Wedding Quilt

ImageMy friends and I wanted to make a quilt as a gift for a friend’s wedding last summer. After much discussion, we settled on a scrappy log cabin pattern (see tutorial at Flutter Kat) using a Quilt as you Go (QAYG) technique, so everyone could quilt their own squares and to be able to machine quilt a Queen sized quilt on a home machine.  The first step was choosing colors.  We wanted it to be “lots of colors,” so we chose a nice Layer Cake, and then split it up between us (we used Simply Color by V&Co).  Everyone could pick any other fabrics that they wanted from their stash or purchased, but they had to coordinate with 2-3 different fabrics in the Layer Cake.  That way, we figured, it would all tie together in the end.  And it did!  It worked!  It turned out beautifully.  I coveted it.  I need to make one for myself.

ImageI collected all of the squares.  We squared them up using a 15 inch square ruler (easy!).  Then, I sewed them together with 1/2 inch seam allowances.  A friend had to help me manage all that fabric, but between the two of us, it worked well.  It would have been hard to sew it by myself.  Top of quilt was put with the back, and I stitched in the ditch for each row and column.  Then, I was worried about the batting shifting in 15″ squares.  Next time, I would make them smaller.  So I decided to free motion quilt little designs in the center of each square.  That wasn’t easy, but I wanted to make sure the quilt would last for many lifetimes.  I could have tied the quilt in the centers of each square, but we had already spent so much time on this quilt that it seemed like tying was a shortcut.

The back is 108″ wide gray Bella solid fabric.  There is a stripe of various fabrics from the front across the top of the back.  And, the binding is a dark purple solid (Kona).

ImageSo, basic info on the size of the quilt.  It is 6 squares by 7 squares, for a total of 42 squares.  There were five of us, so three of us made 8 squares, and two of us make 9 squares.  The squares were made about 15-1/2 inch square to give us the ability to cut them down to 15″ with the ruler (allowing for some wonkiness in the edges).  Then, using 1/2 inch seam allowances, the final quilt ended up being about 84″ x 98″.  A little longer than a standard Queen quilt, but it’s all good.

ImageEveryone should make one of these quilts.  It was so wonderful to create for our friends!

The wedding was held in a beautiful spot — my friend’s childhood home in rural Maine.  Here is the super-cool altar made of birch branches that a friend of theirs made.

ImageCute little signs to direct people to different locations:

ImageOutdoor seating.  It was drizzling when we stopped by that morning pre-wedding (to drop off our contribution of beer for the party), but it totally cleared up before the wedding!  Perfect!

ImageGorgeous centerpieces made from flowers that the bride’s mother and a friend collected and put into Mason jars.

ImageAnd the happy couple pre-wedding:

ImageMany years of love to you, my friends!

 

Minestrone soup

I hosted craft night last night and a friend who is having her 40th birthday this week said that her favorite dessert is cheesecake. So cheesecake topped my menu plan. Add some strawberry topping, check. Now what to make for dinner? I perused some magazines and books for ideas and came across some spring pasta with a warm goat cheese salad in the Cook’s Illustrated Menu cookbook. The pasta was a bit involved (it’s pasta??) and I wanted something that I didn’t have to mess with when people were arriving. But the warm goat cheese salad….

It was little rounds of chive and goat cheese, rolled in crushed pecans. It was divine. Sorry, it was gone too fast for picture taking. I will make it again! Especially considering the massive amount of chives growing in my garden.

So that’s a lot of cheese on the menu so far! I decided to go with a healthy soup as the main meal. Something non-cream based to offset the richness of the goat cheese and cheesecake.

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Minestrone Soup

1 onion, diced small (about 3/4 cup)
3 carrots, diced small (about 1 cup)
3 celery stalks, diced small (about 3/4 cup)
2 zucchini, diced small (about 2 cups)
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup red or white wine (optional)
3 tsp. Better than Bouillon (mixed with 1 quart of boiling water)
1-28 ounce can whole plum tomatoes with juice, tomatoes chopped
1 15-oz can of white beans, drained and rinsed
2 Tb chopped fresh basil
2 tsp chopped fresh oregano
1/2 cup Ditalini or elbow pasta
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

1. Heat a large pot or Dutch oven, add olive oil and onion, celery and carrots over med-high heat. Sauté until soft and beginning to brown. Add zucchini and sauté another few minutes. Add minced garlic and sauté 30 seconds. Deglaze pan with wine (I actually used hard cider because that is what I was drinking — our homemade that is on-tap).

