.

Fry them up in a hot pan with a bit of oil or dip them in some beaten egg before frying. Eat them plain or with some chili, soy, vinegar dipping sauce. Or put them in the freezer and fry them from frozen when you feel like a snack.

These were thicker pancakes which results in a denser, chewier pancake.

Hope you try making these from scratch sometime and tell me how it goes!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Sewing a Bag

I remember my very first home-ec sewing project, it was a simple pillowcase/cloth bag with a drawstring closure.

Yes, I chose this fabric willingly... it was not forced upon me in any way.

Check out how large the drawstring casing is! Those home-ec teachers were definitely making sure we would be able to slide the drawstring through. 

And the first project that got me back into sewing full swing? Also a bag - a diaper bag big enough for cloth diapers, extra clothes and supplies for daycare.

Since then I've made many more bags and purses, including my current diaper bag which I am embarrassed to post a picture of because it is so large that I may as well be carrying my children around in it!

Sewing a bag can be as simple or as complicated as you want to make it and I think it's a great first project because the end result is immediately useful. Here's my half-an-hour, made-from-scraps, impromptu Easter egg basket for my son's first hunt.

There are so many great free tutorials out there too. Here are, respectively, the Detour Diaper bag from and the Buttercup Bag from shrunk down and made in miniature as play purses for little girls.

Detour Diaper bag from

Buttercup Bag from (finished with a magnetic snap and minus button embellishment)

And here's my son's playschool backpack, modified from this Back to School Robot Messenger Bag pattern on

Added an inner zipper closure because what child's backpack can be expected to hold its contents in with only a fold-over velcro flap?

The envy of all his male classmates.

I also learned about many useful aspects of sewing while making my various bags, like pockets, zippers, interfacing and linings. If you think that this may be a good first sewing project for you then check out the above tutorials or this super cool website: which is chock full of useful tips and patterns. Or just surf around - people are super generous with their insights and projects, and chances are you'll find something to fit your bill.