Sunday, July 29, 2012

Capturing the Season's Best

I've been busy tending to my garden and putting up some lovely produce.  Home preserving means that you get exactly what you want; nothing more, nothing less.  This is from my own garden and local orchards and farms.

This is my favorite local Farmers Market.  (Morgan's Grove Market)  Not only do we get produce, but handmade goods as well!

 My own garden. Swiss Chard, butternut squash, cucumbers, carrots, beets, zucchini, cantaloupe, tomatoes, and LOTS of dill!  Coriander has gone to seed and has been dried and stored.  Another small garden near my deck has more herbs, celery and more cucumbers.

 First canning of the season: japanese cucumber refrigerator pickles.  (from the Shepherdstown Farmers Market)

 My first successful beets! Last years were skinny and mostly greens.  I added phosphorus to the soil before planting, after researching and realizing my soil lacks it.  It's all been a lot of living-and-learning! ;)

One of my favorite breakfasts!  Scrambled eggs with beet greens and basil.

 Vanilla peaches and vanilla Peach Butter

 Zucchini fries!  Flour, egg wash, then dusted in cornmeal and rice cereal (not the baby food kind!)

 Roasted Corn Salsa and Peach Nectar.  The salsa is the best I've made and I'm looking forward to making some daiquiris with this nectar!

What are your favorite home canning recipes?

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Monday, March 19, 2012

Protect Yo Kindle Befo it Wrecks Itself

So my dad turned a big 8-0 last month.  A few of us pitched in and got him a Kindle Fire.  My dad loves to read and he was so excited to get this!

I wanted to make a case for him, that was like no other.

A pocket for notes, a stylus pocket, leather and elastic holders on the edges.  It closes with a braided elastic cord, that can be replaced as it gets stretched out with use.  The cord also connects to the tab on the left side, acting as a brace.

This is a design that I made up, with inspiration from a few different cases I saw on the internet.

Leather scraps were used for the outer, and a beautiful bird print lines it.  The stiff-ness comes from a book cover, trashed by my son over the past few months.

It ain't easy, working with leather.  Kind of a one-shot-deal.  Once you punch holes in that sucker with your needle, it's there forever.

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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Rolling out the Greens

Over the weekend, I made some Canneloni.  I used up the rest of a bag of fresh baby spinach for the fresh pasta, and filled it with a roasted butternut squash, carrot & cheese filling.

I guess the green color just made it too weird, because I was the only one enjoying this dish.

I had a great little sous chef, though!

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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

DIY Pattern Weights

Pattern weights are awesome.  I never knew how they were made until recently.  I had originally thought people painstakingly wrapped fabric around the edges of the washer, thru the inside, like wrapping a hula hoop w/ tape.  What the hell are they?  Well, they're small weighted pieces you can place on top of your pattern paper when cutting.  They are really useful for rotary cut items and are so much faster than pins.

Here's how I made mine.

I went to Home Depot and looked for the largest washers I could find.  It might take a while to find these, so ask someone if you can't find the big ones.

Cut out circles of fabric.  I'm not really quite sure how big these circles are.  I used flannel to give light padding and to make it a little more non-skid.  Just trace around your washers, giving enough seam for the width of the radius.  This gives enough room for the fabric to wrap around the edges and meet in the middle.  Doesn't make much sense, me trying to explain it, so hopefully the pics will help.

Hand-sew a running stitch all the way around the edges.  Place the washer in the center and pull the thread tightly.  

 I ended up stitching thru close to the original stitching line, reinforcing it before I knotted.

You can use more than one washer, or mix 2 washers of different sizes.

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Monday, March 5, 2012

Clutch Bums




I have some old t-shirts tucked away in one of my sewing drawers, just waiting to become something else one day in life.  These have an inner and snap-in liner made of fluffy Bamboo Fleece.  A snap plier set easily makes these adjustable, but you could use a snappi or sew on Velcro, which the babes LOOOOOVE to rip off.

There are lots of free patterns for cloth diapers  on the internet.  If you have a sewing machine, VERY basic sewing skills, and some absorbent fabric, you can make your own stash of diapers for so much less than buying them.  You can customize your child's fit, use your own fabrics and feel so warm and hippy-like.  Then your kid shits in them, and the thrill is kinda gone.  At least they look cute from behind! Pin It

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Cheesy Vegetable Beer Soup

Nothing like a good ol cuppa soup to warm your buns for these chilly nights, huh?  This vegetable soup went creamy, as part of my soft foods diet after getting my wisdom teeth ripped out a couple of weeks ago.  I had a hankering for broccoli cheese soup, but didn't quite have enough broccoli.  I decided to clean out the veggie drawer and whip this up.

The veggies are cooked in a normal fashion to make soup.  But the magic happens when beer and cheese combine.  I used a hoppy ale, but use whatever you'd like.  Not into beer?  Then the soup will not be what it is supposed to be. . .BEER cheese soup.  Go find another recipe or replace with stock & milk.

Pair it up with homemade bread, and you'll be a TRUE hippie.

