Sunday, March 25, 2012

Hippy Blanket - Quilt #4

bright hippy fabric with flying geese
At first I thought I misspelled hippy... but a little research by my husband assured me that I did not.  In the process, we learned that there is a difference in the people that are a hippy or hippie.  My friend Renee is a hippy.  She had a milestone birthday recently, with a rockin' party to celebrate it, and I couldn't think of anything better to give her than a homemade lap blanket.  She is warm, kind, giving, funny, and does so much for the people that touch her life in one way or another.  So, one more time - Happy Birthday my friend!

peace sign fabric for a hippy quiltBy the time I figured out what I'd be doing as her birthday gift, I had 3 weeks to get fabric picked out and the quilt made.  In that time, our cat got sick and ultimately went to heaven so I ended up taking a week off from any sewing.  In my haste to get the blanket finished for the party, I forgot to take measurements, but it's approximately 40" x 50".  There are 9 geese across the top/bottom and 12 geese on both sides.   It has a hot pink flannel backing.  To attach the three layers (top, batting, backing) in the large center area, I used felt flower buttons... so fun. 

flying geese in a hippy quiltFabric choices... oh this was hard.  Renee likes the peace sign, vibrant colors, tie-dye, etc.  The large inner rectangle was my focus fabric and I spent 2 days at 3 different fabric stores finding coordinating items.  I had something like 5 or 6 fabrics picked out, all of them had a pattern.  It was really bothering me, it was too busy and just didn't work.  One final evening, on my way out to dinner with my husband, I stopped into a quilt shop called The Needle and I in Everett.  I needed at least one solid color to pull this all together.  The gals in that shop were great, and they had exactly what I needed.  We talked some fabric strategy and I left with a better plan than I went in with.  Finally, I could get started feeling good about my choices.

For the finished product, I packed it into a large plastic bag and made a 'label' out of card stock so it would look a little like something bought in a store.  We looked up 60's lingo to try and make it look like it came from that time. I downloaded some hippy fonts and we were set!  The 'advertising' I put on the label said:
  • Use of this blanket guaranteed to provide peaceful naps
  • Made from all "natural" materials
  • It's so boss
  • Sport this and you will be groovy
  • Great for picnics with friends or Grateful Dead concerts
  • Handmade in the USA
  • The colors, like wow man
  • It's a far out birthday gift
This was a really fun project.

Peace sign fabric and coordinating flying geese

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Beef Stew

Mmmmmmmm, a perfect homestyle comfort food.  I usually like this on a chilly, cloudy day - but today ended up sunny and nice.  Oh well... the stew was still delish.  My husband doesn't like potato so I leave it out.  He likes his portion served over egg noodles and I like mine over mashed potato or brown rice.  There are many different vessels in which to make stew, but I prefer a porcelain coated cast iron dutch oven; one pot, stovetop to oven.

2 pounds stew meat
2 tablespoons light olive oil, divided
2 teaspoons butter (not margarine), divided
1-2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 onion, chopped
4 celery stalks, chopped
2-3 large carrots, chunked
4-5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup red wine
1 can diced tomato
1 1/2 cups beef broth
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 tsp italian seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste
Rice, potato or pasta for serving

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix flour, salt and pepper.  Coat stew meat well with flour mixture, set aside.  Add 1 tablespoon oil and 1 teaspoon butter in a 5 quart dutch oven over high heat.  Brown stew meat in 2 batches, adding more oil/butter between batches.  If you add all the meat at once it won't brown properly.  Set browned meat aside and add onion, celery carrot.  Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring often.  Add garlic, cook for about 1 minute more.  Add red wine, scrape up all the browned bits, and let it reduce by at least half, then add tomatoes, broth and seasoning.  Stir, cover and move to oven.  Cook for about 2 hours, checking for doneness at 1.5 hours.  Season with salt and pepper as needed.  If you got the meat coated well before browning, your stew should not need any thickening.  Serve stew over rice, pasta or potato.