2. Add the Better than Bouillon (mixed with water) and the chopped tomatoes with juice. Add beans, herbs, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil.

3. Reduce to a simmer, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally for about 30-45 minutes.

4. In the last ten minutes, add the pasta.

5. Serve with crusty bread, goat cheese salad, etc.

And since it was Craft Night, I even got a very old WIP done!

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Planting the Garden, Springtime in Maine

We have had some amazing Spring weather for the last two weeks.  Beautiful, sunny, highs in the 60s.  But not a drop of rain until last night.  So, I planted all of my “early spring” veggies the last week of April, and have been diligently watering them.  Sugar snap peas, spinach, arugula, various lettuces, are all in the ground and sprouting.  Our herb raised garden has quite a few plants growing in it from last year — love that — and the chives, tarragon and oregano all look amazing.

Spring chives

Spring chives

Tarragon, planted from cuttings in 2012

Tarragon, planted from cuttings in 2012

I also discovered dill the other day that was not meant to be there.  That’s okay!  I transplanted it to a good square and we’ll see how it goes.  We have also been doing our spring chores because of the great weather, and I painted our entire front porch (back breaking work with something like 75 little spindles to paint, some of which are located behind prickly rose bushes), and Hubby cleaned and sealed our porch and decks.

Our hops plants are growing like….hops.  I think they’ve grown at least 8 inches in the last 3 days (or it seems that way).

Hops-Nugget-Spring-2013

Hops-Nugget-Spring-2013

The dogs are enjoying the lovely Spring weather too.  Hamp is 4.5 and finally settling down a bit.  Magnus turned 13 a few months ago, but is still getting around well.  I think Hamp keeps him feeling young a bit.  Even when he has to steel himself to go up the stairs at bedtime.  I think his old bones are happy it’s Springtime.

Magnus

Magnus

Hmm...Hamp, what's that dirt on your nose?  Digging in the garden already?

Hmm…Hamp, what’s that dirt on your nose? Digging in the garden already?

Ball Heritage Collection, Vintage Blue Canning Jars

Heritage Ball Jars

Now, I’m know that I’m not the only one coveting these Heritage collection vintage blue Ball jars.  Wee Folk Art just posted on Facebook with a link to a tutorial that shows how to tint your own glass jars.  Which then reminded me about these jars and how I had wanted to go on the search for some.  They are $13.xx something on Amazon (Prime), which is of course pricey for 6 pint jars.  So, I checked my local True Value hardware store, and they had them for $10.99 with free ship to store (they weren’t in-stock at my local store).  I couldn’t resist!  Now, what to do with them when they arrive??  I wonder how canned goods would look with the blue tint?  I will probably save them for craft projects.  They would be great little center pieces or flower jars on the patio this summer.  Maybe some end-of-the-year teacher gift giving.  Thousands of ideas of things to do with  Ball jars — actually it’s a bit overwhelming.  I might just have to use them for drinking glasses so I can enjoy them all of the time!

15-minute Brown Rice and Chickpea Curry

I am recovering from a cold, and didn’t much feel like cooking tonight.  But, also didn’t want to go out to eat since I’m recovering from a cold.  Hubby had a long day at work and I knew he would appreciate a hot meal and not eating leftovers or a sandwich.  What’s a girl to do??  Make up something random, hope it turns out, and not take any bloggy pictures.  But, trust me.  It was yummy, healthy and super-quick!  The kids wouldn’t eat it, but I guess you can’t have it all.  They had the leftovers.

I wanted to make something with chickpeas and rice, and I found this recipe when I Googled those ingredients.  Her recipe is based off a curried rice with chickpeas recipe in Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, which was my starting point for dinner.  Then I changed it based on what I had in my pantry, and making sure that my liquid to rice ratio was correct for the brand of rice that I was using.

