Tag Archives: homemade

Grandma’s Cheescake

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I know, I know, it’s another cheesecake recipe.  What can I say, it’s Cheesecake.

Around this time of year I generally take a trip to St Louis to see Shakespeare in the Park, and one of the places I like to go is the Cheesecake Factory.   As someone who loves deserts, they do good deserts.  I’m not a supper big fan of the restaurant itself, but I love their cheesecake, so a lot of times I would get the cheesecake to go, and eat it at Shakespeare in the Park.

It’s an amazing experience for anyone who’s in the area and hasn’t tried it yet.  It is a picnic kind of affair where people bring blankets and baskets and lounge around on this big hill.  For a good spot, you need to be there about an hour before the show starts, and they generally have some of the actors roaming around the audience in character interacting with the crowd.

Before the show starts there’s a lot of noise.  People talking, kids running around, laughing, but when the show starts it’s instantly silent.  Their acoustics are amazing too, you can hear every word even if you’re sitting a fair distance from the stage, they do a good job.  And if I haven’t sold you yet, it’s free.  True, there are seats in the very front that you can buy, but half the fun is sitting on your big picnic blanket and munching on cheesecake and samosas.

The show opened this week, and I’m not going to be able to make it for a few weeks yet, but I’m already craving that cheesecake and samosas.

Enjoy!

Ingredients

2 sticks butter (1 cup)

Graham crackers

6 tablespoons cold water

2 envelopes gelatin

¾ cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

3 eggs

1 cup milk

Juice of 1 lemon

Rind of 2 lemons

1 package cream cheese (1/2 lb)

1 cup cottage cheese

½ cup heavy cream

1 quart strawberries

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Get the cottage cheese and cream cheese out of the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature while preparing the other ingredients.

This recipe makes enough filling for two pies, so I’ve included the amount of crust needed for two pies. Crush the graham crackers in a food processor or a blender until crushed and you have 4 cups worth of graham cracker crumbs.  Takes the entire package of graham crackers.  Divide the graham cracker crumbs into 2-2 cup proportions.

Into each 2 cup of graham crackers cut 1 stick of butter into very small pieces and mix by hand until the butter is totally mixed.  Will only take about 5 minutes, and the mixture will not be smooth but will have the consistency of oily graham cracker crumbs. 

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Sprinkle the graham cracker mix one handful at a time into the bottom of a cake tin.  Firmly press the crumbs into the bottom of the tin.  Turn the tin on it’s side and repeat, pressing into the sides of the pan as high as you can.  Make sure there are no cracks or breaks in the crust, but it’s okay if it’s uneven.

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Chill while preparing the filling.

Put the water in a small bowl and add the two envelopes of gelatin.  Stir and let sit until the gelatin softens.  Pour the gelatin into a small saucepan and add the sugar and salt, heat over low heat until the gelatin and sugar dissolves.

Add the eggs and the milk, stirring often until the mixture is almost at a boil and the mixture starts to thicken.  On low heat this will take a while, about 20 minutes.  If you are impatient you can turn the heat up to medium and stir constantly, which will thicken the mixture in about 10 minutes.

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Remove from heat and add the lemon juice and rind.  Cool in the refrigerator until no longer hot.

While waiting, mix together your now room temperature cottage cheese and cream cheese.  Beat with a hand mixer or an upright until the entire mixture resembles cream cheese as opposed to cottage cheese, takes about 5-10 minutes.  

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Add the gelatin, after it is no longer hot, and mix.  Pour the mixture into the crumb bases and chill overnight.  Do not overfill either crust.

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Decorate with strawberries and powdered sugar if desired.

All in all, this takes about an hour of prep time, and then it needs to be in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours, so it’s definitely a make ahead kind of desert, but it’s well worth the wait.

Enjoy!

Strawberry Cheese Pie

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I don’t tend to try to follow diets.  This is not to say I don’t watch what I eat and exercise, I do, mostly by refusing to eat fast food despite my love of curly fries.  Ummm….curly fries.   And I have this belief, which may be incorrect, that as long as I make it myself regardless of the amount of whipping cream or butter I use, it’s still healthy.  I’m sure that logic is sound.

While this logic works for me, and a lot of Zumba, it does not work for everyone.  In the last week or so I’ve had a few comments, both from my coworkers who beta test my food, and from a few people on line, that I might be a little too heavy handed with the whipping cream and butter.  So I have decided to post something a little healthier, and because nothing can ever be easy, I’ve decided to make a healthy cheesecake.  Yes, I said that right, this is a healthy cheesecake.

