22 December 2008

Bento Box pillow

I pulled this together this afternoon, for a friend at work. She's a big fan of colour, in any combination, the crazier the better, so I used a little bit of everything.

This is the first time I've done the bento box pattern - I always like how it looks, though I do think it looks better when you do work with fabrics that have very different values. (These ones don't, in general. Obviously the red is much darker than the white it's paired with, but the gold/stripped combo doesn't have much variation, and, well, neither do the others, really.) I didn't plan the bento very well, though, and I think it shows - I'd have liked to have the pink across from the red and the yellows across from one another, but somehow I couldn't seem to make it work and look good when I was doing the layout for the pillow. Not that I'm unhappy with it, just that I wish I'd been more... thoughtful about it. I also wish I'd paid attention to directionality when I cut out the striped fabric :D

Anyway, originally the plan was for two pillows, but it turned out that I didn't have enough pillow stuffing and so I had to turn it into one woefully under-stuffed pillow. If it were properly stuffed, you'd be able to see the border - a bright green with yellow, red, and pink dots (to help tie all the colours together, a bit).

The pillow is going to my friend with a note telling her that when I buy stuffing again, she's going to have to give it back for a couple days so I can rip it back open and stuff it properly. Or maybe even rip it apart and turn it into two pillows as it was meant to be.

21 December 2008

Christmas postcards, pt. 2

Here is another of my favourites of this group of postcards. I don't know why I like this one so much - it's very simple - but I really like it quite a lot.

This card started out all green (with the one brown bit in the centre) but then I thought it could use some red to perk it up. And then I realized I'd accidentally left a small hole, so I appliquéd the star to hide it.

Sometimes it seems that the more simple things are, the better I like them. This one is quite plain, but I am pretty happy with the overall look.

Another favourite of mine. I think this is maybe a Courthouse Steps style block. (But I could be wrong.) I accidentally sewed one of the greens on in reverse. Oops. (That's the second time I've done that with that fabric.)

And another which I find strangely delightful. I think it's the bright splash of orange.

Christmas postcards

This year for Christmas I decided to participate in a recipe exchange online, where 10 of us got together and sent each other a postcard with a recipe printed on the back. Because I'm stupidly ambitious sometimes, I decided to do mine on fabric postcards, rather than just regular postcards of my city or whatever.

This first card is one of my favourites of the group. As I mentioned in my last entry, I like playing with the colours of Christmas, without being too explicitly Christmas, so this (and the other cards) works out well for me. A kind of wonky log cabin.

These trees are a bit ubiquitous with me this particular Christmas season...

And another! (The last one, thankfully.)

Just a kind of crazy quilt type card, with random placement of all the colours and prints.

This is my least favourite of the cards, as it was kind of a failed concept. The idea was a Christmas present with a big bow across the top, but most people seem to be confused by it and think it's some sort of elf costume, but then wonder why you can't see the rest of the elf.

Anyway, it originally was going to be part of a pillow with three gift boxes in a row, which I think would have worked a little better, if there were a series rather than just one, but I was paper piecing it and got tired of dealing with the paper bits and turned it into a card instead.

Christmas pillows

Pillows seem always to be a small, nice thing I can hand-make for people at Christmas time. They're both time and cost-effective and they're cute, too. This'll be the second year I've given away a small mountain of pillows to family at Christmas. And I think it'll have to be one of the last times. Nobody needs 50 different holiday pillows. (Or Do They? Hmm...)

This first one, in blues, is actually a kit I picked up at one of my least favourite fabric stores in Calgary. I always seemed to have bad experiences when I shopped there - mainly being ignored and/or eyed up as if I was going to smear dirty fingers all over everything, usually both simultaneously - but it's the only quilt store that's very accessible to me by transit. And this most recent visit when I picked up the kit was a welcome change - I was greeted, had an offer of help, and after refusing help was left alone until I was ready to go.

Another problem I often have with this particular quilt store is that I find their fabric selection is often a little bit... stodgy. I mean, it's just quite obvious that whoever does the buying has a very different eye than I do. On the other hand, the next nearest store is another 30-40 minutes away by transit. So I deal.

In any case, the blue pillow is going to be for my grandma, as I thought she might like a more muted palette than I'd typically prefer. And if she wishes, she can leave the pillow on the couch year round, since there's nothing too excessively Christmas about it, more just wintery.

I picked out the fabric myself for these two pillows, so they're a bit more my style. I like the green/red combination like this, where the colours aren't quite the typical green and red of Christmas decorations. And again, the prints aren't quite Christmas, while still being Christmasy. I haven't quite decided who is getting these pillows. My Christmas is very much up in the air - we don't really know exactly who is and isn't coming from the family, so depending who makes the trip out, that'll be who they go home with, I guess.

20 December 2008

No really, I can't bake.

I've said to a dozen different people a dozen different times that I don't bake because I suck at it. I don't tend to offer proof, except that having worked in a bakery for a year, I still never managed to learn how to tell when anything I made was done.

Here is some visual proof.

See. The plan. The plan was to make mini cupcakes, then to fill them with peppermint cream, then to top them with cream cheese icing. Originally I was going to use my vegan chocolate cake recipe, and I did try it a week or so ago, but I didn't quite think they were chocolatey enough and the texture was a little bit different than I was looking for. So I bought a box mix because it was cheaper than buying nice chocolate and making my own.

