August 29, 2012

Halloween Circle Quilt: finished!

I wasn't able to finish quilting this one for ages, because of the machine snafu I had last fall. Then, the darning foot I needed for my new machine was out of stock for several months before I found out that was due to it being discontinued. This quilt has had quite a journey but, it's all sorted now.

I'm really happy with how it came out. The sashing is a solid black. I thought it would work best since the blocks themselves are quite busy. Inside of each block, I quilted spider web patterns.

I bought a Haunted Mansion layer cake by Moda and that's where the blocks and circles were cut from. I'd never used a layer cake before, but there was no resisting the siren call of such a fun Halloween themed collection.

The binding was made with one of the polka dot prints from the Haunted Mansion. I made it way, way in advance so it was ready when the top was finished. I hate nothing more than being ready to bind a quilt and chalk it up in the finished column and the binding isn't ready. I try to make it between cutting out the pieces and piecing the top.

I did a meandering stitch across the sashing and the border, which is my go-to quilting pattern. I don't prewash the fabrics I want to meander across, because the slight shrinking of the fabric after the fact gives it a delightful look and feel.

This quilt is currently for sale in my Etsy shop.

August 28, 2012

Civil War Era Chocolate Pudding

 Today is going to start a new little segment called Test Kitchen Tuesday. I talk quite a bit about recipes I've had to work on several times to get right, but I only post the final recipe. I thought it might be interesting to talk about the process I go through while working things out. In the spirit of that, I decided to start with a recipe that immediately needed some changes.

A dear friend of mine works at a Civil War museum and each week they post a recipe from the period. This past week's sounded not only delicious, but also something I could readily make. It was a baked chocolate pudding. Our great-great-grandmothers weren't quite the sticklers we are for measurements, so at the very least I needed to translate the ingredients into modern measurements.

 The recipe I worked with was as follows:
Have the best and strongest American chocolate or cocoa. Baker’s prepared cocoa will be found excellent for all chocolate purposes; better indeed than anything else, as it is pure, and without any adulteration of animal fat, being also very strong, and communicating a high flavor. Of this, scrape down, very fine, two ounces or more. Add to it a tea-spoonful of mixed spice, namely, powdered nutmeg and cinnamon. Put it into a very clean sauce-pan, and pour on a quart of rich milk, stirring it well. Set it over the fire, or on hot coals; cover it; and let it come to a boil. Then remove the lid; stir up the chocolate from the bottom, and press out all lumps. Then return it to the fire, and when thoroughly dissolved and very smooth, it is done. Next stir in, gradually, while the chocolate is still boiling-hot, a quarter of a pound or more of powdered loaf-sugar. If you use such white sugar as is bought ready powdered, you must have near half a pound, as that sugar has very little strength, being now adulterated with ground starch. When the chocolate is well sweetened, set it away to cool. Beat eight eggs very light, and pour them through a strainer into the pan of chocolate, when it is quite cold. Stir the whole very hard. Then put it into the oven, and bake it well. Try it when you think it done, with a twig from a broom. If on putting the twig into the middle of the pudding, and sticking it quite down to the bottom, the twig comes out clean, and with nothing clammy adhering to it, the pudding is then sufficiently baked. It should be eaten cold. Sift white sugar thickly over it before it goes to the table. It will be found very nice.
This pudding will bake best by sitting the pan in a dutch oven half-filled with boiling water.

From: Leslie, Eliza. Miss Leslie's Lady's New Receipt-book: A Useful Guide for Large or Small Families : Containing Directions for Cooking, Preserving, Pickling. Philadelphia: A. Hart, Late Carey & Hart, 1850. Pg. 127-128
 The first step I took was to write out each of the ingredients in a list, as we do now, and translate their quantities to measurements we use now. I didn't know, without looking it up, that 1lb of sugar is equal to two cups. So, a quarter pound of sugar is half a cup. At this stage, I also made the executive decision to add a little vanilla to the recipe.