Those are two words that are probably not uttered together with any frequency, and it was the belief of one of my beta testers that it should not have been attempted, but he was actually satisfied with the result.  By using cottage cheese and sour cream instead of cream cheese and whipping cream the cheesecake is significantly healthier, this is a desert that would not break your diet, though it would probably bend it a great deal.

The balance with these ingredients is that the cheesecake will be much lighter, not as dense or creamy as a traditional cheesecake, which is why I am calling it cheese pie, with a slight tart taste from the lemon.  This makes it perfect for summer, and picnics to dazzle everyone.

Enjoy

Ingredients

Honey Graham Crackers

1 stick butter (1/2 cup)

¼ cup sugar

1 quart strawberries

3 eggs

1 package cream cheese (8 oz)

¼ cup cottage cheese

1/3 cup powdered sugar

½ cup sour cream

1 lemon

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Preheat oven to 325OF

Let all ingredients come to room temperature.  Gagh I know, just get everything out and then watch Iron Chef for 30 minutes.

Crush the graham crackers to a fine powder in a blender or food processor.  You will need 1 ½-2 cups of crushed graham crackers, which takes about ½ of the box.  Take a cake pan and rub the butter stick around it liberally, buttering the cake tin.

Pour the graham cracker crumbs and the sugar into a mixing bowl.  Add the butter, cutting it into small pieces.  Mix by hand until the butter is fully incorporated.  The final mixture will not be completely mixed like a pie dough, but will still be very much like graham cracker crumbs.

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Take handfuls of the graham cracker mixture and scatter them into the cake tin.  Press down firmly to the bottom and then turn the tin on it’s side and repeat around of the sides.  Make sure there are no cracks and that the surface is well covered.  This does not have to be perfect, if it’s not even on the bottom or the sides it will still bake just fine.

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Wash the strawberries, cut off the stem, and cut the strawberries in half.  Fill the bottom of the cake tin with the strawberries, in whatever pattern you would like.  Refrigerate the crust while making the filling.

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Blend together the eggs, cream cheese, and cottage cheese, this is much easier with a hand mixer than by hand.  This will not make a completely mixed product, as the cottage cheese will not break up.

Add the powdered sugar, the sour cream, and the juice and zest of the lemon and mix well.

The zest of the lemon is the peeling, I find the easiest way to zest the lemon is to use a cheese grater, and to zest the lemon before cutting it.

Spoon the mixing into the prepared crust making sure to completely cover the strawberries in the bottom.  If you overflow the crust a little, that’s okay, but don’t overflow the tin.

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Bake for 45-50 minutes and then turn off the oven and leave the cheesecake in.  The cheesecake should be slightly golden on the top and the crust might be very dark.  Don’t try to cook the cheesecake longer even if it isn’t completely set up, since this could lead to the cheesecake burning.  Leave the cheesecake in the oven until the oven is completely cool, or at least 2 hours.

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Refrigerate the cheesecake for 6 hours-overnight.  Before serving garnish with additional halved strawberries.

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I’d say this is a little bit of a more complicated recipe; the hardest part is making the crust, which isn’t difficult but does take some time.  Total prep time is about an hour, and total cooking time, not including refrigeration, is about 3 hours.

Enjoy!

Oven Barbecued Chicken

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As I’ve mentioned before, I cooked dinner for my Mom for Mother’s Day, as I do every year, but this Sunday my Mom decided to surprise me, and cooked dinner for me.

She made fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, and I made bread.  We had a really good time, though I did find out that while cooking my Mom cannot support a conversation, which was not something I had noticed when I was living with her as a child.

We did have some nice conversation while we went shopping together for all the ingredients, and she insisted on buying me some pantry items I was missing.  Thank you Mom.  We also got one of those gigantor packages of chicken legs which has 14 pieces in it.  It was much cheaper per pound than the smaller packages, but obviously had more chicken in it than Mom had any intention of frying for two people.  I told her I would find something to do with it.

So I made Oven Barbecued Chicken.  The great thing about this recipe is that, except for the chicken legs, these are all pantry items for me, so it’s a recipe that needs very little fore planning and is pretty quick to prepare.  As an added plus it tastes great.

Of course, since my Mom did buy this chicken, I had to make it for her, and now she says she owes me dinner again.  I can see this cycle repeating for a very long time.

Enjoy

Ingredients

7 chicken legs

¾ cup sweet chili sauce

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons honey

1 tablespoon honey mustard

1 teaspoon fish sauce

½ teaspoon chili powder

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Preheat oven to 350OF

Personally I usually remove the skin from my chicken unless I’m frying it.  This is because a lot of times if I cook it in a sauce, like these are, the skin tends to absorb a lot of the flavor but the meat does not. When I remove the skin the meant tends to absorb the flavor a great deal better.