When I made the vegan cupcakes, I filled the sample cups about 2/3 full, and they only rose a bit less than 1/4 inch above the top of the cups. Just perfect, really. So, even though I'd realized the two recipes wouldn't react quite the same, I still filled the cups to the same level. Clearly the difference in the amount of rise you get from a vinegar/baking soda cake is rather different than one with eggs and whatever else is in a box mix.

17 December 2008

Baked Eggs with Mushrooms and Tomato-Pesto Toasts

I made some delicious baked eggs for lunch when I got home from shopping in the arctic winds today. (It's not really that cold, but the wind is making it feel that way.)

This is today's and tomorrow's lunch (except for the toasts, which are today's only, of course). It's kind of half-way between a frittata recipe I frequently use and one for baked eggs with morel mushrooms that I've got in this little French cookbook I bought recently. The toasts are also a variation on a recipe from the book, called... what is it called? How to Forget your Ex with the stab of your fork.

The reason I bought the book, which is in translation, is not that I've got someone to forget, but that all the recipes are for single serving dishes and I have a deep love of anyone who will provide me with recipes I don't have to adjust. (Though I did adjust this recipe up for making tomorrow's lunch.)

Here's a recipe, for two:

200 g baby potatoes, cut in quarters
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper
100 g button mushrooms, cut in quarters
seasoning salt or an herb blend
1 garlic clove, crushed or diced or whatever
1-2 tsp canola/olive oil
3 eggs
2 tsp sour cream (or crème fraiche, though I've never used that - can't find it here)

Preheat oven to 425F/ 315C.

Boil the potatoes with bay leaves and some salt until just cooked through. Meanwhile, sauté the mushrooms in a little oil (I didn't measure, but it was less than 1 tbsp) with garlic and seasoned with salt and pepper or a seasoning salt/spice mix.

Butter or spray a small oven-proof dish. When potatoes and mushrooms are cooked, pour into the buttered dish. Crack three eggs over top, taking care not to break the yolks. Spoon sour cream onto the mixture, between the egg yolks. Cover dish with tin foil.

Bake until set the way you like them. The original recipe, which was for a single egg with mushrooms but no potatoes - I added potatoes to make it more substantial for lunch at work - suggested 5 minutes but my whites weren't even started to set by that point. I removed the tin-foil at 12 minutes, at which point the whites were pretty much set, though the yolks were still very runny. (If you tap on them, they're very jiggly.) Eight to ten minutes later, they looked as they do in the photo - the edges of the yolk were starting to lighten up a little bit and when tapped they still had some movement, but not nearly so much as earlier.

I'd have probably used more mushrooms than I did and fewer potatoes, except that the mushrooms I bought yesterday froze on the way home from work and so I had to use a couple of slightly aged (but not gone bad) ones I'd bought on Saturday.

For the toasts, to serve 1:

3 thin slices of baguette or a bun of some sort
a little olive oil, to brush over
3 thin wedges of tomato
1-1.5 tsp pesto
1 tsp Parmesan cheese, grated

Lightly brush olive oil over slices of bread. Toast in the still-hot oven after removing the eggs. Top with a slice of tomato, a dab of pesto (I didn't measure, but it was likely less than a 1/2 tsp per toast), and a sprinkle of cheese. Grate over pepper/salt if you wish.

14 December 2008

Cavatappi with Chicken and Peas

I thought for certain that I'd have posted this before, but I don't see it in my quick check back through my archives. I really do need to get things tagged again so that I'll be able to find things more easily.

Anyway, this is my recreation of a dish I used to get ages ago at a restaurant in Saskatoon. I think they used linguine, but I didn't have any noodle-type pasta and I probably prefer cavatappi anyway. At any rate, this is just pasta with chicken, peas, and alfredo sauce cut with a little pesto. Delicious.

Here's the lazy recipe, to serve 1-2. I seem to eat less pasta at a time than most recipe recommend, so maybe 1 is more accurate. Anyway, I got two servings out of this.

4 oz (110 g) dried pasta, whatever shape you like best
1 chicken breast (~ 6-8 oz/220 g)
salt and pepper
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/4-1/2 cup alfredo sauce
1 tsp (heaping) pesto sauce
Parmesan cheese

Cook the pasta according to package directions, dropping in peas for the last 2 minutes of the cooking time. Meanwhile, cut chicken into bite-sized pieces. Season with salt and pepper, then cook through in a frying pan with a little oil.

Drain pasta and peas when cooked through and return to the pot. Stir in cooked chicken. Scoop 3-4 large tablespoons (don't bother measuring accurately, you'll be able to see if it's enough based on how saucy you like your pasta) of Alfredo into the frying pan, then stir in a teaspoon or two of pesto. Heat until bubbling, then pour over pasta mixture and stir to coat. Add more if it seems too dry. Grate over a little parmesan cheese if you wish.

This combines two of my favourite sauces - Alfredo and Pesto. Yum. Also good... Alfredo with some tomato sauce stirred into it, though maybe more equal amounts of each. And not on peas and chicken.

09 December 2008

Beef Madras, Aloo Gobi, and Strangely Pale Yellow Rice

I had a craving for some spicy, warm Indian food. But not from my ex-favourite Indian take-away which the Calgary Health Region's website reveals to have had (on more than one occasion) a rodent problem.

So I dug out my trusty recipe for Aloo Gobi (modified slightly from the extras on the Bend it Like Beckham dvd) and yellow rice. I also bought a jar of Madras curry paste, because it's got a great flavour that makes a really fantastic meatloaf and followed the recipe on the side of the jar (sort of).

Too bad it all tasted wrong.

