Saturday, August 23, 2014

Things I Have Been Doing While I Haven't Been Blogging

It has been a long time since I last posted!  I haven't been idle...just came down to blog about stuff I'm doing or actually doing stuff.  

So things that I have been doing:

  • Gardening
  • Stitching
  • And of course...Cooking

School is getting ready to start again...where did that summer go???
I promise to try, try, try to post details of some of my favorite doings in the next couple of days.  

Until then...Enjoy the last little bits of summer!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Absentee blogger

I've sewn things. And cooked things. I promise. I just don't have the energy to sew, cook and blog right now. This weekend.  I pinky promise some pics of the things I've been cooking up - feasts and fabrics!  'Til then ...I'm off to make lunches for another day in the wonderful world of high school!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Fast, Slow, Slow - A tale of three projects

Some sewing projects are like fast food.  Fast and easy and...satisfying...but not necessary quality sewing.  

Some sewing projects are like a carefully crafted slow - cooked Sunday dinner.  It takes some time to come together and is made with the best ingredients and the worth it!

I have been sampling a bit of both in my sewing lately.  After my amazing long weekend of hand embroidery stitching with Laura Jenkins Thompson and all my friends at Stitchin' Charleston Style, 

Laura Jenkins Thompson (top right) and my Charleston friends.
The bottom right is a sample of the ways that Laura spoils us for lunch each day!
I was ready for a quick and easy sewing project.  My fairy goddaughter's birthday was coming up.  With the recent addition of an American Girl doll to the family, it was an easy choice for some "fast food" sewing. 

I found these scraps in  my stash and had the pattern from when my girls were into American girl dolls and in a couple of hours,  I had the bathing ensemble for Kaya, the American Girl doll. 

I used Simplicity 7688.   The best thing about sewing doll clothes - no fancy finishes.  The bathing suit doesn't even have elastic!  It literally took less than 30 minutes from fabric to done.  The coverup took a bit longer due to all those rolled hem finishes, but still an easy sew.

My daughter's Addy Doll modeling. 
After my fast sewing binge, I was ready to settle down to some slow sewing.

First up:  A present for my beautiful red-headed Irish friend whose birthday is St. Patrick's Day week. A shamrock theme was the obvious choice.

Hand embroidered linen/cotton guest towel.
I found the basic monogram on Mary Corbet's Needle and Thread website.  The original monogram has a flower in the middle of the monogram.  I switched it up to a shamrock and really love the result!  I also added the two groups of raised dots on the side of the letter B - a technique that I just learned in Charleston.

Madiera Applique linen monogram pillow
Design by Laura Jenkins Thompson

The final slow project was started in Charleston and just finished today.

All of our recent snow days (11!) let me slow down and focus completely on this project for hours at a time. 

Oh the joy of completely immersing yourself in something you love! 

I took a cue from Laura and added an old monogram pin to close the back of the pillow.

I love how some of the stitches are flat and silky and others are
so dimensional.
See the pin stitch on the Madiera appliqué?
See my mistake with the grain that is all supposed to be going the same direction?
Oh well...we'll can it a design feature.  :-)
So I ended this tale of three projects with a slow one.  Just in time to return to the school year mania after our last (I hope!) snow day.  Back to the fast lane tomorrow!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Forget the February Sweets - Give me gravy!

With it being February and hearts and chocolate and all, everyone in the food blog world seems to be posting scrumptious looking desserts.  

Me - surrounded by a sea of cold white stuff - I'm all about comfort food.  Give me some nice hearty carbs and layer them with gravy - now that is what sings to my heart this Chilly Valentine Month.

My hero of the month:  
Chicken Burgers
Mushroom Onion Sauce (We're going to call it Gravy - so much more comfort food-esque, right?)
I made this perfect meal for a dreary, cold weeknight in under 30 minutes.  The recipe was a bit skimpy on gravy so next time I would probably double the gravy part - including the mushrooms.  I made a quick spinach sauté and sliced some oranges and dinner was on the table!

All this gravy-filled lusciousness came in at a skinny 7 Weight Watchers points for the whole meal.  Which is a good thing in February cuz I have to save up my points for all the yummy chocolate Valentine desserts that are all over those blogs!  <3

May the rest of your February be filled with hearts, flowers, chocolate...and...plenty of comfort food!

And a little sunshine and warmth - just a little...please...