~ Enjoy ~

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Pina Colada Oatmeal

In a previous post, I mentioned how I really enjoy oatmeal for breakfast but need to find new ways to keep it interesting.  Costco recently had some good looking pineapples so I thought I'd make a variation of the pina colada.  The result was very good!  Do you have your own themes with oatmeal?  I'd love to hear about them!

1 cup water
1/2 cup milk
dash salt
3/4 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup fresh pineapple, diced
1-2 tablespoons toasted coconut
1-2 tablespoons cream
1 teaspoon agave nectar

Bring milk, water and salt to a boil.  Add oatmeal and pineapple, reduce heat and simmer until desired consistency, about 3-5 minutes.  While simmering, toast coconut in a skillet over medium heat, stirring often to prevent burning.  Serve oatmeal topped with coconut, stir in cream and agave nectar.

~ Enjoy ~

Strawberry Margarita

It's been a rough week.  Not only was it busy with work and preparing to have taco tuesday (a neighborhood event) at our house, the cat decided to show us he was really sick.  So, with preparing taco fixin's, black beans from scratch, mexican rice, etc., three vet visits and cleaning the house I was about ready for a tasty beverage.  I rarely have alcohol anymore, but a margarita was just sounding so good.  This recipe is from a BHG Mexican cooking magazine.

  • Sugar for rim of glass, if desired
  • 3/4 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 1 1/2 cups Triple Sec (or other orange flavored liqueur)
  • 1 cup tequila
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 3-4 strawberries
  • dash of Triple Sec
Mix first 5 ingredients well.  Rim glass with sugar.  Pour margarita over ice cubes.  Puree strawberries with the dash of Triple Sec and add to margarita.  I don't sugar the rim, I don't need the extra sweetness.  Makes approximately 4 drinks.

~ Enjoy ~

Chicken Pecan Salad

I love a good chicken salad sandwich.  When I lived in Arizona my favorite lunch spot was Paradise Bakery for their Chicken Walnut Salad on molasses bread.  Sadly, they aren't in Washington and they said (in an email reply to my begging they come here) there will be no stores here.  So, I had to find my very own recipe.  I didn't measure anything; I'll attempt to give you an idea of how much I used... but make it to your own taste.  Here goes:
  • About 2 cups shredded chicken (I buy a whole rotisserie bird from Costco and shred it)
  • 1/4 - 1/3 cup mayo
  • 1/4 - 1/3 cup plain greek yogurt
  • 2-3 ribs celery, diced
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberry
  • 1/4 - 1/3 cup apple, chopped (I prefer skin on)
  • 1/4 - 1/3 cup pecan, chopped (or walnut)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
This goes way back to when I was a kid, we would lightly toast bread for tuna sandwiches.  I never liked tuna, I had to put so much mayo and 'stuff' in it to drown out the taste.  Anyway... to build my sandwich, I (you probably already guessed it) lightly toast my whole grain bread, add a small amount of mayo and mustard, a slice of havarti and 3-5 tablespoons of salad.  On rare occasion, I'll add a slice or two of bacon.  Delish!

~ Enjoy ~

Sunday, March 11, 2012

BLT Mac & Cheese

This morning I made blueberry buttermilk pancakes for breakfast, and by dinner we still weren't very hungry.  I wanted something that wouldn't take too long to make, would have a 'home cooked freshness', and no leftovers.  Who doesn't love mac and cheese?  It's one of my favorite meals!  This dish was inspired by a "Cuisine at Home" recipe that I followed pretty close, but made a few changes, and it's nowhere close to that mac & powdered cheese in a box.  I have another recipe I really like, but it takes longer and has to bake in the oven.  Being pretty quick and very tasty, this is going in our dinner rotation for sure!

8 oz. whole wheat dry elbow or shell pasta
4 strips of bacon, cooked then diced
2 tbsp. minced shallot
3 tbsp. flour
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 cups whole milk, warmed
5 oz. sharp cheddar, shredded
3 oz.  gouda, shredded
1/4 - 1/2 tsp ground (dry) mustard
1/4 - 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
Shredded parmesan
1 roma tomato, seeded and diced
2 tbsp minced fresh parsley

Cook pasta to package directions, drain.
Saute bacon in a dutch oven, or large saucepan until crisp.  Remove to paper towel, set aside.
Add shallots to drippings over medium heat and cook until softened, 30-60 seconds.
Whisk flour into drippings and cook 1 minute.  Whisk in white wine, then milk.  Stir in cheddar, gouda, mustard, cayenne, salt and pepper.
Stir in pasta, divide between 2 serving bowls, top with shredded parmesan.
Combine bacon, parsley and tomato, garnish each serving and....