I think my spices are all dead, maybe. It's like they smell like what they're supposed to smell like, but they don't seem really to taste like what they're supposed to taste like. My yellow rice? Didn't turn yellow. My curry didn't have any of the spiciness it usually has. I don't know.

I didn't have any cilantro, which did change the taste of course, but it seems more off than just missing cilantro. Maybe it'll taste better tomorrow once it's had a chance to sit and blend flavours even more?

The beef Madras tasted good, though I didn't read the instructions before hand, so I didn't know it's meant to be a sort of slow-cooked thing (I assume with cubed beef) and I ended up cooking it in a flash at the end once my Aloo Gobi was cooked through (and just needed to sit for a bit to thicken up a little). It actually did taste pretty good, but I cut back on the curry paste by quite a bit (I used 1 tbsp rather than 2, because I was concerned it would be too over-powering) and I did notice that it didn't have quite the zing I was expecting. The spices tasted particularly good on the tomatoes though, which were just cooked through - I used fresh chopped grape tomatoes rather than canned tomatoes.

I often wonder when I cook things like this if I'm sort of... breaking food rules, though that's not quite what I mean. But like.. I don't know anything about the food tradition behind real Indian cooking, I just know that I like this taste and that one, so I've put them all together, but maybe eating Beef Madras with Aloo Gobi would be like eating.... Poutine with Jambalaya. They maybe both come out of a French tradition, but one is Quebecois and the other is Cajun. And I don't think any classical French chef would claim either one. I know very little about either cuisine, but I do know enough to know that they have different flavour profiles and different cooking methods and I know that they don't really blend together. Indian food? I don't know anything about it at all.

Anyway, I guess that ultimately it doesn't matter, since I am cooking for myself and nobody else is going to come along and tell me that I've got Northern Indian that and Southern Indian this and that other dish is just made up and isn't actually Indian at all. (Or whatever.)

07 December 2008

Tagging Entries

I've spent the last several days having a lot of fights back and forth in my head about how I should tag my entries here. It's not that it matters especially, but it does irritate me when I want to find some thing or other I'd posted but none of my tags are useful enough to get me in the right direction.

I'm not very good at tagging things, I invariably wind up with useless designations (like "rice" with more than 50 entries, but no way of telling what is just plain rice or what is a rice pilaf or a rice salad) but then in an attempt to clarify, I wind up with even more useless designations that are so specific they'll nearly never be used (I've never made a rice salad that I can think of, and if I did, it'd probably be a one-time thing).

I think I've decided to break it down more or less like a rather comprehensive cookbook. (Appetizers, Soups, Salads, Mains, etc.) But I really do get hung up what things to mark and what to ignore. I don't think it's worthwhile to mark every side salad, since mostly they're unexceptional, or every time I eat plain rice. So I suppose I should ignore those, but then do I also ignore unexceptional sides like... mashed potatoes? Do I only mark potatoes if I've done something interesting, like colcannon? or if they're plated in an interesting way? (Like... roast potatoes are boring, but what if they're stacked up slices instead of heaped cubes?)

It seems like the only things I've really settled on are marking meals from particular chefs (chef: Gordon Ramsay, for example) and designating various grains and pulses.

I don't know. The one thing I can say for certain: if it is listed as vegetarian, that means only that it doesn't contain meat. It may contain eggs or milk products. If it's listed as vegan, it will be strictly no-animal by-products.

Anyone have suggestions for tagging? No? Okay then.

Cavatappi with Sausage and Lima Beans

This is getting to be a fairly old picture, but it's another of those sort of unattractive things that tasted good and I always seem to have the most problems updating when I've made something quite ugly. It sort of visually reminds me of pasta salads at church potlucks when I was a kid, minus all the sour cream and/or mayonnaise.

This is actually a pasta take on a Gordon Ramsay recipe from his book Fast Food. I had been wanting to make soup and there was a recipe for a chorizo, red onion, and lima bean soup. I didn't have any chorizo (and have never had it - I've never seen it available anywhere here, though I've also never gone looking in speciality stores), but I did have some turkey sausage (with feta cheese and spinach) in the freezer, which needed either to be eaten or thrown out. (Getting freezer burned.) And I had lima beans! And red onion!

Alas. I had less than 1/3 the amount of lima beans needed to make even half the recipe and I didn't want to try it out when I was so obviously short on one of the main ingredients. So I thought... why not take out the soup and put in some pasta? So this is the same basic thing, just with significantly smaller amounts of vegetables and meat, and a bit of pasta to plump it up to meal size. I kept all the same seasonings and added only Parmesan cheese.

It was a nice meal. But what it really made me want was soup instead. Some other day, I suppose, when I've got lima beans again.

01 December 2008

Miso Glazed Fish with Steamed Vegetables and Rice

This was a really, really delicious dinner, but it's been a sort of rough day in some ways and I couldn't really enjoy it enough to really want to eat it. I saved quite a bit of it for lunch tomorrow, though, which is good because I didn't really have plans for what to take with me to work.

A little while back I bought a tub of white miso (shiromiso) for a soup I was making and now I'm on a mission to use as much of it as possible, because I hate it when I buy an ingredient for one thing and then never use it again. So I've been looking for different recipes and have quite a stockpile of potentials bookmarked in a folder.

I wanted to try a recipe with fish, so I went through the potentials (there are quite a lot of recipes for fish with miso) and decided on a Miso glazed fish, which I found here at Heart and Hearth, since it asked for a white fish and I thought probably white miso would work well with that. And also, I'm extremely poor until my next pay cheque, and white fish is cheap. (Less than $2 for twice what you see in the photo. Which was 1/3 of my available funds until that cheque. So.)

