Monday, February 28, 2011

Hazel's Legacy & Church Banner

I looked back at my quilting scrapbook, and apparently February and March are usually very productive months for me! And not just because of the annual quilt retreat (this last weekend was my third year going to the Pella Area Quilt Guild retreat). Of the 28 quilts I have completed (I'm not counting little projects), 12 were completed in February or March.
So I finished the quilt from Great-Grandma Hazel, and I named it Hazel's Legacy. I blogged about receiving the box of fabric here. I admit it really grew on me.
It's a nice couch throw size and Ryan fully intends to put it on Hazel's bed when we convert it to a toddler bed. It was amazing to work with fabrics from about 6 different decades in one quilt. I'm convinced that the red and blue flower fabric in the detail view is a feed sack from the 30's. 
I also pieced the back out of the large scraps that were in the box. The pink block cracks me up because like the front it is hand-pieced, and there is only one. It has about 30 different little diamonds and triangles, and it is obvious that Hazel finished the one block and said, "Ok, that's it! We're going to something a little less complicated..."

When we moved out here we decided that part of being adults, being part of a community, and living in the country was joining a church. So this is actually a picture of our church, and I just love how rural and close-knit it is. This is one of those city/country things in my opinion; when you live in the middle of nowhere you need a group of people like those in our church. So on that note I decided that I would make a banner for our church, and I finished it about a week ago.
I made this using a product called "Scrap Grid" by Scrap Therapy. It's a grid on the back of some fusible interfacing that helps you put together all your little 2" squares easily. It was OK, but the maroon colored print on the grid comes off as you sew, so now my sewing machine has a pink smear on it leading up to the needle. I think in the future I'll just mark up misty-fuse or something with a sharpie to get a grid. 

So back on topic, I quilted this one with Flame Stitch kind of radiating from the center. The phrase on it was a suggestion from the lady at our church in charge of banners, that way it could be used for every church season including Lent.

Here's to another very productive February, a short but full month!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Weeknight Chicken

Hello all! I kind of like these recipe things. So if you don't, I apologize. Today's recipe actually uses something that we raise: chicken! This is a great recipe for our cut up chicken. It is from the most recent Cook's Country Magazine, a magazine I continually highly recommend. Here's what you need:
1 c low-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 tsp cornstarch
1 c white wine
4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed (but not minced)
2 tsp minced fresh thyme
3 lbs bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces
salt & pepper
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 Tbsp unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Whisk 2 Tbsp broth & cornstarch in small bowl until smooth, reserve. Combine remaining broth, wine, garlic, and thyme in large measuring cup.
Yeah, it doesn't look pretty but it's yummy. In this case I didn't have any white wine but I cook with vermouth and sherry all the time and I had some of that, so this recipe is half a cup of each. It worked great!
Pat chicken dry with paper towels & season with 1/2 tsp salt & 1/4 tsp pepper. Heat oil in large oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Cook chicken, skin side down, until well browned, 6-10 minutes (don't stir or move in this time). Flip and cook until lightly browned on second side, about two minutes.
Slowly pour broth mixture into skillet and bring to a boil. Try not to get the crispy deliciousness on the tops of the chicken wet with the broth.
Transfer skillet to oven and roast until white meat registers 160 degrees and dark meat registers 175 degrees, 12 to 18 minutes. 
Transfer chicken to platter and tent with aluminum foil. Discard garlic. 
Pour pan juices into liquid measuring cup; skim & discard fat. In this case I used one of our chickens, so I just kind of blotted at the top of the cup with a paper towel and called it good (skimming the fat off the top of liquids is not something I'm very good at). Return 1 1/2 cups defatted pan juices to now-empty skillet and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. 
Reduce heat to medium low & simmer until sauce is reduced to 1 cup, 5-7 minutes. 
Add reserved cornstarch mixture and simmer until sauce is slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Off heat, whisk in butter. Season with salt & pepper. By the way, all of this is also an excellent way to build any pan sauce. If someone requests it in the comments, I'll share with you how I build pan sauce for steak (which is really good)!
Serve, passing sauce at the table. 

