Saturday, June 29, 2013

Sweet Summer Sewing...T-shirt Quilt

Sons...You want to sew and make hand-made beautiful things for them, but by the time they get to be about 10 or 12 years old they just aren't into anything sewn by mom.  Except...T-shirt quilts!

For my daughters' high school graduations I made appliquéd floor pillows for each of them, but I thought that might be a bit too girlie for him.
T-shirt floor pillows
My son is a sports nut.  He can recite any sports statistic from hockey to baseball to...even cricket, I think!  He played lacrosse and football all through high school and had the requisite hundreds of t-shirts to go with each sport.  After he graduated, I promised to make him a t-shirt quilt.  Finally!  A hand-made gift that he would love.  And so he picked out 12 or 15 of his favorites that he could bear to have me cut up and put them in a big plastic bag and left for college.  

One year passed, then another... and finally he moved the plastic bag full of t-shirts out of his closet into the guest room closet. 

Did I mention that I have never actually made a quilt before???  When the local quilt shop advertised a t-shirt quilting class, I swallowed my quilting anxiety and jumped with both feet (and dragged brought both my daughters too!)

DD # 2 with one of her t-shirt squares
DD # 1 ironing on interfacing

After some initial confusion starting off, we ended up having a great time, learning a lot and making some progress on planning out our quilts.  The planning is the hardest part, I think!

I decided to go for a simple design with 15 inch t-shirt squares, sashing and some flanges of fabric to set off each square.
Here it is all laid out in the planning stages at the shop.  

The teacher recommended taking pictures of the layout so that we would remember when we got home.  One great benny of the class is having so many people to give you ideas and suggestions!  We have fun helping each other with layouts.

Some of the squares with the flange of accent fabric

Sorry for the fuzzy picture...She texted it to me!  :-)

DD #1 wanted to do one that was a bit more free-form with no sashing.  This was a bit more complicated, but I think that she ended up with a good design for a first try.

I finished up with the quilt top today and bought the batting and the backing fabric.  I just need to piece the back and then I will send it off to a long arm quilter and finish the binding - red, I think.
The corner pieces are from fronts of some t-shirts.

I used a scrap of one t-shirt and hand embroidered his name (last name removed for the picture) and graduation date on the bottom right 
corner piece. 

Finally, a hand-made gift fit for a son!  I can't wait to get the quilting done!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Stawberries continued...Cheesecake pie

So we didn't use all the strawberries in the jam.  After all, we bought a whole flat!  Many of them mysteriously disappeared within minutes of their arrival into the house.  Some of them, however, made it onto a cheesecake pie requested by my husband for Father's Day dessert.
Berry Cheesecake pie

This is a tried-and-true recipe that is so easy to make.  As you can tell, I even cheated and used a prepared crust!  But what a reward for a few minutes work and a couple hours cooling off in the fridge!

There are versions of this all over the internet, but I used the one found here.

Strawberry Cheesecake Pie
Found at:
  • 1 8oz package of cream cheese at room temp.
  • 1 15 oz can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
1.  In the bowl of a mixer, beat cream cheese until smooth.  Add the condensed milk and beat until fully incorporated.  Add the lemon juice and the vanilla extract.

2.  Pour into the graham cracker crust, cover and refrigerate 2-3 hours.

3.  Just before serving top with fresh fruit.  


Monday, June 24, 2013

June is for Strawberries

My sister and I like to head out first thing Saturday morning to check out the farmer's market near us.  It is not a big market, but there are plenty of the things that make farmer's markets so much fun:    Fresh local in season produce, beautiful flowers, yummy breads and cheeses and organically grown meats and eggs.  

Two weeks ago I snapped up some of the season's last strawberries - the smell of those sweet berries called to me from across the market.  I was so hypnotized by the smell that I bought a whole flat!  A whole flat of strawberries at the eat-me-right- now peak of ripeness. 
 Right at the busiest wrapping-up-the-school-year time of year...

I knew that we couldn't eat them all fast enough so I decided to try my hand at homemade jam.  I searched the internet for help and settled on Ina Garten's recipe.  I enlisted my fabulous sous-chef, Daughter Carolyn, to help.
Carolyn making strawberry jam
The recipe was very easy - just lots of stirring!  I chose Ina's recipe because it didn't use pectin and I read that pectin jams tended to be sweeter.  It was still plenty sweet, but the lemon in the recipe really helps cut the sweetness a bit.  

