Sunday, September 30, 2012

A New Quilt

I mentioned at the end of yesterday's post that I had given myself permission to set my Dear Jane aside.  I have.  It has nothing to do with my enjoyment or desire to complete the quilt.  It's simply that I would like to do something else for a little while.  I spoke with my friend Andrea about this and she agreed that there is nothing wrong with having more than one project going at a time.  Ahhhhh.  Sigh of relief.  Now to my new project.

I have had this pattern and the fabric to make it for a couple years now.  

It has been sitting in my cabinet, neatly folded, waiting to be made into something cheerful.  A little scrappy, that tends to be my style.

I have most of the pieces cut and ready to go.  I have to be in the mood to cut and luckily today I was.  Rudy, Inhibitor #1, got in on the action.  He loves being a part of anything I do in the sewing room.

I kicked him off the block I completed so you could see how it was going.  I know the colors seem a little much, but there will be a lot more of the neutral to break it up.  And besides, it's a Christmas quilt.  It's allowed to be bright and loud.

Kracken (Inhibitor #2) likes hanging out with me too.  Besides enjoying the breeze in the open window from his perch on my ironing board, he found a way to entertain himself.  It doesn't take much for my playful boy.

So much like my husband who can (and will) make a game of anything.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Almond Cookies

I have a basket in my pantry that is filled with lots of baking goodies.

A few too many, really.  Sometimes I forget I have things before I go shopping and end up with too much.

Sometimes I buy for a recipe that I never get to.  Either way, I needed to use up some of these goodies.

I found a large bag of slivered almonds which became the beginning of an idea.

I put 7 ounces of almonds into my food processor and ground them to oblivion (about 20 seconds).  I added 4 tablespoons of rice flour I had left over from an Almond Ricotta Cake I made and threw that in with 1 cup of sugar and a pinch of salt.  Another spin in the processor just to mix, then in went 2 egg whites, 1/2 tsp vanilla and 1/4 tsp of almond extract.  I blended that until it was a nice moist dough.

I used my favorite scoop to make tablespoon drops of dough on parchment paper for baking.

After this photo was taken I pressed them slightly with the bottom of a glass to flatten just a little.

Into a 350 degree oven for 14-16 minutes then cooled on a rack.  Yield: 20 cookies.

And because I had so much semi sweet chocolate in my basket (and because it's chocolate) I made a glaze of 4 squares of semi sweet baking chocolate and 1 teaspoon canola oil in the microwave (directions on the box) and used a sandwich bag with a corner cut off to drizzle the wonderful melted goodness over the cookies.

Into the freezer to flash freeze for packaging so Breck and I can pull one at a time to thaw for a treat.

I did hold a couple back.  We had to try them and see if they were worthy.  They were.  Chewy on the inside and perfect with milk.  And as it turns out, they are gluten and dairy free (no fatty butter).  Also, almonds are a great source of fiber, vitamin E, and protein and its fat is monounsaturated.

Substitutions can be made in the recipe with good results.  I used rice flour, but others can be used.  The canola oil (chocolate glaze) can be switched out as well.  I was using up the last of what I had in the bottle to get the container off my shelf.  Semi sweet chips would easily make the glaze (1/2 Cup) versus the baking bars.  All that said, you could probably change the nut to pecan or walnut if that is what you had.  I love a flexible cookie.

I also gave myself permission to set aside my Dear Jane to work on another project.  More on that another day.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Buffalo Chicken Egg Rolls

I have become completely obsessed with egg rolls lately.  It's true, and I do not need a 12 step program to help me get over it.  I would never make it past step one.  Besides, egg rolls are a good thing.  I've made ham and cheese with sliced deli ham and Swiss, Mexican with seasoned taco meat, green chilies, and cheddar, and  Carnita egg rolls with shredded pork and slaw.  Now Buffalo Chicken with shredded chicken, wing sauce, green onion, slaw, and flavored cream cheese.  Can you say wonderful?  Here is what I did.

Place 2 chicken breasts in water and bring to a boil.  Simmer for 10 minutes partially covered, turn off heat and let sit in water for 10 more minutes.  Remove the chicken and shred with 2 forks.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

While Chicken is cooking, melt 3 tbs butter in a sauce pan.  Add 1 clove of minced garlic and saute for 30 seconds.  Stir in 1/4 cup ketchup and 1/4 cup Frank's Hot Sauce.  Taste and see if you want more Frank's at this point.  Simmer for 5 minutes, then toss in the chicken, stirring to coat.

Place a generous handful of slaw mix in a microwave safe bowl and cook uncovered for 2 minutes on high (this helps remove some of the moisture from the veggies and softens them slightly).