August 25, 2012

House of Leaves: Book Nook

This little treasure was recommended to me by a college friend, and let me tell you- it's something else. House of Leaves was written by Mark Z. Danielewski. Very interesting, particularly because of the way it's put together. You follow two stories- the story of the narrator and the story of the House. Well, of the people in the House.

 I don't want to give too much away, but it's a truly thrilling and engaging read. It's also a little mind bending. Not just because of the duel story lines, but also because of the fantastic subject and the way it's laid out. You'll read this book sideways and upside down- literally. It's a big book, but there are endless footnotes and endnotes.

The endless source citations are fascinating for a number of reasons. First, the book is entirely fictional, so many of the sources are entirely made up. Coupled with my background in English, this was completely hilarious. It made a complete mockery of every academic paper I ever wrote.

But, it also shows how easy it is to make something seem completely substantiated. Just having the footnotes gives a serious weightiness to the words. It doesn't even matter many of them are fake. We're trained to trust footnotes without ever looking them up. It's a really interesting critique.

You can't find it as an eBook because of the formatting, so you'll have to read it the old fashioned way. I must caution you not to drink alcohol while reading this book. It'll freak you out if you're intoxicated. Honestly, it will probably freak you out even if you're sober and just reading it in the dark. I wouldn't call it horror, so much as suspense, although it has elements of both.

August 15, 2012

How To Re-Cover a Folding Chair

I have a confession- I'm a trash-picker. It must be something genetic I got from my father because he is the master of finding tarnished treasures. It helps that he has a variety of tools and experience to make even really damaged items like new again. I don't, so I only retrieve things that can be fixed with hand tools and elbow grease.

In this case, I found a folding chair sitting next to the dumpster. It was a perfectly fine chair except the fabric on the backing was ripped. It's such an easy thing to fix! Of course, you could always just decide you'd like to spice up some regular folding chairs, too.

Doesn't look like much now.
 There are screws that hold the back rest and the seat in place. Just unscrew them and the two cushions will come right off.

The chair itself was pretty dirty, so I cleaned it up before I put the newly covered cushions back on.

Here are the back of both cushions, where you can see how the original fabric was stapled in. Rather than unstapling the current fabric and padding, I decided to simply cover the new fabric over the old. It's a lot quicker and easier this way.

I had a fun upholstery fabric laying around leftover from another project I decided to use. I set the cushions over top of it and cut out a piece big enough to fold over the back.

August 6, 2012

Udon Noodle Soup

It's been ridiculously hot out, so why am I making soup? Because I needed it. For days, I was aching for some Udon soup and no place nearby is kind enough to make some that isn't terrible. The obvious solution was to make it myself. Never having done so, however, it was a bit of a challenge.

If you don't make Japanese or Chinese food often, you'll probably have to pick up a few more ingredients than I did. You can find dashi in the ethic section of your grocery store or an Asian market. If you can't find any easily, you can use a seafood soup base with similar results.

Udon Noodle Soup
Adapted from Bon Appetit
makes 2 servings

What You'll Need:
1 Tbs dashi (powdered soup base)
1 Tbs reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 tsp lime juice
2 tsp rice wine
2 tsp sesame oil
1 shiitake mushroom, sliced
2 green onions, thinly sliced
2 cups spinach, cut up
2 carrots, sliced
8 ounces udon noodles, fresh if available (I could only find dried)

The Process:
Boil the noodles according to the directions on the package. If you have dry noodles, the instructions are in Japanese, and you can't read Japanese (which is what happened to me), then boil 4 cups of water and cook the noodles for 12-13 minutes, until the center is tender.
While the noodles cook, put 3 cups of water into a pot and heat to a boil, adding the dashi, soy sauce, lime juice, rice wine, sesame oil, carrots, green onions, and mushrooms. Turn heat down to medium and simmer until the noodles finish cooking. Divide your chopped spinach between the two bowls. Once the noodles are done, using tongs, divide them in half and put into serving bowls. Ladle the soup over top and serve immediately.