Patience is key here.  Stir, stir, stir.  don't skimp on the stirring.  The longer you stir, the more "jelled" your jam will be.  Carolyn and I took turns on this part.

Stirring the jam is key

Look at that berry deliciousness!

Since we were short on time, we decided not to process the jam and just made it "refrigerator jam."  I gave away a few jars and my family is quickly gobbling up the rest, so no worries about spoilage! 
Look at that ruby red yumminess!  I especially love the whole chunks of berries.

Here is the recipe I used.  Does anyone else have a favorite recipe or tips for next time?  Add your comments below.  I can't wait to hear what you have to say!

Ina Garten's Fresh Strawberry Jam
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 1 large lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1 1/2 pints fresh strawberries hulled and halved (I quartered some of the larger ones)
1.  Combine the sugar, lemon zest and juice in a small saucepan and cook over very low heat for 10 minutes, until the sugar is dissolved. (If you double this, like me, it may take longer.  There is a video on the website above that shows you what it should look like.)

2.  Add the strawberries and continue to cook over very low heat for 20 minutes until the berries release some of their juice and the mixture boils slowly.

3.  Cook until a small amount of the juice gels on a very cold plate.  (Put one in the freezer for this step.)

4. Pour carefully into 2 pint canning jars and either seal of keep refrigerated.  (You can find canning directions on the Food Network website along with the video)


Sunday, June 9, 2013

Grilled Salmon Kabobs

Grilled Salmon Kabobs...Just do it!  These are delicious!  They came from Southern Living Magazine this month so, of course, they are delicious!  The amazing part is they are relatively light.  

Grilled Salmon Kabobs
It was super quick to get on the table, but did need some advanced planning because the salmon cools its heals in the fridge with the rub for 3 hours.  I also made the yogurt sauce ahead.  

The yogurt sauce is like a Southern tzatziki sauce.  What makes it Southern?  Instead of cucumber there are little bits of pickled okra mixed in!  The dill is fresh from my garden.

I served this with some fresh corn on the cob and some instant brown rice.  It was the perfect beginning of summer meal!

These were delish!
Grilled Salmon Kabobs
From Southern Living Magazine 6/13
  • 3 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground red pepper
  • 1 (2 1/4 lb) whole skinless salmon fillet, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 cup plain fat-free yogurt
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped pickled okra
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh dill
  • 1 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 6 (12-inch) wooden or metal skewers
  • 3 small cucumbers
  • 12 Grape tomatoes
1.  Stir together first 4 ingredients in a bowl; transfer to a large zip-top plastic freezer bag.  Add salmon, seal bag, and turn gently to coat. Chill 3 hours, turning occasionally.

2.  Meanwhile, stir together yogurt and next 4 ingredients; cover and chill until ready to serve.  Soak wooden skewers in water 30 minutes.  (Omit if using metal skewers.)

3.  Preheat grill to 350 to 400 degrees (medium-high) heat.  Scrape outside of cucumbers length-wise using tines of a fork, scoring skin all the way around; cut into a half moons.

4.  Remove salmon from bag.  Thread salmon, cucumbers, and tomatoes alternately onto skewers, leaving a 1/8 inch space between pieces.  

5.  Grill, covered with grill lid, 5 to 6 minutes on each side or to desired degree of doneness.  Serve with yogurt mixture.  

Serves 6 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Mexican Chicken Stew

I was waiting in the line at the world's most disorganized Safeway store with the world's slowest checker ever and so I had lots of time to kill.  Lucky for me, Safeway lines the checkout aisle with my favorite impulse buy.  Not candy - not for me.  (Ahem...My trainer reads this blog!)  My favorite impulse buy is magazines - especially food magazines.  Oh those marketers are sooo clever!

During this particularly long wait I found a Weight Watchers specialty publication titled "Five-Star Top-Rated Recipes".  It says that it will be on news stands until 8/16/13 so you can probably still find it.  (I get no reimbursement other than happy family for promoting this or any other product!) I found a number of quick, low-point and yummy-looking meals so I planned the whole week of recipes around my new impulse buy!  :-)

First up this week:  Mexican Chicken Stew 

Just 5 points for a 1 cup serving!
I served it up with my husband's favorite watermelon, arugula and feta salad. 
The cool, crunchy salad was the perfect compliment to warm, spicy soup.  
Total prep time:  An incredible 20 minutes flat from start to table!  
A definite weeknight win!