Slice the tops (green part) of 4 green onions to make about 1/4 cup.

Mix softened 8 ounce cream cheese (I used 1/3 less fat cream cheese) with a tbs of Ranch Dips mix (Hidden Valley).   I know that blue cheese is traditional, but my husband always gets Ranch in the restaurant.

To assemble; wet edges of 16 egg roll wrappers (one at a time) with water, place large tsp of cream cheese, a large pinch of slaw, a sprinkle of onion tops and 2 tbs of chicken on an egg roll wrapper.

Fold and wrap.

Spray with cooking spray on all sides and place on a rack over a foil covered cookie sheet.  I have now changed how I bake my egg rolls.  I find the heat circulates around them better if I put them on a rack.  They also get more crisp, which is a good thing.

Bake 425 degrees for 20 minutes, turning half way through.  Serve with more Frank's on the side.  See how crispy the wrap gets?

These are so good.  They will be great for lunches, though I had two for dinner tonight.

Makes 16, with some chicken (depending on the size breast you poached) and cream cheese left over for sandwiches.  I'm thinking a hamburger bun, toasted, with cream cheese, chicken, shredded cabbage, and more Frank's would be outstanding.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

First Day of Fall: Coffee and Scones

Horray!  Horray!  Welcome, the first day of fall.  If you followed me at all last year you know this is by far my favorite season.  Pumpkins, apples, and cider.  Colorful leaves, crisp breezes, and the bluest skies of the year.  Just a few reasons to love fall.

My husband, in his infinite wisdom of all things Sandi, bought me (us) a French coffee press for my birthday.  I have wanted one for a few years now since being served the most amazing coffee from a press at our table while on a fall leaf viewing cruise around the New England/ Canadian coast.

He was home this morning for breakfast, before heading to Austin to pick up our son to cheer on the Cowboys in Dallas, so we broke it in on the porch.

They are so easy to use and the coffee is SO strong.  Just the way I like it.

Just add coarse grinds (I used Texas Pecan coffee), hot water, and steep.

The grounds are then pressed to the bottom leaving the rich flavored brew on top.

There is just something wonderful about sipping hot coffee outside.  Not fun in summer, but the fall air is perfect for such a simple pleasure.

Of course I had a little something to serve on the side.  There was an apple in the refrigerator just begging to be used in something great, so I made some Oatmeal Apple Scones to go along with the coffee.  I added a cinnamon glaze for more cinnamon flavor (1 cup 10x sugar, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 2 tbs milk).

Obviously from the empty pot and clean plates we quite enjoyed our breakfast on the porch.

Now to get in my sewing room.  I have a project that may surprise you.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

I Love Sean Bean

It's true, and yes my husband knows it.  I love everything Sean Bean has done and have seen most of his movies (miss him on Game of Thrones).  Recently my Facebook book friend Michael posted this video compilation of Sean Bean deaths.  I watched it more than twice.

Then I found this.
Sean said it so it must be true.   Pinterest is blowing up with Pumpkin recipes and crafts, Daniela reminded me that Starbucks is serving its seasonal Pumpkin Spice Latte  (Sooooo yummy),
and last week I made Pumpkin Spice Mini Muffins.  Today I tackled Pumpkin Scones.  A perfect addition to my freezer breakfast/snack stash. The ingredients were simple and I was able to use up canned pumpkin left over from the muffins.  I especially love that I got to use the Indonesian cinnamon that my daughter-in-law  daughter Regan gave me.  It smells and tastes so much stronger that the stuff I had been using.
The recipe called for wet in one bowl and dry in another, then mix together.  Easy right?
The savory scones I made last week were done in wedges, so I opted for squares this time.
They came out looking fabulous even without the glazes.  But you must have glazes.
Powdered sugar and milk drizzled over top.
Oh my!
Then a spiced glaze of powdered sugar, milk, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves.
Alas, into the freezer they went to be enjoyed another day.  On the upside they will be fantastic for 9 breakfasts.  *Though the recipe called for half and half, I used what I had, 2% milk, and everything worked out fine.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Fridge Purge Soup

I have some big projects around the house that I REALLY want to do.  Some are small like framing a map of the state of Texas on cork board so Breck and I can place map pins on each of the State Parks we visit.  Another is buying 4 Adirondack chairs for my back porch.  A few other projects are a bit larger like putting in a deck and stairs and knocking out a wall to make a room larger (more on that another day).  In order to accomplish these goals I need to save a little money here and there to meet the expenses.