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Braided Spiral & Baby Shower quilts

Quilts! Plural! It's been a productive couple of days. First, I finished my braided spiral quilt, which I hope will someday go on Hazel's "big girl" bed. It's 60" x 80" so it's the biggest quilt I've made since my wedding quilt.
This fabric came from my mom's first cruise to Alaska in August 2008. I started it before I went on that same cruise with her in August 2009. So now in February 2011 it's done! It's machine quilted, and the lullaby Ryan and I sing to Hazel every night is quilted in the dark braid. 
I used the patterns wave chain and curvy key from Leah Day's Freemotion Quilting Project. I absolutely love that blog for inspiration for freemotion quilting!! Since a friend of mine (Thanks Erin!) introduced me to it, my machine quilting has improved tenfold. 

This is the label on the back, with the words to Hazel's lullaby. It's a song from my childhood camp, composed by some of my fellow campers.

This is the back, I pieced it as I've been piecing quite a few of my quilt backs. I just like it when the back has a little bit of a surprise. It also saves me money not buying super wide backs to make it all one piece!

My second quilt that I finished is from Hazel's baby shower last year. The shower was on February 20th, 2010 and I finished it on February 7, 2011 so under a year is pretty darn good!

 This quilt is made up of 5" charm square blocks that attendees to the shower signed and added good wishes to. Then I put them together and quilted them.

I used heart flow between the signed blocks and left turn, right turn to quilt the border.

Next up: Grandma Hazel's quilt.
If anyone who reads this pokes around on that freemotion quilting website (or just plain has input), I'd love some thoughts on how to quilt this one. It's very imprecisely pieced so I was going to cover it with an all over quilting pattern.

Thoughts anyone? Curvy quilting? Straight? Both? Shapes? I'm currently a bit stumped!

A productive quilter itching for the next project

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Lambs are Growing & Scotch Barley Soup

The lambs are doing what lambs do well, and growing. Ditto 9-month-old Hazel.

Hazel is no longer terrified of them, and we even got her to get close to them. She still wants me really close to her when she's near them, though.
The little ewe is in the background, she has Barbados coloring with a Katahdin build. The little ram that I pulled out is in the foreground and has Katahdin coloring but a Barbados build. 

On another note, today I'm doing a recipe for Scotch Barley Soup! I found this recipe online and have modified it a little, supposedly it is from the Rose & Crown Pub at the UK Epcot. I just know that it is the absolute best recipe for ground mutton that I have found. Most recipes just don't stand up to that strong flavor, and taste too "mutton-y". If you've ever had mutton, you know what I'm talking about. It's not an easy weeknight style meal though since it has to simmer for an hour or so. It's a weekend afternoon thing for me.
Anyway, I realize that most people don't exactly have ground lamb or ground mutton on hand, but I'm also posting this so I can point customers to it in the future! It's very possible that ground beef would work in this soup, post a comment if you try it and let us know if it works!!
Also, I think this recipe would be just fine lactose-free by changing the butter to oil and changing the milk & cream in the last step to broth.

1 c pearl barley
1/4 c butter (4 Tbsp)
1 c combination of leeks, onions, green onions (I use whatever is in my fridge or is seasonal)
1 c diced carrots
1 c diced celery
1 c diced white turnips (this is 2-3 depending on how big they are)
1 lb ground lamb or ground mutton
2-3 Tbsp flour
64-128 oz chicken broth (more broth=thinner soup. I usually just use about 64 oz--2 cartons--plus whatever is open in my fridge and needs to be used up)
salt & pepper
2-3 Tbsp cornstarch
3/4 c milk
3/4 c cream

Soak the barley in boiling water for 10 minutes while you work with the other ingredients.
Chop the veggies into bite-sizes pieces. I thought I'd mention here that if you get turnips from the grocery store instead of the farmer's market, it comes with a wax coating so you have to skin the turnip with your knife. 
Saute the leeks/onions/white part of green onions in butter in Dutch oven for 5 minutes. Add the carrots, celery, turnips & cook for 10 minutes. Throw in the green parts of the green onions now if you're using them.
Add meat to veggies & cook until lightly browned. Sprinkle flour over meat to absorb fat. Drain barley and rinse with cold water.
Add barley and 1 c broth to meat & veggies. Cover and let steam over low heat 10 minutes. Add remaining broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 1-1.5 hrs or until barley is tender. 

Take soup off heat. Blend cornstarch, cream, and milk and then stir into soup.

Add salt & pepper to taste. 
And you're done! This soup freezes really well, but usually Ryan and I just eat it as leftovers for a few days. Between the two of us, it lasts for about 4 meals each total (including the fresh soup).