The easiest way to remove the skin is to hold the leg under running hot water and grasp the skin at the thickest part, and pull the skin.  Hard.  It won’t be that hard as long as keep the leg under the hot water, but the hardest part will be down at the joint.

Place the chicken legs in a deepish baking dish.

Mix the remaining ingredients well in a large bowl and pour entire contents over chicken.  Turn the chicken legs with a spoon a few times to ensure they have been completely coated, if you try to turn them with your fingers you’ll season your fingers very well, but will actually be whipping the sauce off of the chicken.

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Bake chicken for 30 minutes.  Open oven and turn chicken, again using a spoon.  Bake for another 30 minutes or until the meat begins to pull away from the bone.

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When serving, spoon extra sauce over the chicken and extra sauce with either rice or buttered noodles.

It does take about an hour, since that’s how long you bake it, but the prep time for this recipe is minutes.  It takes longer to just get everything out of the refrigerator than to make the sauce.

Enjoy, if you notice the final photo is actually what I took for lunch.

Pistachio Pie

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I have succumbed to the pudding pie.  You are just so quick, so fast, so easy, so cheap.  You have 4 ingredients none of which require any more prep than opening.  My stove is not even consulted (except for baking the pie crust).

If this was anything else, I would probably try to figure out how to make this without using the pudding.  But, alas, I am a graduate student or aka poor.  I went to the store and I literally had in my hand the package of pistachio nuts, and the package of pistachio pudding mix.  Hum….$10 or $0.49….did I mention I was poor?

This is the same feeling I have when I read recipes where they garnish with macadamia nuts, or they use truffle oil on cooking shows.  Really.  You think normal people have access to that?

So I went with the pistachio pudding mix.  Artificial flavoring is my friend, apparently.

In the theme of fast food, this is a as you like it kind of recipe (Burger King reference).  By varying the amount of pudding mixture used, you can drastically change both the flavor and the texture of the pie.

1 pudding mix will give you a slightly green pie that will have the consistency of ice cream and have a slight pistachio flavor and is not overly sweet.

2 pudding mixes will give you a greener pie, but it will still be reminiscently milky, and the consistency will be a little less like ice cream and more like frozen yogurt.  It will have a slightly stronger pistachio flavor, and a much stronger sugar flavor.

3 pudding mixes will give you a GREEN pie and the consistency will be like pudding, even after it’s been in the freezer overnight, it will just be like frozen pudding.  It will have a strong pistachio flavor, and a strong sugar flavor.

4 pudding mixes would be excessive and possibly implode.  But definitely let me know if you try it and survive.

Enjoy!

Ingredients

1 ½ cup cold milk

1-3 packages instant pistachio pudding mix

1 cup whipping cream

1 9 inch pie crust

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A note on the pictures.  Since the different amounts of pudding used make the pies look very different at all steps, I have included pictures from the 1 and 3 pudding pie.  The picture on the left is always for the 1 pudding pie.  The picture on the right is always for the three pudding pie.

Heat the oven to 350OF.

If you’ve let your pie crust warm up, you can directly roll it into your pie tin.  If you’ve just taken it out of the refrigerator and are impatient, like I was, roll it out on a flat surface.  This is a little easier and will lead to fewer tears in the pie crust.

Take your pie crust and firmly press it into the pie tin on both the sides and the bottom.  With a fork, stab the pie crust multiple times making sure that there is no space bigger than your thumb that isn’t pricked.  This always makes me feel that a porcupine has had a fight with my pie.

Take the top edge of the pie crust, and fold it between your thumbs in order to make the ruffling.  Try not to pull the pie crust away from the side of the pie tin when you do this, as it can lead to the pie sinking down, which actually did happen to me with the 1 pudding pie.

Also, don’t look at the pie crust from the 3 pudding pie too closely, I tried this new gadget when I was making it and it didn’t work at all.

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Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.  After pie is done baking, remove from the oven and let cool completely.

In a mixing bowl combine your cold milk and pistachio pudding mix.  Even if you use three packages, this will mix pretty easy with just a spoon.  Mix until the pudding mix is completely incorporated.  If you are using 1 or 2 mixes, this will be pretty smooth, but if you’re using 3 mixes it will look a little grainy and be very thick.

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Pour the milk mixture into a freezer safe container, preferably with a lid, and freeze for about 30-45 minutes until the mixture is completely solid and cold to the touch.