Chicken Burgers with Mushroom Onion Sauce
Clean Eating Magazine Winter's Best 2013
  • 1 lb lean ground chicken or turkey
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped yellow onion, divided
  • 4 tsp chopped fresh basil leaves, divided
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/8 tsp each sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • Olive Oil cooking spray
  • 5 oz button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup 2% milk, divided (I used skim because that's what we have.)
  • 1 1/2 tsp arrowroot powder (I used cornstarch but you could use flour too)
  • 4 slices hearty whole wheat or multi-grain bread toasted
  • Fresh sprigs thyme, optional (Mine is currently buried under 14 inches of snow so I opted out.)
1.  Combine chicken, 1/2 cup onion, 3 tsp basil, oregano, salt and pepper.  Form into 4, 1/2 inch thick patties.  Mist a medium skillet with cooking spray and heat on medium.  Add patties and cook, turning once until no longer pink in center and an instant thermometer reads 165 degrees in the center - about 10 minutes.

2.  Meanwhile, prepare sauce.  Mist medium saucepan with cooking spray and heat on medium.  Add mushrooms and remaining 1/4 cup onions and sauté, stirring frequently, until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add broth and thyme and increase heat to high.  Sauté, stirring frequently, until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add broth and thyme and increase heat to high.  Sauté stirring frequently, until reduced by half, about 5 minutes.

3.  In a small bowl, whisk 2 Tbsp milk and arrowroot (or cornstarch/flour) until combined.  Stir into sauce along with remaining 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp milk.  Reduce heat to medium and bring to a gentle simmer.  Cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes, until thickened.  Season with additional salt and pepper.  Stir in remaining 1 tsp basil.  

To serve, top bread with patties and sauce.  Garnish with fresh thyme (if using)

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Chocolate Covered Strawberries for your Sports Fan

Need a dessert to go with the mini-meatball subs?  
Chocolate Covered Strawberry Footballs
These disappeared in minutes!  They are seriously decadent but still only 2 Weight Watchers points for 2 strawberries!

Without further ado...The recipe.

Black and White Stawberries
Weight Watchers - New Complete Cookbook

  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 tsp raspberry liqueur (framboise)
  • 1 1/2 tsp water
  • 8 Large strawberries, with stems
  • 1/2 ounce white chocolate, chopped, or 2 Tbsp white chocolate chips
1.  Line a large baking sheet with wax paper.  In a small microwavable bowl, combine the chocolate chips, liqueur, and water; microwave on High, stirring twice, until melted and smooth, about 1 1/2 minutes.  Holding a berry by the hull, dip the berry halfway into the chocolate; set on the wax paper.  Repeat with the remaining berries and chocolate. 

2.  In another small microwavable bowl, melt the white chocolate in the microwave on High, stirring one, until melted and smooth, about 1 minute.  Scoop into  a small plastic bag and snip a small hole in one corner.  Pipe "laces" on the strawberries.  

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Mini Bites for Sports Fans of All Kinds

...Or hungry book club friends!

Book club was in 2 hours and I was not in the mood to go to the grocery store - The weather here has been less than lovely - Cold, rainy, sleety, snowy.  

And by not lovely - I mean this...
Not the weather for a gratuitous grocery store run.  Time for some serious pantry/freezer magic.

A quick look in the freezer gave me an idea:  Mini Meatball subs!
I had all I needed:

  • Frozen small meatballs
  • Jarred spaghetti sauce
  • fresh basil
  • Sliced cheese - I used monterey jack
  • mini-pitas

Step One:  Split the mini-pitas and stuff with a small triangle of the cheese of your choice. 

Step Two:  Heat the meatballs in a saucepan in a small amount of sauce - just enough to cover them about half way up.  You don't want them to be too saucy or the bread will get soggy.

Step Three:  Scoop one meatball and a little bit of sauce into each pita half with the cheese and arrange in an oven-proof casserole dish.

Step Four:  Cut basil leaves into small pieces (I cut them in halves or quarters) and stuff into the pita next to the meatball.

Step Five:  Sprinkle lightly with grated parmesan.

Step Six:   Bake in a 350 degree oven for 5-10 minutes until the cheese is melted and the mini-subs are heated through.

Easy, right?  And sooo yummy!

Not gourmet - but don't you know they sure disappear!  
And that is what we, who love to cook for others, really want in the end! 
Stay warm out there everyone!

Monday, February 3, 2014

When Life Sends You Snow Days...Make Sweaters

I finally eeked a sewing day out of all those snow days that we've had here.  What is the logical thing to make on a snow day?  A sweater of course!