I'm really glad that I tried it because it was really lovely. I don't think I could hope to describe the taste - a little soy sauce, a little sweet, a little salty, with a sort of slightly sticky glaze and wonderful with crunchy bits of fresh green onion. I think I'd like to cook this for my parents, someday, because I think they'd both like it.

The rice is just plain basmati with green onion stirred through. (Had to get some colour into it for the photo. White rice is a terrible terrible thing to photograph. I've learned coloured plates are best when photographing white rice.) And then the steamed vegetables are a lazy thing - a single serving package that comes frozen and you just microwave it. But it's a mixture of broccoli, edamame, and green beans. And it was very nice with a little salt and butter stirred through.

29 November 2008

Broccoli and Cheddar Pasta

This was my lunch today - whole wheat pasta with steamed broccoli and a cheese sauce. What I really wanted was an Alfredo sauce with a little pesto stirred in and some nice green peas, but I didn't have the right stuff to make an Alfredo and I wasn't in the mood for a tomato sauce. So cheese sauce.

I suppose there's not really much to say about a thing like this - it's so basic and easy, less than 10 minutes and it's done. I didn't put quite enough cheese into the sauce, so it wasn't as cheesy as I'd have liked, but it was still pretty delicious, especially with a lot of black pepper ground over all of it. Yum.

Sweet and Sour Curried Pork and Peppers

This photo is a couple days old now, and I wasn't sure about posting it, but I decided to anyway. Mostly because it amuses me and as an object lesson in drawing mental lines and sticking to them.

Let me back up a little. When I first read the recipe for this, I thought to myself gross. It looked like sweet and sour (Chinese?) curry (Indian?) by way of 1950s casserole cookbook for the discerning housewife (Campbell's condensed soup?). Gross.

Which is where I ought to have drawn a mental line and said No, I won't try this. Instead, I thought, Well, it sounds gross, but I can make myself a kind of mushroom gravy in place of the soup and then try it with that inside. Maybe it'll be one of those weird combinations that actually works out. It wasn't. It made a kind of thick pineapple gravy that was sweet and curried and nasty and gross.

I picked all the pork out of it, scrapped off the sauce, diced it smaller and mixed into into some leftover rice and just ate that instead. Maybe I should have made it properly, with a can of soup, and maybe that would have made it better, but I still sort of doubt that.


24 November 2008

Broccoli and Feta-stuffed Chicken with Basmati Rice

So, yeah. Food. With other food inside it.

This is another of those dinners that is pretty much just what it says on the tin. Chicken, stuffed with broccoli and feta. There's also a little onion and garlic in there. And some black pepper on top.

It was pretty tasty, but the feta didn't really make that much of an appearance, which sucks because I love feta. I think the pepper on the top kind of over-powered the rest of it because that's really what I tasted.

In any case, it was still pretty good. So was the rice, which had shallots and cumin and a little garam masala in it. (Not that the flavours match, mind. I think I just had Indian food on the brain. And the flavour is very subtle.)

23 November 2008

Barbecue Chicken Pizza

Last night's dinner was pizza again, though this one was a bit more successful than the last.

It's pretty basic, though, so not much to say: barbecue sauce, slices up cooked chicken breast, red and yellow peppers, and cheddar cheese. I over-baked it a little trying to get the cheese to crisp up a bit, but no luck with that.

21 November 2008

Holiday Week - Day Four

My days off are coming to an end, far too soon. There is today, of course, and sort of Saturday/Sunday, but really this is kind of it. And I've made tentative plans to spend most of today with a friend.

Anyway, this block is one of the first things I finished yesterday - the December block for my Block of the Month group. I think this is my favourite of the three blocks so far. The orange still drags the print down so that it hardly stands out, but in general, I think it's got a better balance between the good fabrics and the bad. The burgundy doesn't look quite so dingy.

i haven't edited the photos yet for them, but I also made 6 fabric postcards, which is about half of what I'm hoping to get done. They're all Christmasy in theme, though some of them are more Christmas than others. They'll get a separate post all their own, once I'm ready to edit and upload the photos.

And then here is a peak at what the other two tree pillows I made look like. I really prefer the colours in these pillows to the blue one I showed yesterday, but I suspect my grandma would like the more muted blues better. It's entirely possible that once the pillow goes on the couch, it'll never come off (as with the last Christmas pillow I made her), so probably the blue is a better year-round choice as well.

There was a hockey game on tv last night, and I didn't want to disturb my sister and my brother-in-law's watching of it by having the sewing machine going, so I spent a while digging through things until I found the box full of my Sunlight/Shadows blocks. So these are the first 27 of an intended 56. I also discovered that I've got 8 more blocks already cut out and ready to go; I just need to sew them together. Which is pretty fantastic, since I cut out another 5 the other day. Which means that once they're done as well, I'll only need 16 more.

It's quite neat to see them all laid out like this, even without trying to arrange them in any particular way. I really like the way these kind of scrappy things come together when you repeat the pattern.

20 November 2008

Apple Zucchini Asparagus Pizza

This is, you know, pretty much what it says on the tin. MacIntosh apple slices, zucchini slices, asparagus, and underneath a mound of caramelized onions. It's also got feta, Swiss and Parmesan cheeses.

It was a strange thing, and I didn't really eat it because I over-baked the crust and the skinny little asparagus sticks were remarkably tough to chew through. But I really liked the taste of the cheese baked on the apple with the caramelized onion, so I picked all those tasty bits off and ate them before throwing away the rest.

