Sunday, November 16, 2014

DIY Freezer to Oven Cookies: Freeze Cookie Dough Now, Bake Later

Every year of my 20s, I've tried to get better at holiday prepping. The Christmas season is like the Olympics for DIYers--it's a distance race (or sprint, if you're a procrastinator) of handmade gifts, made-from-scratch meals, and do-it-yourself decorations. It's exhausting. The older I get, though, the more I want to spend my time enjoying the holiday, not just surviving it.

One of my goals this year is to do as much as possible ahead of time. I've been researching homemade ready-to-bake cookies that I can make now and freeze until Christmas. This post will detail the method for freezing the cookie dough. I'll include the recipe for the All Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies pictured above in a later post.

I actually found this post from Apartment Therapy's The Kitchn after I froze my dough. I'll be explaining the method for drop cookies, but if you're interested in freezing rolled or slice and bake cookies, check out the link above.

Freezing Cookie Dough for Drop Cookies:
You'll Need:
1 batch of your favorite cookie dough, chilled to make it easier to work with (I used chocolate chip)
Sheet pan that will fit in your freezer
Parchment paper or baking mat
Teaspoon or small scoop
2 large zip top bags
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1. Let cookie dough chill in the refrigerator while you prep other
2. Line sheet pan with parchment paper
3. Write type of cookie, date, and baking directions (see below) on one zip top freezer bag
4. Use spoon or scoop to shape cookies. I use a heaping teaspoon's worth of dough for each cookie and roll it into a ball between my palms
5. Drop cookies onto prepared sheet pan making sure they do not touch.
6. Slide sheet pan into freezer, being sure not to tip the pan. The cookies should not touch as they freeze.
7. Allow cookie dough to freeze for at least 6 hours.
8. Once cookies are frozen, place balls in freezer bag, press out air, and seal top. I like to place this bag inside a second freezer bag, just for extra protection.

Baking Cookies from Frozen Dough:
I highly recommend baking a small test batch to test the temperature and time. Generally cookies will be baked as called for in the recipe with an added 1-2 minutes of cooking time. The cookies pictured here, however, do not contain any shortening--they're all butter. The original recipe called for a cooking temperature of 375 degrees. When I baked my first batch (only 5 cookies), they were too dark at the edges and on the bottom before the centers were close to set. I ended up dropping the temperature to 350 degrees and adding a minute of cooking time. Perfect!

I'm very excited about the prospect of having my baking prep done early. If you freeze cookies or cookie dough, I'd love to read your tips and tricks in the comments below! Be creative and enjoy!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

DIY Original Star Trek Tunic

I will fully admit that I am a Star Wars girl. I vaguely remember my parents watching Star Trek: The Next Generation when I was a kid, but I've never really watched any of the iterations of the show on my own. Until a few months ago, that is. On the advice of a friend, I marathoned the first season of the original series and completely loved it. I reference it in casual conversation and find myself watching this scene from The Cable Guy over and over again:

I knew I wanted to make the classic tunic for Halloween (confession: I just wanted to wear it around the house). Regular readers of this blog know that I am NOT a pattern maker. The thought of taking all of my measurements and committing them to paper makes me feel physically ill. Commercial patterns seem ridiculously complicated to me--on an intellectual level I know they aren't, but pulling all of those thin little pieces of tissue paper from the envelope makes me kind of sweaty and nervous.

Materials and Tools:
1 1/2 - 2 yards of stretch knit fabric (I used a poly rayon blend in a cherry red color. I only needed 1 1/2 yards, but I am only 5' 2")
1/8 yard stretch black fabric
Gold lame (enough for a patch)
Gold trim (I used almost a yard to put one Lt. stripe on each sleeve cuff)
Thread to match main fabric color
Black puff paint or black thread for zigzag stitching
Long-sleeved t-shirt that fits well to use as a pattern for tunic
Bathing suit bottom or underwear to use as a pattern for briefs

First I doubled my fabric with enough overlap to cut out the body of the tunic. I used my t-shirt as a pattern, leaving about a 1/4" allowance around. I followed the seam where the sleeves are inset. This provided basically one half of a tank top. Using that piece as a pattern, I cut a second one. This gave me a front and back.

Placing right sides together, I sewed the side seams and the shoulders with a 1/4" seam allowance. Once the tank top was sewn together, I cut the neckline with a slight scoop (I used stills from the show as a reference).

Through trial and--admittedly--some error, I placed darts at the bustline from the sleeves and from the bustline straight down to the waist. While wearing the tank, I marked with chalk where the gaps at the sleeve hole were. It was too loose on my waist area, so I created darts there as well. I ended up extending the vertical darts all the way up to the shoulders, but that was really for looks.

Once the tank top fit the way I wanted, I cut the sleeves. I used the long-sleeved t-shirt as a guide for the length and width of the sleeve. I used the arm hole of my new tank top as a pattern for the end of the sleeve that would be inset into the body of the tunic.

I sewed the long seam of each sleeve then set them into the body. With the tank top and the sleeve both inside out, I pinned the sleeve to the arm opening in the tank. When I sew this seam, I always start in the armpit because if there's any bunchiness or imperfection when I am finished I'd rather it be in the pit than on top of my shoulder.

For the skirt, I basically cut two long rectangles. The rectangles were scientifically measured as follows: Half the bottom circumference of the tank top + 3 inches. The bottom halves of the Star Trek tunics are almost like wrap skirts (or skorts!), so the 3 inches on each end gave ample fabric for overlap.

Ok, this part takes a little imagination. You have two layers of fabric that will overlap and be sewn along the bottom edge of the shirt you've made--one rectangle will run in one direction, to cover your right hip, the other will run in the other direction, to cover your left hip. There will be a flap in the front and the back where they overlap. The first thing I did was sew under the short sides of the rectangles to finish these edges. Alright. Pay close attention here. The shirt is right side out. Place one rectangle against the shirt with the right side facing in, toward the body of the shirt. The finished end of the rectangle should line up with the vertical dart on your right-hand side. Line the bottom edges of rectangle and shirt. Pin together around the shirt until you run out of rectangle. This first rectangle will be the one that is outermost on the tunic. Flip your creation back over. Place the second rectangle so that the finished edge lines up with the left-hand vertical seam. Pin it around the other half of the tunic.

Sew around the bottom with a generous 1/4" seam allowance. Try on your tunic. I ended up taking in the sides because it flared a bit too much for me. Then I marked the skirt for desired length. I like how short Lt. Uhura's tunic is (she's always flashing a bit of briefs underneath her uniform), so I cut mine pretty short.

To finish the tunic, I hemmed the bottom edges of the skirt rectangles and the cuffs of the sleeves. I sewed gold trim around each cuff. For the neckline, I love the asymmetrical trim in the tunics from the series. This is a double bonus because you don't have to be particular when you sew the black trim on. I made it narrower at the shoulders and thicker in the front with the thickest part over my left boob. I cut a badge out of gold lame, stitched it to the tunic, then outlined it with black puff paint. I also painted on the support staff decal in the center of the badge.

I used my favorite bathing suit bottom as a pattern for a pair of briefs to wear under my tunic. I put a wide waistband along the top edge of the briefs.

I am absolutely in love with my Star Trek uniform. I wore it out on Halloween and got a "live long and prosper" from a fellow bar-goer. Even if you never make this particular outfit, I hope the takeaway here is that making a costume doesn't have to seem impossible. You don't need to spend a fortune on an outfit for conventions, theme parties, etc. With basic sewing skills and determination you can make one! Be creative and enjoy!