Mexican Chicken Stew
Recipe from:  Weight Watchers Five-Star Top-Rated Recipes
  • 2 ounces Mexican (I used Salvadoran) chorizo
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 cups shredded cooked chicken breast (I used a rotisserie chicken)
  • 2 cups fat-free chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 frozen whole-kernel corn (I used some leftover fresh corn mixed with the frozen)
  • 1 Tbsp chopped chipotle chile, canned in adobo sauce.  
    • Tip:  Since I never use up a whole can of these, I freeze the leftovers in a ziploc bag laid flat and then just cut off the amount I need for a recipe and throw it into the pot frozen.
  • 1 14/5 oz can stewed tomatoes, undrained and coarsely chopped.  
    • Tip:  Just stick your clean kitchen sheers right in the can and chop them up right in the can - way less mess!
  • Lime wedges
  • Low fat sour cream or fat free greek yogurt for topping
1.  Remove casings from chorizo.  Cook chorizo in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat 5 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble.  Remove sausage from pan with a slotted spoon, and drain on paper towel, reserving 1 tsp of drippings in pan.  (My chorizo was very lean and I barely had 1 tsp of drippings!)  Add the onion and garlic to drippings in pan;sauté 3 minutes or just until tender.

2.  Add chorizo, chicken, and next 4 ingredients.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer, uncovered, 5 minutes.  Serve with lime wedges and sour cream/yogurt.

6-1 cup servings.  5 WW points

Monday, June 3, 2013

A Quick Apron Project and a New Machine!!!

Sooo...I was sewing along the other day on the hooded towel project that I blogged about here and everything was going fine.  The serger was doing its job and serging away finishing seams as it went and then all of the sudden...Errkgoik!  It just...locked up.

I never really realized how much I use my serger until it wasn't there anymore.  Yikes!
I took it to the Babylock dealer and they were having a fabulous trade in deal. I basically got what I paid for it 15 or so years ago.  I hemmed and hawed (Not too long - just a little bit!) and, with my husband's encouragement took the trade in and got a new 8-thread chain stitch, cover stitch, wave stitch (whatever that is!) machine!  I have been dying for a cover stitch machine!
My new Babylock 8-thread serger!
Look at all those places for thread!  Oh My! I was happily surprised, however, because, as promised by the store owner, I was able to thread it up with the help of the cheater card and was able to get a regular 4-thread serger stitch going pretty quickly.  The beauty of the Baby lock machines is the air threading.  Just push a button and the loopers are threaded.

The coverstitch prep looks a bit more complicated and I haven't been brave enough or had enough time to attempt to thread it for the cover stitch yet. I am glad that the store owner offers guide classes for as long as you own the machine.  I plan to head in for classes as soon as summer begins in just 2 short weeks (not that I'm counting!  Ha!)

So our test project on the new machine was an adult version of the apron that a blogged about hereButterick See and Sew B4585 .  My daughter was putting together a "baking" themed gift for a friend who was getting married this weekend and the apron was the perfect finishing touch.
One side of the apron.  I love this cute retro fabric from Joann's
I used the same pattern and did the same basic alterations as I did on the little girl aprons.  In order to make it a bit more girlie, curvy, I drew in a new curvy a-line side seam from the waist tie down.  I also took about 3 inches off the hem so that I could add the pleated border.  The last change was to make the apron reversible.  
The flip side.
 There is actually a small dotted pattern on the teal fabric
that doesn't show up well in this picture

Such a satisfying project - done in an evening and a great teaching project for DD#2.  (Yep!  I've got 2 daughters hooked on sewing now!  Yay!)  The new serger worked like a dream.  It is so much smoother than the old machine - maybe because I wasn't the best at having the old one in for regular service??
It also had a really bright light which is great for these old eyes!

This weekend my daughters and I are taking a class on making a T-shirt quilt.   I'm planning to use some of my son's high school sports T-shirts to make the quilt.  I don't get to sew for him too often any more and I've never made a quilt before so I am really excited to get working on this project.

As always...thanks for visiting my blog!