After the milk mixture is frozen, take it out of the freezer, and scrap it into a mixing bowl.  You can use the same one as before and add the whipping cream.  If you’re using 1 pudding mix this will blend really easily with just a spoon and will be almost white, with 2 mixes it will be a little harder but you should still be okay to use just a spoon, with 3 mixes you’re probably going to want to use an electric beater since it gets really thick and it will be GREEN.

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After the whipping cream is mixed in, pour the mix into the prepared pie crust.  Smooth out if necessary.  Return to the freezer and freeze overnight.

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While this does end up taking you awhile from all the freezing steps, I’d say all and all you’re actually actively working on the pie for less than 20 minutes.

Enjoy!

And I just think this looks funny, this is what the 3 pudding pie looks like when you first pour it into the pie crust.  It’s defying gravity!

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Sweet and Sour Chicken

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I know I just made a post about how I generally avoid recipes that have a page worth of ingredients, but it doesn’t count if half the ingredients are things I keep in my house.  Right?  Yah, that sounds like an excuse to me too.

Anywho, I really like Asian food, I mean what’s not to like.  It’s hot, spicy (not always the same thing), it’s always served with either rice or noodles, and generally not the worst thing you could eat health wise.   But notice I do say generally.  This is because a lot of times really good Chinese food is fried.  I do so love my fried foods.

It’s a shame I don’t have the metabolism of a high schooler any more and can’t just eat fried foods all day.  Plus they tell me it’s bad for me, something about clogged arteries and heart attacks.  To bad.

I’ve wanted to try to make homemade Chinese takeout for awhile, but the way of getting crispy chicken without deep frying it was eluding me.  It all comes down to how you coat or bread the chicken.  I got this idea for coating the chicken from here http://stuffcynloves.com/2013/05/03/best-general-tao-chicken-recipe/.   It works really well as a pho-fried food breading.

Enjoy

Ingredients

1 cup cornstarch

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

3 tablespoons flour

2 eggs

1 cup panko

Chicken thighs or breasts

4 Tablespoons peanut butter

6 tablespoons soy sauce

1 Green pepper (sorry forgot to include in the picture)

1 package mushrooms, about ½ pound

2 sticks celery

4 green onions

2 heads brocoli

1 can crushed pineapple

6 tablespoons sugar

6 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 teaspoon garlic powder

Oil for frying

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If you’re working with chicken thighs, deskin and debone, and try to cut off any large chunks of fat.  For either chicken thighs or breasts, cut into approximately 1 inch pieces.

Set up a line of three bowls.  In the first bowl, pour 1 cup of cornstarch.   In the next bowl mix together the 2 eggs, salt, baking powder, and flour which will make a thick goo. In the last bowl pour the 1 cup of panko.  You can use breadcrumbs instead of panko, but the chicken won’t be quite as cruncy.

Dip each piece of chicken into first the cornstarch, then the egg mix, and finally the panko.  Try to shake off any extra cornstarch before coating your pieces with the egg mixture.

Put just enough oil in a deep skillet to cover the bottom and heat under medium to high heat.  After the oil is hot, put in the chicken pieces, evenly spaced and so they don’t quite touch.

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Cook until panko starts to brown and then turn and cook on the other side.  Make sure the chicken is cooked through and remove it from the pan, takes about 10-15 minutes.

While the chicken is cooking finely chop all your veggies and put in a big bowl, it’s a lot of veggies.

In a small mixing bowl add the peanut butter and 4 tablespoons of soy sauce.  Mix a little, until the peanut butter is not a blob in a sea of soy sauce but it’s not going to make a smooth mixture.  Pour the mixture onto the veggies and mix well.

Pour the veggie mix into the skillet and cook on medium to high heat stirring often until the veggies soften.  Takes about 10 minutes.

While cooking the veggies mix in a suacpan the pineapple, sugar, apple cider vinegar, remaining soy cauce, cornstarch, and garlic powder.  Mix in each ingredient one at a time beginning with the pineapple and mix well after every addition.  Cook under low heat until everything is well incorporated, you’re difficult ingredient here will be the cornstarch.  This really only takes 5 minutes or so.

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After the veggies are soft turn heat down to low and add back in the chicken.  Stir once or twice until the chicken is evenly mixed.  Add the pineapple sauce to the skillet and mix well.  Cook for another 5 minutes or so and you’re done.

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Serve with either rice or butter noodles.   If you’re a fan of broth with your rice, double the sauce mixture.

Really this is a pretty easy recipe, but it does take some time.  Around 45 minutes to an hour start to finish.

Enjoy.

Cheesy Salad Sandwich

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I’m personally a big fan of salad.  I feel that a lot of times salads get a bad name as being smothered in dressing, or having everything in them but the kitchen sink.  But they can’t be all bad.