After seeing this on Lucky Sew and Sew's Blog and loving the cardigans that she has made,  I bought the #110 Cool Cardigans Draped Front Cardigan from Pamela's Patterns.  I bought the pattern forever ago while visiting family in Pennsylvania and finally got around to making it.  
Pamela's Patterns
Since it was a snow day, I needed to use what I had. There is no driving in the snow around here!  Too many crazy drivers who think they know how to drive their little sports cars or huge SUVs in the snow. I bought some purple ribbed sweater knit about 20 years ago at an outdoor market when we lived in Spain.  It was cheeeaap!  So I bought a ton of it and it has been sitting in my stash ever since.  Perfect for a trial run of this pattern.

My 8th grade niece was my photographer of the day
The pattern directions were great - although it was pretty self-explanatory and was easily completed in an afternoon from cutting to finished. 

I made a size medium and used the full bust front (The directions say that the most common fitting directions are built into Pamela's patterns.  I think that mostly means that they run big).  

I was overall happy with the sweater.  I've already worn it a couple of times. 

For next time I would:

  • raise up the shoulder a bit.  I thought it was ok, but the seam is falling off my shoulder more than I would like.  
  • shorten it a couple inches
  • Raise up the under arm a bit to give it a more fitted look.  

For a quick-sew, wearable muslin, I declared it a success and I got to use my new coverstitch machine to finish all the edges. I even figured out how to turn a neat corner with the coverstitch.  

Now...Does anyone have any hints about how to neatly end with the coverstitch?  So far, I have just been holding the fabric in place once I get to the starting point so that I get a few stitches in place, but it doesn't make for the neatest finish.  All hints welcome!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Meyer Lemons Two Ways

After using the limequats for the marmalade from the last post, I was anxious to see what I could do with the Meyer Lemons from my brothers Garden of Eden.

My husband has been hankering for some risotto and I have been resisting - all the stirring - Bleeek!  Then a perfect storm of snow days and an abundance of meyer lemon made his wish come true!  

A few simple ingredients:

Meyer Lemon Juice and zest
Arborio rice
White Wine
Parmesan cheese 
Pine nuts and Mint for garnish

Meyer Lemon Risotto

A lot of stirring...and WhaaLaa!

Creamy, starchy, citrusy wonderousness!

Serve with a green veggie and maybe a simple protein like shrimp or chicken and dinner is served.  

I followed the recipe exactly, so I won't write it all out here.  Here is the link on Simply Recipes.  It really was worth all the stirring!

Recipe #2:  Roasted Cornish Game Hens With Meyer Lemons 
from:  LA Times

  • 2 Corninsh Hens
  • 4 Meyer Lemons
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 3 medium fennel bulbs (I only had one)
  • 3/4 cups each Nicoise  and Picholine olives  (I had kalamata on hand so I used those)
  • 8 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
1.  About an hour ahead, remove the Cornish game hens from the refrigerator and bring to room temperature.

2.  Heat the oven to 425 degrees.  Slice 2 of the lemons paper thin with a knife or a mandolin.  With your fingers, carefully loosen the skin from the meat on the breast side of the hens.  

Insert 5 or 6 lemon slices underneath the skin of each hen.  Put any unused slices and the ends of the lemons into the cavities, and rub the salt equally over the 2 hens.

3.  Cut the remaining 2 lemons into 8 wedges and scatter them in the bottom of a shallow baking pan with the fennel, olives, and garlic.   Place the hens on top of the fruit and vegetables.  Pour olive oil over the 2 birds, then season with a few grinds of black pepper.

4.  Roast the hens in the oven for 30 minutes, then lower the heat to 350 degrees and roast for about 20 minutes longer, or until the meat is firm, the skin is golden and the juices run clear (a thermometer placed into the thickest part of the bird will register 165 degrees);  the vegetables and fruit will have started to caramelize. 

Although the cook time is about 50 minutes, it only takes about 20 minutes to prep the birds for the oven so the hands on time for this dish is manageable for a week night.

I prepped these before my workout and then threw them in the oven to bake while I worked out.   

I don't recommend this, because the amazing smells coming from the kitchen made it very hard to concentrate on staying on the treadmill!  ;-)

So a two-fer of Meyer lemon recipes....I still have a few left...Hmmm...Lemonade anyone?

Citrus Treasures from Florida

This year for winter break we headed south to check off one of the items on my bucket list.  I have had a fascination with manatees every since elementary school and have wanted to see them up close and personal and, with the extended winter break this year, we finally did it!  
Aren't they cute!