I think it would be really great reworked as a tart of some sort, minus the zucchini and asparagus. I'll have to think about it, see if I can talk myself into making pastry dough one day.

Holiday Week - Day Three

So yesterday it really felt like I didn't accomplish anything except watching A LOT of Firefly.

Which isn't at all true, but what I did was a lot of stuff that won't show up for probably months or else was for other people. I cut out a stack of charm squares for Just Jenn at Quiddity Quilts, though it probably won't end up in the mail for a week or two. I cut out 2/3s of five Sunlight/Shadows blocks. (I always have the problem with these of not having enough or good enough whites and off-whites and beiges for the neutral part of the square. For a while I was trying to buy them up, but I still don't seem to have anything I want to use.) I cut out a block I intend to make today.

This is one of the things I did work on that I can show you. It's obviously not finished, but I ran into a bit of indecision. It's meant to be a pillow, but I'm wondering if maybe I ought to make it into a wall-hanging instead. Indecision.

After that, I did another two smaller-scale versions of this, with different fabrics, which will be made into pillows (I think they're too small for wall hangings, though maybe not). I haven't fused on the trees yet, so I didn't photograph those. Probably today, though. I definitely prefer the colours I choose to the ones that came in the kit, but probably my grandma will like the blue anyway.

So today's goals?
- tree pillows
- December block for my Block of the Month (I got it early from the organizer)
- start on Christmas postcards

19 November 2008

Holiday Week Day 2

So I don't actually have anything to post today that actually looks as if it's got anything to do with anything I posted yesterday. Well, it does, it just doesn't look it.

What I did today is cut out and sew together five 12-in blocks. That doesn't sound like a lot, really, and I wish that I'd done more, but it took quite a lot of time anyway. More time than I was expecting, though I was distracted by watching HGTV, which my brother in law had one in the living room.

The first blocks that I worked on are two Swap Angel blocks, the ones I mentioned yesterday when I said that I'd gone looking for blue and yellow fabrics (but hadn't found any). These two blocks are angel blocks for a Birthday Blocks group I follow on Livejournal. The recipient's request was for blues with pale yellows.

I no longer recall the name of this particular block, though I'm going to venture a guess that it's something to do with Flying Geese.

I think this one is called something like Mrs Bryan's Choice, though really it just reminds me of the CBC logo.

This one photographed really badly and if I hadn't already got it packed up to send away, I'd probably take a different picture to try to correct the colouring a bit.

Whenever I have fabric out for one project or another, I always try to cut out pieces to make a Sunlight/Shadows block, so this is one of those blocks. When I participated in the 2007 Birthday Blocks group, I had chosen to receive these blocks from everyone, and then decided to make the quilt using 56 of the blocks. Essentially that meant making around 50 spare blocks. I'm still plugging away at it, one block at a time. (It's important to me, though, that none of my blocks are exactly the same.)

One of these days I ought to unpack the shoe box with all the blocks so far in it. I need to count and see where I'm at. I'd like to know some end is in sight for the project, though I don't really mind too much if it takes another year or two to complete.

The reason I had that orange fabric in the previous block out is that I decided to use up some ugly stash fabric on a Block of the Month group at Livejournal. (Block of the Month.) Our year only just started in October, so this is the first block for the year. I really like the orange fireworks fabric, so it's too bad that the burgundy and the orange are such dingy looking fabrics. They really make everything look quite dull, but I hope that when it all comes together in the end, it'll look a little better than these two blocks on their own.

This is October's block, a 12-inch Memory Wreath.

This block for November, called Road to Oklahoma, is quite similar to the Sunlight/Shadow block I posted earlier. It looks so different though, with the fabrics in such different placement.

Again, you'd really think all that bright yellow would make this block bright and beautiful, but it still looks drab and dingy. Sigh.

Injury of the day: Aggravated an already bad back by spending too long hunched over cutting. Woe.

18 November 2008

Holiday Week? Day One

I'm off work this week on holidays but not actually going away, so clearly the only thing I can do is sew all week long. I haven't done a huge amount of sewing this year, but as always have a huge amount of things I want to get finished and/or started, so... now's my time, I suppose.

The week is off to a slow start though, since I spent the majority of my day away from home. I did go out, though, with intentions of buying fabric. My list:

- Christmas stuff
- yellow/blue
- repro fat quarter

I didn't manage the yellow and blue fabric, which I wanted for a couple Swap Angel blocks I'm doing for a livejournal swap called Birthday Blocks. It's a swap that I've participated in before - you can see some of the blocks I've received and/or sent here - though this year I'm only acting as a Swap Angel to make up for some drop-outs.

In any case, I didn't actually NEED the yellow or blue fabric, since I've got plenty here. I pulled a few things out of my stash this evening to use instead of anything new, so sometime this week there should be some yellow and blue blocks created for that.

The Christmas stuff I want so that I can make fabric postcards for a postcard/recipe exchange I'm participating in this fall. I'm not certain that this idea will work out, since it'll require making ten cards in fairly short order, but I have high hopes that it'll come together this week.

For the Christmas fabric, I wanted something that suggested Christmas but wasn't explicitly Christmas. So I picked up two bundles of fat eighths in (mostly) greens and reds. There are only two actual Christmas prints in the 16 fabrics - a green one with mistletoe and Eiffel Towers and the phrase 'Joyeux Noel' and a red one with white trees. I also picked up one fat quarter - the green at top right with the red and white stars - just because I loved it so much. I hope I can find some way to show it off a bit in my cards because it's fantastic.

