Archive | October, 2006

Alix’s Needle Holder

29 Oct

When I gave Vera a knitting needle holder for her birthday back in May, I told Alix I’d make her one, too. Of course, it’s been several months since Alix’s birthday and all sorts of things have gotten in the way, but now it’s finally done!

In my quest to perfect my needle holder pattern, I’ve been taking notes and photos on the various stages. Quick digression: my digital camera is one of the best purchases I’ve made. I use it so much more than I thought I would.

I sewed on the ribbon ties this morning and hemmed the edges. I rolled in the edges and did a modified (read “cheater”) mitered corner. I think it turned out pretty well! And I’m only about three months late for Alix’s birthday!
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I’m thinking of making some more of these to get through my fabric stash (which is sizable), then maybe selling the finished products and the pattern on Etsy.com.

Stitchin’ for the Kitchen

28 Oct

I recently wrote up a bunch of blog entries for writing samples for YumSugar, and I can’t believe I forgot to write up one of my new obsessions: hostess aprons. It all started when I saw that a cool citrus, red, and aquamarine striped apron was one of the subscription premiums for Everyday Food (yes, it is why I bit the bullet and subscribed, yes, I did have to ask them to send it to me, and yes, I am glad I have the subscription).

But then I saw the Kitsch’n’Glam aprons at a car wash gift store (yes, really) and had to buy one for my friend Kerry’s birthday. They’re reversable AND many styles come with matching oven mitts.
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And in the Nov. 2006 issue of Lucky, they talk about Jessie Steele aprons. She has some that look like beautiful 50s day dresses, in pretty florals. And of course, one in a skull pattern.
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I’ve had this sewing pattern for a vintagey apron, with rows and rows of colored rick-rack. Someday I’ll sew it up.

Five Easy Meals for One Busy Girl

20 Oct

When you�re running around, you need good fuel to keep yourself from getting run down. Next time your schedule prevents you from cooking, try this weeknight meal plan.

Monday
– Grilled salmon. Grill a 5-6 oz. steak for about 5 mins. on an electric or outdoors grill.
– Mixed green salad. Mix half a 5 oz. bag of mixed greens with the other salad veggies of your choice (bell peppers, avocado, tomatoes, etc.). Toss with 1 tbsp. olive oil, a splash of balsamic vinegar, and a dash of salt and pepper.

Tuesday
Sausage, pepper, and onion hoagies. From Rachael Ray’s 30-Minute Meals on the Food Network.
– Serve with sweet potato or regular potato oven fries. Cut two potatotes in 1/4″ sticks, toss with 1 tbsp. olive oil and a dash of salt and pepper. Bake at 500 degrees for about 20 minutes.

Wednesday
– Sesame-ginger chicken with steamed veggies and brown rice. Coat a skinless chicken thigh with a mixture of 1 1/2 tsp olive oil, 1/2 tsp sesame oil and 1 tsp minced fresh ginger. Sprinkle with 1 tsp sesame seeds. Wrap in aluminum foil and bake at 400� for 20 minutes. Unwrap and bake 25 minutes more. Serve with 1 cup brown rice tossed with 1 tbsp toasted pine nuts, and 2 cups steamed broccoli or cauliflower flowerets (or a mix) tossed in 1 tsp fresh lemon juice and a dash of soy sauce.
(Recipe from Self magazine’s Reach Your Goals meal plan.

Thursday
– Veggie stir-fry and soba noodles. Heat up a wok or fry pan, then add 1 tbsp. of cooking oil. Toss in half a chopped onion and cook until it starts to soften. Add one or two chopped garlic cloves, cook for 1 minute. Add in the veggies of your choice in order of softness: harder vegetables like broccoli go in first, soft foods like tomatoes go in last. Let each veggie cook for a few minutes (about 2) before adding the next one. Serve with buckwheat soba (cooks much faster than rice!) and soy sauce.

Friday
– Top a premade pizza crust with a thick tomato sauce, grated mozzarella, and the veggie and meat toppings of your choice. Pop into the oven, following the directions on the crust. Serve with an easy mixed-greens salad.

Last-Minute Party Requires Last-Minute Food

20 Oct

You did it again–only a few weeks before C-Day and you still have to finish that scarf for Aunt Mary, get your cards in the mail, or wrap those last-minute gifts. Why not invite your friends and their unfinished projects over for a late-afternoon Finish-It party?

Keep the food simple, handheld, and ungreasy so everyone can have a great time, get everything done, and not leave any stains on their work! Heavy beers, like stouts and porters, will warm up your guests with the same smooth drinkability as hot chocolate. They also pair really well with cheeses, especially creamy, salty cheeses and ones with slightly caramel overtones.