On the way back from visiting with the manatees we got to stop for a lunch visit with my brother and his family.  My brother is an amazing gardener, cook and outdoorsman.  After our delicious gourmet lunch, he took us on a tour of his backyard.  His backyard is something akin to the Garden of Eden with oversized citrus trees, avocado plants, chickens, cats, snakes, fish all living in relative harmony.  Citrus trees were in full production and I scored several bags of gorgeous Meyer lemons and limequats.  
The limequats are the smaller ones and
the Meyer lemons are the big juicy ones.
According to Wikipedia:  The limequat is a citrus tree that is the result of a cross between the Key lime and the kumquathybridized by Dr. Walter Swingle in 1909.
the Meyer lemon, is a citrus fruit native to China thought to be a cross between a true lemon and either a mandarin or common orange

However they came about, I was eager to try them in some recipes.  

Since I had a lot of limequats - more than I could ever use as a spritzer in my Perrier - the first thing that I tried was Limequat Marmalade.  I perused the internet and mis-mashed a couple of recipes to come up with a beautiful, easy tart-sweet marmalade.

Limequat Marmalade
Limequat Marmalade
  • Limequats (I used about 8-9 limequats - mine were large-y)
  • Sugar  Use 1 part fruit to 1 part sugar (I measured the sliced limequats and added that much sugar)
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 Tbsp (slightly less) vanilla extract
Wash the limequats, remove the seeds and thinly slice.  I used my mandolin to do the slicing.
Add limequats, sugar and water to a non-reactive pan and bring to a boil.  
Boil rapidly for at least 15 minutes, stirring constantly.
Thick, but not thick enough...
Just about there... 
Once the mixture is thickened (You can use the cold plate method to tell if it is done.) Add the vanilla. 

    Pour into Canning jars and process, if you want.  I didn't have that much so I just sealed and refrigerated. 

  The marmalade is delicious served with a little butter on a warm english muffin. Breakfast tart-sweet perfection!

Doesn't all the bright yellow make it seem so much warmer and sunnier outside?

Next up...Meyer Lemon Risotto and Roasted Cornish Game Hens with Meyer Lemon.  

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Nostalgic Recipe Towels

My grandmother, Dede, was a great homemaker in all the wonderful senses of the word. 

She was a stylish, smart and talented woman.  She could sew, knit, crochet, and paint. She made a home filled with love and laughter and she raised two amazing daughters who happened to become my mother and aunt who became amazing homemakers in their own rights.  
Dede and PopPop traveled all over to visit with my
travelin' Navy family.
I especially love these photos from Hawaii in the 60's
That's me on the bottom right and my sister in my
PopPop's arms.
She passed away not too long ago.  Although we all miss her very much, I was blessed to have her in my life for a long time. 

DeDe's recipes are still the ones I turn to when I really need some comfort food.  So when I saw this pin on pinterest, I knew it was going to be my mother's Christmas gift. Linen-Cotton kitchen towels printed with copies of Dede's recipes in her own handwriting!

I followed the directions for formatting the photos/scans of the recipe cards, made a collage in Picasa and then sent it off to Spoonflower to have it made into fabric.  

I won't go into too much detail on the process because the links above do a pretty good job, but will give a few tips that I found helpful...

1.  Do not try to photograph the recipes.  Scan them.  In my case, the recipe was on two sides of the card, so I photocopied both sides and then cut and taped the pieces together and then scanned.

2.  The collage part is much easier if each recipe is the same size - trust me.

3. Retouching some of the marks and "seams" and changing the color to the Sepia setting (in iPhoto for me) made for a much cleaner print for the fabric 

4.  I downloaded and used Picasa and it worked fine with the directions they gave.  I had to fool around a bit with resizing to get most of the recipe to fit, but finally got it just so.

5. Don't miss the final tip that tells you to resize to 36 x 54 and 150dpi resolution.

6.  The fabric arrived in less than 2 weeks and was perfect! 

I got excited and cut apart the panels before I took a picture!  Oops!

I got so excited that I cut right into one of the panels...AAAARGGH!

See the little zigzag mend there----->
I'm calling it "vintage rustic"...hmmm.

6.  Once you have the panels cut apart, use your iron to turn under the colored border and turn it to the back and stitch it down.  I used blue thread in the needle and cream thread in the bobbin.  I wanted the recipe to be the star - not the stitching.

7.  The borders will be slightly different sizes  unless you cut the outer edges to match the shared inside edges.  I didn't bother and it looked fine.  

8.  Here is the finished gift!  

The best thing is that the fabric stays on file at Spoonflower so if you want to make more...just a few clicks and about $30 and you can have 4 more towel to make!

I couldn't wait to see my mother open the gift!  She was so surprised to see Dede's handwriting on the towels! 

It took a little piddidlin' to get the computer part right, but was so worth it in the end.  I'm going to look for some recipes from my other Grandmother next!