I haven't got any definite plans for the cards, but I had originally thought of doing something like a log cabin type block, maybe with a dark red in the centre and then lighter colours around it. I'm not sure though. Maybe they'll all end up completely different.

When I was looking through the Christmas display, I found a kit for a pillow (top left of the photo), which I picked up to make for my Grandmother, who is coming out to spend Christmas here this year. She's quite hard to buy for, since she's got a house full of stuff she doesn't need and she doesn't want to add anything else to the pile. But homemade gifts I think are always appreciated. And she's given me some wonderful quilts, so I'd like to return the favour, even on such a small scale.

So that only leaves the one reproduction fabric, the green with the playing kids on it. Quite a long while ago I had this idea for a baby/children's quilt that would be done with these style fabrics using a pattern from a book I've got that uses 12 fat quarters to create a variety of quilts. I'd ordered repro fabrics online, but only 10 of the 12 were in stock, and I set it all aside for months. So many months, in fact, that I was convinced I had 11 fabrics, when in fact I've got 10, so I only bought one today and am still short now by one fabric. Worse yet, I can't remember now what pattern from that book I'd intended to make. Ah well, whenever I finally get that 12th fat quarter, I'll figure something out.

The other thing I did today? Washed and ironed fabric. Some of it was fabric you see here, but most of it is stuff from my stash that I was washing for other projects I hope to accomplish this week. But more on that another day. I'm for bed.

Injury of the Day: One burned finger, courtesy of the ironing.

14 November 2008

Pignoli-Coconut Crusted Salmon with Steamed Boy Choy

It's been ages again since I cooked fish, so I thought it was probably time I sucked it up and cooked it again. I really don't understand why I have such difficulty with fish because it always tastes good and it's easy to cook. And yet I hum and haw about cooking it and sometimes can't talk myself into buying it. It's completely ridiculous.

Never mind that, though. This was really quite good. I singed it a little bit and so I was worried it would taste like burned nuts, since it's crusted with ground pine nuts and coconut, but it was really just wonderful. The fish was really moist and cooked perfectly. The sweetness of the salsa was a nice compliment to the salmon.

I didn't wind up eating much of the bok choy because it got cold very quickly while I was taking my pictures. I thought about reheating them, but didn't bother because I didn't think they'd taste very good reheated. Shame about the missed opportunity, though, as I love bok choy.

12 November 2008

Udon Miso Soup with Chicken and Mushrooms

I do love chicken noodle soup.

I got a little scared of this one when I sat down to eat it and was staring at those big fat white noodles and thinking about them tasting like paste, but it was all lovely and delicious. I liked the thick noodles, but I think I'd like this as much with cellophane noodles in place of the udon and a mound of bean sprouts on top. (Though that'd probably be mixing my food culture references, unless miso is used also in Vietnamese cooking.)

I think I probably killed my miso by cooking it at too high a heat, but the flavour of the broth was quite delicate and nice. Not too salty, as I was afraid it would be, but just nice. I did get a lighter miso, a white one rather than something dark, so it probably was easier for an unaccustomed palate to eat than if I'd used a brown or golden miso instead.

Now the challenge is to find more recipes for miso, because I've got a whole tub of the stuff to use.

11 November 2008

Sweet and Sour Chicken

This is the last of my backlog of photos to post, except for one that I'm skipping over (a soup and pizza combo, because you can't get a good enough look at the soup, which is the only interesting thing, and that not very. This I made... on Sunday and because it's a sloppy mess, it would be a good guess that it's a Sandi Richard recipe, from Dinner Survival.

Like many of her sloppy mess dinners, it tastes pretty good, but it also pretty sweet. I think I need to learn just to cut back on the sweet parts of her recipes and add more sweetness later, if it seems to need it. It did taste better on the second day, when the sauce had a chance to turn saucy, and somehow the sweetness seemed less overwhelming. (There still wasn't enough sour to balance it, but it wasn't so sickly sweet.)

I had used chicken thighs in this recipe and ugh... was that a gross experience. I had forgotten how much fattier than chicken breast they are, and how much more work you need to do to make them edible. (Or how much work I need to do, anyway, since I have a thing about always cutting off the fat and making sure there aren't veins and things.) It's just that they're cheaper and in some dishes much tastier (because they are so fatty, I suppose) and if they came without so much excess fat on them I'd probably cook them more often.

Italian-spiced Pork with Spicy Broccoli and Salad

This feels like an ages-old picture - I'd forgotten the meal until I uploaded pictures from my camera to my computer and discovered it again. Really, it was probably made on Friday or Saturday last week but I don't remember exactly.

In any case, the pork was a pre-prepared thing that I bought at Safeway. It was already marinated in whatever sauce/spices were on it and I just had to cook it. It made me feel a little lazy not to sprinkle an Italian herb mix (or whatever) on a piece of pork myself, but it wasn't very expensive and I remember feeling terribly lazy. All I had to do was fry it in a little oil and time things so that it'd be ready at about the same time as the broccoli. I don't know that I'd buy it again unless I were feeling particularly lazy again, but it did taste quite good. (I wouldn't probably buy it again only because I could make myself something pretty similar pretty easily.)

The broccoli was pretty standard for me - lightly steamed and then sautéed with some garlic and red pepper flakes. Tasty. And so was the salad, which was nothing extra special, except that I added toasted almond and some carrot to the lettuce mix.

All in all, a good meal.

08 November 2008

Chive and Goat Cheese Frittata

This picture is getting to be several days old now, almost a week even. I've been wibbling about whether or not to post it because I think I've done a similar frittata before, maybe just without the cheese and chives. I can't remember though.