I used spinach and carrots as my vegetables but you could swap them out for any number of things: snow peas, green beans, asparagus, mini corn, etc. Unless you don't like mushrooms you should keep them in because they add a nice depth to the flavor. The texture of mushrooms skeeves me out, so my solution is to make it with the mushrooms and then put all of them into Hubby's bowl.

It can get a little spendy on the dashi, sesame oil, and rice wine if you don't have them already, but they keep for a while and they're also used in tons of different Asian recipes, so you can get a lot of mileage out of them. Or, if you're not as adventurous, you could just make this recipe over and over.

August 2, 2012

Brining and Roasting A Cornish Game Hen

I did a fun/crazy thing this year and volunteered to host Thanksgiving for my parents. Now you're probably thinking, "well, so what? It's August". The thing is- I have this just one teeny, tiny detail: I've never cooked a turkey before. I should have thought of that perhaps before offering, but here we are.

So, in the hopes that I won't ruin Thanksgiving, I've decided to start learning how to cook a whole bird that doesn't turn out dry and leathery. The overwhelming consensus is that to achieve such perfection, I should brine the bird. I decided to start small, and opted to begin with a whole Cornish Game Hen rather than going straight to the turkey. My mom used to make fantastic hens when I was growing up, and they're cheaper so if I screwed up too badly, it would be alright.

There are a couple things you should know before diving into brines. The first is make sure you get an all natural bird, one that hasn't already been prepared with sodium. You'd get salt overload if you brined one of them. Secondly, and this is more a matter of preference, don't use iodized salt (like table salt). Apparently, in such high quantities, it gives a slightly metallic taste to the meat. I used kosher salt.

Rosemary and Sage Cornish Game Hens
makes 2 whole hens, 4 servings

What You'll Need:
2 Cornish Game Hens, thawed
1 gallon water
3/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup white wine, I used a Chardonnay
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 Tbs cracked pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup rosemary
15-20 sage leaves
3 green onions, diced

August 1, 2012

I Shall Mince Garlic No More

Mincing garlic has always been a hassle to me. I don't like doing it and the garlic always comes out uneven no matter how careful I am. My dog probably has better knife skills than I do, despite her lack of thumbs, so I'm a little out of my element trying to mince it anyway.

I decided it was time to move on from cutting it by hand and upgrade to a garlic press. Well, that didn't work out so hot. I spent $18 on a press (from a reputable kitchen accessories company) and the thing broke on my second use. It was also wasteful and a pain to get clean. I search around the web for some other options, and eventually found The Garlic Twist, 3rd gen.

This little device is ridiculously easy to use. You peel the cloves, put a one or two in the bottom half, place the top half on over top (aligning the teeth) and twist a few times. Bam, done. You can also twist it in such a way that the garlic will collect in a triangle on each side of the teeth for easier removal, like this:

I use a novelty mini-spatula to scrape the garlic out and into the pan-pot-bowl-whatever I'm using it in. You could also use a small spoon. It does waste a little garlic that gets stuck in the teeth, but not nearly as much as the garlic press wastes. As soon as I'm finished with it, I rinse it out with a little soap and warm water, and it's clean.

It takes less than two minutes to peel the clove, mince it, and rinse it. Their advertisement mentions that back of one half is a nice smashing tool to use to loosen the garlic, and it actually is rather handy for that purpose. It works better than the side of a knife (my old method).

The twist cost me about $18 (after shipping) which is the same amount I spent on the press that broke. Overall, I am incredibly happy with it and I use it several times a week. I definitely recommend you get one if you use garlic often, nothing beats fresh garlic!

*Note: I have not been compensated for this product review. I am not endorsed or affiliated in any way with the makers of the Garlic Twist. I simply liked the product and wanted to share my experiences with it.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...