My mom actually makes that second kind of salad and it’s amazing.  She makes the dressing from scratch and everything, but when I finally got her to give me the recipe for it, it seemed to be a mile long.  While I know that it would not be complicated to make, I generally balk at the idea of making something that has more than 20 ingredients.

I’m also not a huge fan of lettuce.  Since lettuce is the principle ingredient in most salads, and it has no taste, I suppose those other 19 ingredients are necessary to make the lettuce taste like something other than crisp green water.  And depending on how long your salad has been out of the refrigerator, you even loose the crisp.

So I’m going to say this is not so much of a recipe, as an idea, inspired by something similar I found in a cookbook.  Why not take the lettuce out of the salad?  And while I was at it I figured I could add some bread too.  Bread improves every meal, and I’m an even bigger fan of sandwiches than I am of salads.

Enjoy

Ingredients

1 tomato

½ cucumber

1 red or orange bell pepper

1 green bell pepper

2 sticks celery

2 green onions

1 teaspoon black pepper

½ cup Italian Salad Dressing

Shredded Swiss cheese

Bread

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Finely chop all the vegetables.   Mix well with the black pepper and Italian Salad Dressing.  I feel you could almost use any veggies you wanted in this, my only caution would be to try to keep it from getting too wet, as that will dilute the Italian Salad Dressing which is providing most of the seasoning.

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Just as you can use almost any veggies, you can use almost any bread.  If necessary, cut the bread in half.  On each half, or slice, sprinkle enough of the Swiss cheese to just cover the bread.  Cover the bread with a paper towel and microwave for 1 minute.  This will melt the cheese without drying it out or burning it.

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Spread about 1-2 tablespoons of the veggie mixture onto one half of the sandwich and place the other half on top.  Makes 4-8 sandwiches depending on the size of the sandwich.

Enjoy.

Not My Grandma’s Kurta

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That look on my face you can classify as dumbfounded sadness.  It was brought on by something my photographer and boyfriend said.  That looks like a grandma dress.

Now, under certain circumstances I would actually take that as a compliment.  I’m a huge fan of the song Thrift Shop, which like many other patrons of Goodwill, I feel is my theme song.  And I also love vintage clothing.  While most of my clothing is not actually vintage, which around here is code for overpriced and faded, I make a lot of vintage inspired clothing and I am very happy to get my grandmother and even my mother’s hand me downs.

But, alas, he did not mean it in the Macklemore way.  He meant it in the, that’s a dress old women wear after they have many children and gain lots of weight way.  I’m not over exaggerating this, that’s pretty much what he said.

Now, while I know the dress is many times too large, and I wasn’t putting it on intending to wear it out on the town, but that is never something you want your boyfriend to say.  As my lab manager would put it, sometimes boys just ain’t smart.

So all I was left to do was to fix the dress so that it was no longer a grandma dress, either in a bad way or a good way.  Now that’s a girl being smart.

So the first thing I did was to try to figure exactly how big it was at the sides by just pulling the fabric so that it was tight to my body while I wore it, at that width I put in a pin.  I used that pin as a guide to make another seam.

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I’m calling it another seam, instead of darts, because at the widest point I was cutting out about 2 inches of fabric.  If I tried to just take that much out at the sides, it would make the bodice gappy so I needed to extend the ‘dart’ around under the armhole and take a little out of the sleeve as well.

When you sew in these seams, you’re always going to want to work from the widest point to the smallest, that’s how you get a very sharp seam that doesn’t wrinkle.  Generally this means starting at the bottom and sewing up, but in this case, that means starting at the armhole and working down.

So that worked pretty well, but it still was a little too big.  I had expected this though since I always try to be conservative with how much fabric I take out, I can always take out more but it’s hard to add fabric back after you’ve cut it away.

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This time I actually made a kind of dart, since it fit well across my bust.  What I’ve done here is take it in even father at the waist, but as a kind of half circle that meets back with my previous stitching.  If you think about this dart in the terms of a circle, the goal is to make it as long as possible while getting the necessary width.  Maximizing that length for width is what keeps you from having the corseted waist look, unless you were going for that.

Now that I’ve got all the stitches in, I’ve got a lot of unnecessary fabric on the inside of this garment, which actually bunches up rather uncomfortably under my arms.  But never fear, scissors are here.

Unless you feel you’re going to be gaining a lot of weight soon, and who really wants to bank on that, I would suggest cutting away most of that extra fabric to make it lay better.

After about an hour or two of pinning, sewing, trying on, and occasionally ripping out seams when I had accidentally made it too small, I finally had my new and improved, no longer grandma dress.

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Eat that grandma dress.