One way I have been doing this is with my big cooking days (see Yes. More Cooking and Now to Put My Feet Up).  My grocery bill has gone down dramatically as has my dining out budget.  However, this week I found I had a few stray veggies, cream left over from making Bacon Cheddar Green Onion Scones, and chicken from Crock Pot Sunday Night Chicken that were all going to go to waste if I didn't use them, and my Fridge Purge Soup was born.

Really this is all about the base and anything you have can be used.  Here's what I had slowly dying in the refrigerator.

1 large carrot
2 stalks of celery
2/3 green pepper
1 bunch green onions
1/4 red onion
1 yellow squash
1 zucchini
handful cherry tomatoes
3/4 bag frozen corn
2 cloves garlic
leftover chicken
1 1/3 cups heavy cream (can use milk, I just needed to get rid of the cream)
1 or so cup chicken broth
2/3 cup milk
6 Tablespoons butter, divided
1/4 cup flour
Salt and Pepper
2 teaspoons thyme (don't over do it or it will taste too earthy)
1 teaspoon Cayenne pepper (Tabasco or any other hot something can be used to give it a lift)

I melted 2 tablespoons of butter in a big pot and added all the veggies and garlic.  It took about 8 or 9 minutes to get the veggies a little soft.  Half the veggies than went into the blender (all the tomatoes go into the blender) and the other half in a bowl.

To the blender I added the chicken broth and frapped the heck out of it.  Back at the big pot, I added the last 4 tablespoons of butter, stirred until melted, and whipped in 1/4 cup of flour.  Stir, stir, stir until the flour is well blended.

Add a little of the cream or milk and stir a little more so there are no lumps.  Add the rest of the dairy, the veggies, the veggie puree, and some chopped left over chicken to the pot.  Add salt (it needs it), pepper, thyme, Cayenne or any other flavoring you would like tasting as you go.

Now I have more lunches to take to work over the next month, and I used up stuff that was just going to spoil.  Here is the math:  4 - 19.5 ounce soup lunches with stuff that was going to waste vs. 4 lunches out at about $5 each.

Yeah! One step closer to one of my projects.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Yes. More Cooking.

You may have noticed I have not been very good about keeping up the blog since school is back in session.  Sorry about that.  Hopefully I can get back into a good pattern of doing things that you may find interesting.  I did do another big cooking day, and though I took no photographs, I do have the links to the recipes I used.

18 Pumpkin Spice Mini Muffins
4 jars Apple Pie Oatmeal
12 Carrot Apple Whole Wheat Muffins
12 Bacon Cheddar and Green Onion Scones
4 jars Mandarin Orange Oatmeal

Chicken Salad Wraps (I used whole wheat tortillas and served whole, not sliced)
18 Mexican Egg Rolls  ( I did not fry.  I sprayed with Pam, baked at 425 for 9 minutes, turned, 9 more minutes.
4 Whole Wheat English Muffin Pizzas (No recipe, just the stuff you would expect on a pizza on an english muffin.)

4 Caprese Lasagna
2 Chicken Spaghetti (Since I cook for 2, this is really 4 meals.)
3 Pork Chops for the Crock Pot

I especially swear by the Pumpkin Spice Mini Muffins (they taste like doughnuts) and the Scones.  Actually the Mexican Egg Rolls served with salsa and sour cream were amazing and so were the Chicken Wraps.  Okay.  Everything has been wonderful.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Kolache Festival

My husband celebrated a birthday this weekend.  I wanted to do something different from the norm and found that a town near by was having a street festival.  Caldwell, Texas is about an hour drive from where we live, so we headed out first thing.

Entry was free (nice), and there were over 200 vendors selling clothes, candles, all kinds of goodies, and of course kolaches since it was called a Kolache Festival.

We bought several to bring home and freeze for breakfasts.  We even found one guy selling Texas Longhorn and Cowboy wall art.

The turkey legs smelled amazing on the grill.  Look at these guys!

You know you are in Texas when part of the festival is an antique tractor exhibit.  Yep.  Breck was especially happy to see they had an early model Cub Cadet.

They also had a cute little antique store in the town square.

And I do love photographing ghost walls.

After doing a little shopping, I found a shady spot on the courthouse lawn while Breck went and got lunch.

He looks a little proud of his findings, doesn't he?

Believe it or not, this is one potato.  It's cut in one long spiral ribbon, fried, and seasoned with salt and pepper.  Very wrong, and very delicious.  We couldn't even finish it all.

Did I mention he also splurged on a corn dog?  They always taste better at fairs and festivals washed down with an Arnold Palmer (50% tea, 50% lemonade).

Great way to spend his birthday.