15-minute Brown Rice and Chickpea Curry

1 Tb. olive oil
1/2 diced onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 t. salt
1 Tb. curry powder
1 13.5oz can of coconut milk
1 14.5oz can of diced tomatoes, undrained (I like the Hunt’s fire-roasted kind)
1 16oz can of rinsed, drained chickpeas
2 cups of Minute-brand brown rice
1 cup of frozen peas

Now the ability to get this done in 15 minutes lies with the use of the canned tomatoes and chickpeas, and the Minute brand brown rice.  If you used regular brown rice, it would take 50 minutes.  I did a quick search and verified that quick-cooking brown rice has the same nutritional value as regular brown rice.  Check!

1. In a 2.5 quart saucepan with tight fitting lid, heat your olive oil on medium heat.  Add the diced onions and saute for a few minutes until softened.  Add the garlic, saute about 30 seconds.  Add in the curry powder and salt.  Mix into the onions, and roast the curry powder for about a minute.  I used some homemade curry powder that I made last weekend when I ran out.

2. Add in the coconut milk, tomatoes with juice, and rinsed chickpeas.  Bring to a boil.  Add in the rice, give a nice stir, lower heat to a simmer, and cover and cook per rice package directions (5 minutes on simmer, give a stir, then take off the heat and let sit for five minutes covered).  Put the peas in when you do the mid-point stir after five minutes.

3. Add salt and pepper to taste if necessary.  Depends on your curry powder, and the amount of salt in the other components (tomatoes, chickpeas, etc.).

This was so yummy and quick!  The rice and chickpeas together are a complete protein if that’s important to you.  Serves 2 as a main dish.

Next time I make it, I will take a picture, I promise!  Hubby thinks we should add some spinach or kale next time.  It’s a great launching off point for a quick meal.

Time for Advent!

The boys are super excited that tomorrow is December 1st and have been asking me to put up our Advent Calendar for the last few days.  It went up this evening.  Every year, I get such enjoyment pulling out the calendar.  It makes all the hours that I spent hand embroidering every one of those pockets so enjoyable.  I wish I hadn’t put the third row on crooked, but oh well, perfection is over-rated.  Here are all my posts related to the Advent Calendar over the years (I made it in 2008).  It is one of the boys’ favorite things about the holiday season.  I’m already making plans for the “make homemade doughnuts” day!

Completed Advent calendar

Blueberry Pie

Blueberries

Blueberries

Who doesn’t love these little balls of juicy, antioxidant-filled, goodness??  The boys are funny.  They will only eat blueberries from our backyard bushes.  They don’t like any other kind.  I guess they taste better when they are still warm from the sun.  We have two high bush blueberries in a backyard berry patch, as well as several raspberry bushes.  We used to have strawberries there as well, but the raspberries have taken over.  We planted some new strawberries this spring, so we’ll see if we get any more next summer from the new plantings.  But, I think we are going to have to re-locate the strawberry patch.

Blueberry / Raspberry patch

Blueberry / Raspberry patch. The frame and net is so the birds and deer won’t eat our berries before we have a chance to pick them!

Our blueberries are hitting their stride, and we picked almost three pounds this past weekend.  We probably have another three pounds still ripening on the bushes.  Mmm…now what to do with those yummy blueberries??  Usually I make lots of muffins and quick breads with them, or eat them fresh or in yogurt/oatmeal.

The other thing I do with blueberries is make pie and jam!  However, we don’t use our backyard high-bush berries for that.  I buy Maine wild blueberries (AKA low-bush) for that from local sources.  My favorite recipe for blueberry pie is from Cook’s Illustrated.  I use their pie crust for all of my pies.  It’s different than other pie crusts in that it uses vodka as part of the liquid.  The addition of the vodka allows the dough to be moister, and thus easier to roll without breaking.  However, then the vodka evaporates when it cooks, and you end up with a flaky, tender crust.  Unfortunately, the raw dough tastes sort of icky, but the final product is excellent!  (That’s okay, dissuades the dough-snitches.)  The other thing that I love about the CI blueberry pie recipe is the addition of a grated granny smith apple.  It disappears into the fruit and you don’t even know it’s there, however it adds a good amount of pectin which thickens the pie without the gumminess that can occur if you use too much tapioca or cornstarch.

