Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Scrappy Quilted Potholders

Ever since I got my new sewing machine for Christmas (and even a few months before that), I've been sewing up a storm. Mostly home decor stuff and sadly I've been remiss about taking pictures, but I've been having a grand time. Did you know that a popular term for people who sew seems to be "sewist?" Not tailor, not seamstress, not sewer or even dressmaker. I found this interesting commentary in Threads Magazine and though there seems to be some controversy over the term among people who sew, it's definitely a ubiquitous word in the sewing community. I don't care much for it, however since I crochet, sew, and do papercrafts about the same based upon my crafting mood, it wouldn't much be fair to pick one. I do call myself a "scrappy hooker" in my profile blurb, but that just sounds cute. Anyway, back to the post at hand.

Since I've been sewing a fair bit and shopping for fabric even more (fabric is just as addictive as scrapbook paper!), I've accumulated a ton of scraps. This project put a few to good use. I got the idea and basic tutorial here, though I used both cotton batting and Insulbright to make them more protective where as she only uses batting. They're about 9" square.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Thank Goodness for Cookies

This day from hell is nearly at a close. Nearly, but not quite. The Toddler is screaming again, having awoken from a 30 minute power nap) but I'm off duty for at least the next 15 minutes due to yogurt-making, which is a temperature-sensitive process. Not exactly a break since I also have to take the trash can out, but I'll take what I can get.

Today started out wonderfully. Though the night was a little rough due to The Toddler coming into our bed (he's teething his last set of molars) and an infant middle-of-the-night feeding, I awoke around 8:00 a.m. feeling relatively energized. I cleaned the kitchen, which I had neglected the night before, and managed to fit every since dirty dish in the dishwasher! I know it sounds like a trivial thing to be excited about, but when I don't run the dishwasher daily often not all the dishes will fit the next morning. This morning I was lucky, likely since I'd made pizza and fajitas for our meals yesterday, both of which used leftovers. Not only did I have time to clean the kitchen, but I also whipped up a batch of these amazing cookies.
Then the day started to go to hell. First, I had an appointment that I'd called at 8:30 a.m to confirm but received no response show up at 10:17 a.m. We made the appointment three weeks ago and settled on a date but not a time. When she didn't contact me prior to today, I'd assumed she flaked entirely but just in case call this morning to make sure. Upon getting no response then, I relaxed and set about a lazy morning only to wind up answering the door in my pajamas and having to yank a very groggy husband out of bed. She also failed to apologize for being nearly 20 minutes late which further irked me. This basically unannounced appointment also thwarted our plans to take The Toddler to a farm/petting zoo which looked like it would have been a lot of fun.

This is the last week my husband will be on daytime shift work and have non-holiday weekdays off so I'm trying to make the most of his remaining time. Though our farm trip was spoiled, we decided to go out to lunch at our favorite bistro. It's in the Columbia Town Center right off of Lake Kittamaqundi. Lunch was great--best cream of crab I've had in Maryland. The Toddler had some of my husband's salmon--I love it that salmon is among the things on his picky foods list. My husband and I also shared a wonderful crab cake sandwich with loads of fresh fruit.

Though it was already past 2:00 p.m. and the Toddler's nap time was imminent, since it was a beautiful day and we were by the lake, my husband decided to roam about lakefront with The Toddler (there's a pathway that runs around the late) while the Baby I and checked out the brand new WholeFoods. Which experience was worse is a close call. Though The Toddler loves running about and was given free reign albeit on his kid leash, due to the time of day, the heat or maybe his teeth pain, he ran in spurts and stops and eventually melted. My husband had to carry him a fair ways back to the car. Meanwhile, The Baby and I had mediocre experience in the new WholeFoods which only worsened the longer I spent in the store. First, there seemed to be a shortage of employees on the floor to ask for assistance in locating things. Then I spent 10+ minutes in the checkout line with only two people ahead of me, each with less than 10 items in their carts! When it was finally my turn, I discovered the likely reason for the delay as the cashier didn't know (and couldn't figure out from her picture book) the code for sweet potatoes! Perhaps if I'd had an uncommon pepper or herb, but sweet potatoes?!!! After finally completing my purchase, my experience was further soured by coffee splattering over my cloth shopping bags when I drove the cart over this weird bump on the door's threshold. Then as I was standing just outside the store attempting to wipe up the spilled coffee, a parking lot attendant very aggressively offered to carry my bags to my car. I'm wiping coffee and he's grabbing my bags out of my cart telling me that he'll take my two bags (I had three, btw!) and I can carry my coffee. I had to emphatically decline his offer several times before he'd release my bags and go away. Perhaps he worked for tips and it was a slow day or perhaps it's the WholeFoods policy. Either way, his manner was quite offensive. Little did I realize that the likely reason for the parking lot guys is that there are NO cart returns! Suffice to say that while I was thrilled to find whole wheat couscous in the bulk bins and another source of cheap organic milk, I won't be returning to that store any time soon. My conclusion: just as one shouldn't buy a new product that's only been on the market for a week, one shouldn't go to a new store that's only been open for a week.