~ Enjoy ~

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Comfy Couch Blanket - Quilt #3

Most quilt patterns are in sizes of lap/crib, twin, queen and king.  I want something in between.  Maybe I'm just being difficult and refuse to follow 'recipes' as written, but I love sitting under blankets on the couch.

The crib size is too small and twin too big.  This blanket measures 41" x 64", the perfect size for covering one person on the couch, two if you're snuggling.  :)  It has 72 four by four squares and three borders.  It's a basic Four Patch pattern, but I added some length and an extra border.

The colors in my house are based on a western theme.  Browns, beige, rust/deep red, and green.  The polka dot fabric is my focus and while it looks black in this picture it's actually brown.  I also needed a non-neutral color and there was dark blue in the dots, so I pulled that out in one of the borders.  (The blue border is brighter in the picture than it actually is.)

I'm using 7 fabrics + warm & natural batting:
  • Fabric A Dark - Focus (36 inner squares and outer border)
  • Fabric B Medium - Green leafy (36 four patch inner squares)
  • Fabric C Light - Beige (36 four patch inner squares)
  • Fabric D Dark - Rust (inner border 1)
  • Fabric E Medium - Blue (inner border 2)
  • Fabric F Dark - Green (binding)
  • Fabric G Light - Camel (flannel backing)
My first quilt I took my time and made sure everything was near perfect.  The second quilt I got a little over confident so there were a few mistakes on it.  I re-grouped, worked through my mistakes and learned a few new things along the way.  Quilt #3 came out really good!  My squares are on point, the inner design didn't stretch, and using flannel for the backing worked out better this time.

A note to the other quilters out there: washing, pressing and starching the fabrics before starting a project is the way to go!

Since four patch quilt patterns are pretty standard, I won't include all the cutting/piecing instructions - but if anyone wants them, let me know.  Border widths are - Inner border one: 3"; Inner border two: 1.5"; Outer border: 4.5".


Suppli / Arancini

Suppli: Ball of rice around mozzarella, coated in breadcrumbs and fried - may or may not be served with tomato sauce; native to Rome.
Arancini: Fried rice balls, coated with breadcrumbs and often filled with ragu, mozzarella, or sometimes peas; said to have originated in Sicily.

No matter what you call them, they are delizioso!  The first time I had rice balls was dining out with friends Albert and Karen during their wedding weekend about 10 years ago.  Albert is Italian and ordered these for the table.  I was in love, but for many years too intimidated to try making homemade risotto.  Now that I'm comfortable with it, I can make these at home!

I made three cheese risotto a few days ago, and since it was served as a side dish I had plenty leftover.  Enter Suppli ... they are the perfect Italian appetizer.  They go together pretty quick; the worst part of making them is heating up the oil, then waiting for it to cool and straining it later.  I'm also not a huge fan of the deep fry smell in the house - but I think I'll get over it for this little snack.  To make Suppli, it's best done with day old risotto. 

Three cheese risotto
3 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, finely diced
1 3/4 cups risotto rice
3/4 cup white wine
4 cups boiling chicken stock
1 cup grated parmesan
2-3 ounces fresh goat cheese
2 heaping tablespoons mascarpone
handful fresh basil
salt and pepper to taste

In a large skillet or dutch oven, melt butter until hot, but not quite browning.  Add onion and cook until softened, stirring often.  Move the pot of boiling stock adjacent to the pan you are cooking the risotto in.  Add the rice and stir until the grains start to swell, then add the white wine.  When it stops sizzling and is mostly absorbed, pour in a little stock.  Add a bit of salt/pepper to start seasoning.  Stir until stock has been absorbed.  Continue adding stock, a few ladles at a time allowing each addition to absorb.  By the time you have used all the stock, your rice should be al dente.  At the last addition, turn off the heat before it is fully absorbed - you want some moisture left.  Add the three cheeses and stir until melted and combined.  Tear basil, add and stir in.  Finish with salt and pepper to taste.  Refrigerate leftovers for Suppli.