Pie crust ready to be filled and baked. Look at all the buttery goodness!

Into the oven!

Blueberry Pie

I’m not the best pie crust shaper, so I like to think of my pies as “rustic”.  And rustic sure is tasty!

Blueberry Pie with Vodka-Crust

(Cook’s Illustrated)

Ingredients

Pie Dough  
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (12 1/2 ounces), plus more for work surface
1 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons sugar
12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 cup vegetable shortening, cold, cut into 4 pieces
1/4 cup vodka, cold
1/4 cup cold water
Blueberry Filling  
6 cups fresh blueberries (about 30 ounces)
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and grated on large holes of box grater
2 teaspoons grated zest and 2 teaspoons juice from 1 lemon
3/4 cup sugar (5 1/4 ounces)
2 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca, ground in a spice grinder to a powder
pinch table salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 large egg, lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon water

1. For The Pie Dough: Process 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, about two 1-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogenous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds; dough will resemble cottage cheese curds and there should be no un-coated flour. Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.  (TINA’s NOTE:  I put my cut-up butter/shortening in the freezer on a plate for about 10 minutes before using it just to make sure it’s super-cold.)

2. Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. (TINA’s NOTE: mix water and vodka and put in the freezer for about 10-15 to get super-cold.  The vodka will help the water not freeze if leave it in there a bit longer.) With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Divide dough into 2 even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.

3. Remove 1 disk of dough from refrigerator and roll out on generously floured (up to 1/4 cup) work surface to 12-inch circle, about 1/8 inch thick. Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and unroll into pie plate, leaving at least 1-inch overhang on each side. Working around circumference, ease dough into plate by gently lifting edge of dough with one hand while pressing into plate bottom with other hand. Leave dough that overhangs plate in place; refrigerate while preparing filling until dough is firm, about 30 minutes.

4. For The Filling: Adjust oven rack to lowest position, place rimmed baking sheet on oven rack, and heat oven to 400 degrees. Place 3 cups berries in medium saucepan and set over medium heat. Using potato masher, mash berries several times to release juices. Continue to cook, stirring frequently and mashing occasionally, until about half of berries have broken down and mixture is thickened and reduced to 1 1/2 cups, about 8 minutes. Let cool slightly.

5. Place grated apple in clean kitchen towel and wring dry. Transfer apple to large bowl. Add cooked berries, remaining 3 cups uncooked berries, lemon zest, juice, sugar, tapioca, and salt; toss to combine. Transfer mixture to dough-lined pie plate and scatter butter pieces over filling.

6. Roll out second disk of dough on generously floured (up to 1/4 cup) work surface to 11-inch circle, about 1/8 inch thick. Using 1 1/4-inch round cutter, cut round from center of dough. Cut another 6 rounds from dough, 1 1/2 inches from edge of center hole and equally spaced around center hole. Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and unroll over pie, leaving at least 1/2-inch overhang on each side.  (TINA’s NOTE: I like to use mini shaped cutters like leaves, flowers or stars.)

7. Using kitchen shears, trim bottom layer of overhanging dough, leaving 1/2-inch overhang. Fold dough under itself so that edge of fold is flush with outer rim of pie plate. Flute edges using thumb and forefinger or press with tines of fork to seal. Brush top and edges of pie with egg mixture. If dough is very soft, chill in freezer for 10 minutes.

8. Place pie on heated baking sheet and bake 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue to bake until juices bubble and crust is deep golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes longer. Transfer pie to wire rack; cool to room temperature, at least 4 hours. Cut into wedges and serve.

Even better….serve with ice cream!

Blueberry Pie, recipe from Cook’s Illustrated, July/Aug 2008, Issue 93.  See how dense the filling it?  Not runny at all.

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