And then too it's not a very interesting picture. I always make and eat frittatas on their own, but they aren't that easy to photograph on their own. I always feel like I should have put a pile of mixed baby greens on the plate, even if I don't intend to eat them, just for appearance's sake. But I don't particularly like dressing a plate. I don't often garnish things, and if I do it's because I intend to eat the garnish. (My next photo in the backlog has a sprig of cilantro on the plate, which I ripped up and mixed into the soup before I ate it.)

Anyway, I've been looking for ways to use up that goat feta that I've got and I've been kind of miserable about food lately, not wanting to cook and just not wanting anything, so I thought what I really needed was to make something yellow. (My love of yellow food should be well documented by now. If I don't have a tag for yellow food, I should.) The yellow peppers didn't look that nice at the store the other day, but the orange peppers were pretty good, so I picked one of those up instead (and orange is practically yellow anyway, right?) And finally, eggs? Easiest thing in the world to cook when you don't really feel like cooking anything.

And so, yes. Eggs with potatoes, orange peppers, chives and goat's feta, cooked to deliciousness. (Which was also a great lunch for work. I should make these things more often to take to work.)

06 November 2008

Assorted gift postcards

I made this postcard for a friend's daughter, who recently turned three years old. She wanted to have a monster themed birthday, so I thought it would be fun to send her a monster postcard.

I designed three potential monsters while riding the train home from work one afternoon, and the next day decided on and made this one because I liked the googly eyes and the giant mouth. Maybe one day I'll make the other two, but we'll see.

It sort of reminds me of a lion cub that's not grown up enough to let out a really big roar but keeps trying anyway.

In any case, here is another postcard I made for a different friend, though I made this a handful of years ago, back when I first started trying out fabric postcards. I only just recently finished it when I found it again shoved into a stash of fabric.

The friend I made this card for used to have an icon on her livejournal of a lemon-pig and this was my attempt to recreate it.

I didn't finish it then because I made a rookie mistake with the fusible web - I fused it on the right rather than the wrong side of the fabric. It's not especially noticeable with the yellow because it was a batik, but the orange feet and the green ears are much more pale than they would be if I'd done it properly.

I decided that it's cute enough, even with its errors, that it needed to be finished, so I added a back and sewed it all up. I think it's maybe one of my favourite postcards ever.

29 October 2008

Cinnamon-Salsa Chicken with Rice and Cauliflower

Another of Sandi Richard's sloppy mess dinners that taste very good. I don't really have anything else to say about it, except that it was good. There was nothing special about it, and I'd probably not serve it to guests, but it was good.

I used leftover rice that got really sticky when I thawed it, so I mashed it into the bottom of a bowl until it stuck in the shape of the bowl and turned it out onto the plate. It sort of looks silly like that, really. Still tasted okay, though.

27 October 2008

Goaty McGoaterson Goat Cheese-Stuffed Pasta

All I can really say about this is that it's a good thing I made a salad because I didn't really eat so much of the pasta. I tried. But that was the goatiest goat cheese I've ever tasted.

This, actually, is a five-cheese stuffed pasta shell: Feta, Parmesan, Mozzarella, Ricotta, and Cottage cheese. Talk about a heart attack in a cute little pasta shell. Well, really, I made a four-cheese stuffed pasta shell. I didn't want to buy ricotta, so I used low-fat cottage cheese in it's place, and I had low-fat everything, really. Extra spinach, less cheese, lower fat cheese. But the feta that I had, I didn't notice when I bought it, but it was actually a goat feta. Feta style chèvre.

I'm pretty hit and miss with goat cheeses. Sometimes I like it. It's particularly nice (I find) if you bake it until it's all melty and then serve it on a salad. But I really, really prefer it in small doses and if it's quite mild.

This was not mild. This was full-on goat. All I could taste was goat. You wouldn't think the one thing that I used the least of would be so very over-powering. But.

I need to go scrub my tongue with a wire brush and some bleach because the taste still hasn't gone away.

ETA: I saved four of these and took them to work for lunch - I work in a grocery store so if I still couldn't stomach them, I'd have options. They were much less goaty the second day, somehow. I ate them mostly cold (just barely warmed in the microwave) and they weren't so bad. In the future, I shall try this with regular feta and see what happens.

25 October 2008

California BLTC

Way back when I used to go to school in Nova Scotia, there were these ridiculously delicious little wraps they'd make in the Cafeteria quite often. They called them California BLTs, which I think had to do with them containing salsa rather than just tomato. Or maybe it had to do with the wrap part. I don't know. In any case, this is probably the only thing I really remember from that cafeteria and probably the only thing worth remembering.

Okay. It's not the only thing I remember, but the other things I remember are everyone stealing milk and the line-ups when they served deep-fried clams. I'm rather scared of seafood, but I let myself get talked into eating a piece of deep-fried clam once and I felt like I had little squirmy clams squirming around in my stomach the rest of the day. Yuck.

Anyway, I'm not terribly sold on bacon. I know some people sort of thing bacon is the one thing you can add to anything and it'll always taste better, but I'm not really a fan of it. It's okay. Maybe twice a year. I'm not sure what my issue with it is because it does taste okay, but I really hate the smell and it's so greasy and... meh.