1/2 recipe day old three cheese risotto
2 eggs, divided
Fresh mozzarella, diced into small pieces
Plain breadcrumbs
Flour to coat
Oil to fry (peanut, canola, grapeseed)

Heat the oil to 360 degrees.  Beat one of the eggs and mix into the cold risotto.  Beat the other egg on a plate.  On separate plates place the flour and breadcrumbs.  Using your hand, grab enough rice to form a ball the size of a golf ball.  Flatten slightly in your palm, place a few pieces of the diced mozzarella in the center and close the ball around it. 
Roll the ball in flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs.  Using a spider strainer carefully place 3-4 balls in the hot oil.  Fry until golden brown and crispy.  Drain on a paper towel lined plate.  Cool slightly, serve warm.  If desired, serve with a tomato sauce, simple marina or ragu on the side.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Cheesesteak (not Philly)

There is no way I would commit blogicide by calling these Philly Cheesesteaks, but I think it's safe to say they were inspired by the ones from Philly. 

When I first met my husband I didn't eat a lot of red meat, generally only hamburgers or meatballs, because I just didn't know I liked beef if it wasn't ground and in a patty or a ball.  Boy, have I come a long way over the last 13 years.  Anyway, the first time he took me to a cheesesteak shop I got a chicken cheesesteak.  He just shook his head and begged me to try his sandwich.  Since that time, I've never had one made with chicken again.  Now we like making our own...

You will see carrot in the ingredient list, and it's not a mistake.  I didn't type carrot intending to write bell pepper.  Sometime within the last year I was making this for dinner and I'd just pulled some carrot out of the garden so thought I would use it in my cheesesteak meat mix.  It was so good.  My husband tried it this last time and he agreed, saying it's better with carrot than bell pepper.  So, here's the way we do it:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 carrot, finely diced or shredded
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced green or red bell pepper (optional)
1 pound sliced London Broil from the deli
1 teaspoon italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper, more or less to taste
4 soft french sub rolls
Sliced havarti or provolone

Preheat a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat.  Add olive oil, then veggies.  Saute just until soft, then add beef and seasonings.  Cook over medium heat until beef is heated through and well mixed with the veggies. 

For the cheese you can either:
  • move beef into piles, cover the piles with cheese and put a lid on the skillet heating until the cheese melts.  Take the meat/cheese mix and put it on the sub roll, or
  • put cheese on the sub roll, then top with the hot meat mixture
Just before serving I like to drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil on the sandwiches.

~ Enjoy ~

'Strawberry Shortcake' - for breakfast

You're probably thinking, who wants strawberry shortcake for breakfast?  I do!  Oatmeal that is.  I love having old fashioned oatmeal for breakfast, but I need to come up with ways to keep it creative.  At my last visit to Costco they had some really good lookin' strawberries... being February/March I was more than ready for fresh fruit.  There is no actual cake, or shortcake, in this recipe - that's the oatmeal.  Give this a try and let me know what you think!

3/4 cup water
3/4 cup milk
dash salt
3/4 cup old fashioned oatmeal
1 cup fresh chopped (unsweetened) strawberries, divided
1/4 cup whipping cream, unsweetened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
dash cinnamon
2 teaspoons agave nectar (more or less to taste)

In a small pot over medium-high heat add the water, milk and salt.  While boiling, whip the cream until stiff, set aside.  Let water/milk just come to a boil, then add the oatmeal, vanilla, cinnamon and 1/2 cup strawberries.  Reduce heat to medium and cook about 5 minutes (or until desired thickness), stirring frequently.  Pour out to a bowl and let cool slightly, about 2-3 minutes.  This is when I get my coffee ready.  Fold in 1-2 tablespoons of the whipped cream, top with remaining strawberries and agave nectar. 

~ Enjoy ~