Cheesy Vegetable Beer Soup

  • 1 1/2 Tbs Butter
  • 2 Cups Broccoli florets and stems, chopped
  • 1 large zucchini, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 medium carrots, scrubbed and chopped
  • 1 1/2 lbs mixed sweet and white baby potatoes
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tsp ea: dried thyme & salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 1/2 Tbs Better than Bouillon Vegetarian Vegetable Flavor
  • 2 C baby spinach
  •  2 Tbs Butter
  • 1/4 C flour (white or whole wheat is fine)
  • 1 Beer
  • 1-2 Tbs mustard, to your liking
  • 2 cups shredded cheese (I used a mixture of what I had on hand.  Important thing is to include plenty of sharp cheese)
  • 1/3 C Heavy cream (*optional)
  1. Saute vegetables (except spinach) in 1 1/2 Tbs butter for 5-10 minutes, or until slightly softened.  Add water, seasoning, & bouillon, and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until veggies are tender.  Add the spinach and cover the pot.  Take off the heat and allow to cool while you prepare the cheese sauce.
  2. In a separate pot, melt 2 Tbs butter.  Stir in the flour and cook for about 2 minutes.  Add the mustard, then slowly add the beer, whisking it in.  Allow to cook for about 4-5 minutes over medium heat, until thick and bubbly.  Take off the heat, and fold in the cheese and stir until smooth.  Set aside.
  3. Using an immersion blender, blend the soup until smooth.  You can also do this in a blender in batches, but I think that just leaves more dishes to do and is a pain in the ass.  Go get a fricken immersion blender!  You'll get this cute little chopper cup that is PERFECT for garlic and herbs with it, too!
  4. Using a whisk, slowly incorporate the cheese sauce mixture into the soup.  Add cream and serve.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Adventures in Cake Decorating

This past weekend, we enjoyed celebrating our son's 2nd birthday with friends and family.  Basically, an excuse to put my culinary curiosities into motion! Read: eat chocolate.

I googled cake recipes, searching for a sheet cake recipe, as I had planned on a Train theme cake.  The sheet cake would be the ground.

King Arthur Flour is a staple brand in my flour consumption.  I found this recipe and was really happy with it.  A beautiful crumb, substantial, yet light and rich at the same time.

I really don't like sticky sweet frostings.  Most of the store bought ones make me want to gag.  The frosting I made was so freaking good you may start dreaming about it after it's eaten.  My sister-in-law claimed she'd like to throw her head into an entire bowl and live there.  Or something like that.  Get my point? It's that good.

German Buttercream Frosting
adapted from Bravetart

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 vanilla pods
  • 12 oz. sugar
  • 1 1/2 oz. corn starch
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 4 sticks butter (1 lb), softened
  • 1/4 tsp salt, or to taste
  1. Prepare a pudding.  Split the vanilla beans, and drop into milk.  Bring to a simmer.  Allow to steep for about 10 minutes.  Remove pods, then scrape the insides out and put them back into the milk.  Put the milk back on to a simmer.  
  2. Stir together sugar, corn starch, egg yolks & eggs.  Whisk in about half of the simmering milk, stirring rapidly with a wire whisk the entire time.  Add the tempered egg mixture to the pan and bring to a boil.  Stirring the ENTIRE time.  Once the mixture is bubbling, cook for one minute.  Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
  3. Place pudding into a mixing bowl and mix on medium until cooled to room temperature.  You can also chill in the refrigerator with some plastic wrap pressed firmly on the surface of the pudding.
  4. Once the pudding has COMPLETELY chilled, put it back into your stand-up mixer.  Crank that baby up and let it get creamy.  Now here comes the magical part.  Start throwing in that butter.  Tablespoon by tablespoon, drop into the running mixture, allowing it to incorporate after each addition.  It will get more and more fluffy as it mixes.  Don't over mix or it will get dry looking.
  5. Mix in 12 oz melted dark or milk chocolate for a decadent and beautifully shiny chocolate frosting or tint with coloring or flavoring.  I divided mine in about half and used about 6 oz of bittersweet chocolate, melted in the microwave, then stirred carefully into the remaining frosting.

My cake decorating skills obviously suck, but I really don't care.  What I care about most is a cake that tastes good.  Fondant has always grossed the shit out of me.  I don't care how pretty the damn thing is.  If it tastes like plastic, it is a failure, IMO.  

So, this cake?  It's supposed to be a train.

I used colored sugar sprinkles and natural food dye from Chocolate Candy Kits.  The colors don't turn out nearly as bright as conventional food dyes, but I made it work.  I was going for a red for the front train car, but it was only going to a darker pink.  A little bit of yellow and voila! Orange-ish. . .  

The sprinkles were yummy! Reminded me of the cookie filling in those ice cream cakes we'd get when we were kids from Carvel.

I also made this banner out of scraps and pieces from my stash.  So everyone could enjoy it on his or her birthday, I made it multi-colored.  I like to keep my scraps of fusible interfacing fabrics in zippered plastic bags by color.  I have all of these in a large plastic bin.  It makes it really easy to be able to grab a scrap of, say, yellow, and cut a moon quickly to add to an applique scene.

Each flag is backed by matching fabrics.  I simply strait-stitched the letters on and serged the edges in colorful threads.

My boy had a blast with everyone.  Ripping thru wrapping paper like an old pro.  Afterwards was just as fun, blowing up balloons and investigating coolers.

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