It's really nice with these, though. Here's a quick recipe:

1 wrap, any flavour
2 or 3 slices of bacon, cooked
1-2 tbsp salsa and/or chopped tomato with hot sauce
1-2 tbsp shredded cheese
1 leaf of lettuce, torn

I usually use both salsa and tomato, though I'm not really sure why. I just like it that way, I guess. So I layered this with lettuce first, then cheese, then salsa, then grape tomatoes, then bacon. I used about half to one teaspoon of Caesar salad dressing smeared along the top edge to help hold it together for the photo, but it's not necessary (and didn't really add much taste). Actually, this would probably be nice with ranch or Caesar dressing inside. Hmm.

Anyway, a tasty, easy supper, which is probably more suited to summer than fall and to lunch rather than dinner.

22 October 2008

Cherry Tomato Lasagna with Ground Bison

Is there anything to be said about a good lasagna? Yum.

I think lasagna recipes are a dime a dozen; everyone's got one and none of them are quite the same. I don't think I've ever made a lasagna the same way twice. (And usually I don't use a recipe, I just do them the way my mom did - meat sauce, cottage cheese, lasagna noodles, and grated cheese layered, then baked, the end.) I've made white lasagnas, I've made lasagnas with spinach, broccoli, ricotta, turkey, chicken, vegetables only. I've made individual rolled up lasagnas. I've made them in bulk and froze them. I haven't made one in ages, though. I can't even remember the last time I had lasagna that didn't come out of a box in the freezer aisle of the grocery store. (And they're never that good.)

This recipe was a little different because it uses fresh cherry tomatoes as a layer, and lamb for the meat sauce. The photo was gorgeous. It intrigued me.

I used bison because it is much easier (and cheaper) to get fresh ground bison here than it is to get fresh ground lamb. In fact, the only place I know of that sells fresh lamb is the market, and I'm not sure that the lamb people man their booth during the week. Fresh bison, on the other hand, can be bought at plenty of large grocery store chains nearby.

In this dish, the bison didn't stand out at all. I found the flavour much more of a background thing, rather hidden by all the cheese and the gorgeous tomato. It's not such a meaty lasagna as some that I've had, but it doesn't taste or have the mouthfeel of a vegetarian lasagna either. It was a much more creamy lasagna than I've probably had before, soft and smooth. And delicious, really.

As I said, I don't typically use a recipe for lasagna, but I might revisit this one anyway.

20 October 2008

Roasted Pork Loin Chop with Salsa-topped Baked Potato, Buttery Carrots and Salad

I've had nearly a week of nothing for dinner but nothing, fast food, beans on toast, or pizza from a box. So I went a little bit all out tonight with lots of sides and delicious things.

Some sad carrots in the bottom of the vegetable drawer, cooked, with a bit of a butter and parsley. Tomatoes and cucumbers with the most delicious lemony, garlicky dressing ever. A small baked potato with slightly spicy salsa. In other words: Vegetables! Just what I've been missing this past week.

I mean... my last photo was on the 14th, when I did have vegetables. But then after that was at least a day or two of nothing at all, one McDonald's chicken nuggets and fries dinner, a meal at Nicastros (potato skins - hold the vegetables! no onions or peppers - and chicken fingers), canned beans on toast (the kind with tomato sauce, but no meat products), and pizza, which did have spinach and mushrooms on it.

It's good that I was eating fruit and salad at work for lunch, but still. That's just kind of ridiculous. It's no wonder I've been feeling so rundown. It's no wonder I kept piling more of the salsa on my potato.

Anyway, the pork part of tonight's dinner was ever-so-slightly overcooked, but was based off a recipe in Sandi Richard's newest book, which might maybe be called Dinner Survival. It's actually a recipe for an all-day pork roast, but I don't need a roast that serves 8-9 people, and I don't think a single pork loin chop would do terribly well in the oven all-day, even at low low temperatures. So I gave this a quick browning on the stove top and then finished it in the oven. I left it a bit too long as I based the cooking time on a recipe I made half an age ago that had a much thicker chop. It was pretty tasty, even over-cooked, and of course the vegetables were divine, so I'm happy anyway.

16 October 2008

Ghosties and Bats and Pumpkins

My most recent crafting has been dealing with felt, rather than my usual quilting cotton. I don't particularly like felt, but it's good for projects like this one. Projects, that is, that look like they were designed and executed by 8 year olds! Yay!

I don't usually decorate for Halloween, but somehow I got the urge this year and I thought... garlands. A garland would be nice. Then I whittled down potential images to these three - bats, ghosts, and pumpkins.

Altogether there are three full strands of them - ghost, bat, pumpkin, ghost - plus a fourth smaller one. (I messed up one of the pumpkins and threw it away, so the fourth string only has a bat and two ghosts - I had a lot more white felt than black or orange.) The third strand isn't visible in the picture, and the fourth isn't hanging up right now. I want to put it in the skinny window beside the front door, but I haven't figured out how to attach it yet.

I sort of think they look like drawings a kid in elementary school would come up with, but that's okay. It's Halloween! And also, less morbid than the decorations in front of this one house on the way home from work: they've got toddler sized chalk outlines of bodies on their sidewalk.

I think the bats are my favourite. I stitched their eyes on with orange embroidery thread, which I borrowed from my sister's collection of scraps leftover from cross-stitch projects.

More stitching with embroidery thread. I don't like that you can see my strings inside the ghost, but what can you do? (Other than use more layers..)

Sperm ghosties?

Please do not look at my crappy machine stitching :D These were meant to have leaves beside the stem, but I got lazy. (They were going to have proper stems, too, but I got lazy and decided the tab to hang them would be stem enough. It's not, but until I figure out a way to attach leaves, it'll have to do.)