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Photo from igourmet.com.

Beer

  • Guinness. Smooth, mild, and creamy, the standard-bearer stout is very drinkable. Pour the glass halfway full first, let the head settle, then pour the rest in. For the real Irish flair, serve it just a bit cooler than room temperature.
  • Bridgeport Black Strap Stout. Made with a touch of molasses, this stout has a hint of tangy sweetness.
  • Deschutes Black Butte Porter. The rich flavor and chocolate overtones are nicely balanced by the lighter body of this porter.

Cheese

  • Goat cheese. Try an aged goat cheese, like Garroxta.
  • Gruyere, for its slightly nutty taste and semi-soft texture.
  • Gouda. Aged Gouda has some caramel notes that nicely compliment the chocolate flavors in the beers.

Extras

  • Serve the cheese with some hearty bread and fruit to lighten up the meal. Thinly-sliced apples and pears and seedless grapes will be a nice touch.

Martini Pitcher: Instant Elegance

20 Oct

Nothing says retro cool like a martini pitcher. More than the vintage cocktail shakers, martini pitchers prove that you�re committed to the cocktail lifestyle. Tall, narrow, and elegant, with a heavy glass stirrer, they can be used to serve any cool drink, from mint juleps to lemonade, and they make serving mixed drinks a (sea)breeze.

Try these:
Smoked glass from Winewares.com
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Kate Spade’s barware collection
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Mikasa fun polka-dot pitcher
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The Great Pumpkin (Tartlets)

16 Oct

The best issue of MSL, by far, is the October issue. The Good (and Bad) Things always have amazingly creepy and easy things you can do for Halloween decorations, and the rest of the issue is just packed with fun ideas. Their staff must live for that issue. I especially love it because it follows the decorating issue, which is my least favorite.

Since they’re running the 15 Years of… series this year, the October issue had 15 Years of Pumpkin ideas. When I saw the jack-o-lantern pumpkin tartlets, I knew I had to make them. So here’s my rundown.

Sunday morning (11 am-noon): Made the dough. Making dough in a mini-Cuisinart is far better than making dough without a mini-Cuisinart, but it is far more labor-intensive than using a full-size food processor. After mixing the dough in about six batches (and ending up with some sizable butter lumps–possibly because I was chatting on the phone while cutting the butter), it was blended into a coarse meal, held together with ice water, and ready to be formed into discs and put into the fridge for two hours.

Sunday afternoon (1:45 am): Realized that everyone was supposed to be at my house in 15 mins to start knitting. Abandoned plans to make the tartlets for the Sunday knitters and instead make them for the Monday knitters.

Monday morning (7:45-8:20 am): Roll out dough. The recipe called for two 1/8″-thick 6″ diameter circles of dough. Put one in, chill for 30 mins, put the other in, chill for 30 mins. By the time I rolled out the second round of 6 circles and cut out all the jack-o-lantern features, it had been about 30 mins. Or as close enough as I was going to wait. I’m hoping the two layers will make the crust extra flakey. We’ll see.

Monday afternoon (4:00-5:30 pm): After getting excused from jury duty, I went home and made the filling, which was easy peasey and very creamy (possibly because of the half cup of cream). Baked the tartlets, baked the features, and let it all cool.

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Monday evening (5:55-6:00 pm): Put the faces on the pumpkin tartlets! Spooky and tasty! Well, I’ll post the stitch bitchers’ feedback after we eat them tonight.

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Final analysis: Like anything involving dough that has to chill for 2 hours, it’s better to make this a multi-day project. My original plan of making the dough Friday night would have been perfect. Baking just doesn’t work as well when you rush it, and knowing that I had limited time Sunday morning didn’t help the dough.

I cooked the tartlets a bit longer than the recipe called for (about 33 mins) and wish I had cooked the features a little less than the recipe called for (next time, I’d try 7 mins).

One strange thing, though. The recipe said “makes 12 tartlets,” yet it only called for 6 tart pans. I only made 6, and I probably had enough leftover dough and filling for about three more.

Addendum: The tartlets were a huge hit. The crust wasn’t quite as crispy as I hoped it would be. In retrospect, I should have rolled the dough out a bit thinner (I knew that I hadn’t rolled it out quite thin enough). The filling was really flavorful and the perfect texture. Sometimes pumpkin pies are too–pureed or something for me. I just don’t like the texture of the pumpkin. But this filling was great, and I wouldn’t hesitate to make this recipe again.

After a heavy meal (like the yummy herbed spaetzle Annie made and Katie’s delicious salad with avocado), I recommend limiting yourself to half a tartlet and drinking a glass of milk with it. Perfect.