Though the happy buzz from a lovely lunch was muted now for all of us, my husband and I figured we'd get some quality free time once we returned home during The Toddler's nap. Haha, we were wrong. He.Wouldn't.Nap. The Toddler hasn't skipped his afternoon nap more than once or twice this year, but, sure enough, he did so today. Even on those few isolated occasions in the past where he didn't nap, though he was tired, he wasn't overly cranky. Not today. If he was by himself for too long, he melted. Either by screaming, tossing all of his books out of his room or destroying something, he demanded attention from one of us all afternoon and evening. Attempting him to tear himself away from watching Daddy play MarioKart for dinner resulted in a screaming fit. No, I didn't simply bring The Toddler to the table--the game was paused and both he and Daddy came upstairs. But since the game wasn't over, The Toddler had a fit. Finally, he calmed down and ate a few bites of dinner but that was it. He's now fallen asleep several times since we went upstairs at 8:00 p.m. but it's now after 11:00 p.m. and I just heard him up screaming again.
As I savor the final crumbs of my fifth cookie of the evening, I guess it's my turn to go check on him. It's got to be teething-related as the last set of molars just broke through his gums. I feel really bad for the little guy, but this craziness has to end. Thank goodness for cookies.

Dark Chocolate Cookies

I've been looking for a dark chocolate cookie for some time now and these are pretty darn great. This recipe comes from Dessert Now, Dinner Later and is actually styled "Dark Chocolate Cookies and Cream Cookies" but since I was mainly looking for a dark chocolate base, I decided to omit the chocolate chips and candy bar pieces and tossed in some peanut butter chips. Mid-toss of the peanut butter chips, I wondered how just a plain chocolate dough cookie would taste. Thus, I halved the amount of chips and did a less than thorough job stirring so some cookies have lots of chips and others had practically none. The results were lovely even the bites with no chips at all. In the future, I intend to try this recipe with other flavors of chips (e.g. dark chocolate or coffee) and maybe some walnuts. Don't worry, the amount of chips listed below is double what I used and should be adequate to have multiple chips per cookie. If you're a fan of chewy cookies, these are for you. Though they rose fairly high, due to a good amount of butter, they collapse into near-flat cookies after cooking. Though purists and the original recipe recommend using unsalted butter, I very much enjoyed the taste of the extra salt in contrast to the sweet cookie.

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Dark Chocolate Cookies
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup white whole wheat flour (or all purpose)
1/2 cup cocoa powder (I used King Arthur's double chocolate cocoa powder)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup any flavor chips and/or nuts (e.g. peanut butter, dark chocolate, cappuccino, walnuts,etc)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray and flour cookie sheets or cover with parchment paper.

With mixer or hand beater cream together butter and sugars. Add in egg and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.

With the mixer on low, gradually add dry mixture to wet and beat until well-combined.

Gently stir in chips, nuts, etc.

Drop rounded balls of dough with 1" scoop onto prepared pan, leaving at least two inches space in between.

Bake 10 minutes. Allow cookies to rest on sheet for 3 to 5 minutes before transferring onto wire rack to cool completely. (Note: cookies will be poufy when they are removed from the oven but will quickly fall. This is normal and does not affect the tenderness of the cookie.)

Makes about 3 dozen 2" cookies.

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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Kale Bacon Shallot Quiche (Dough Recipe Included)

I really need to make quiche more often. It's so yummy and can be loaded with good-for-you things such as dark leafy greens. Since the produce box comes with a dozen eggs, I've been looking for interesting ways to use them up each week and naturally quiche came to mind. This recipe actually doesn't use as many eggs as other recipes which would make it lighter but for the buttery crust from Martha Stewart that I use. I started with this recipe from Tracey's Culinary Adventures, which I made for the first time in the fall, and then modified it with my own ingredients.

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 photo kalemushroomquiche1.jpg Kale Bacon Shallot Quiche

Quich dough (1 recipe makes enough for two 9" pies)
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups unsalted butter, cut into small cubes and keep cold
1/4 - 1/2 cup ice water

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse flour and salt. Add the butter, and pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

With the machine running, add the ice water in a slow, steady stream, just until the dough holds together without being wet or sticky. This should take less than 30 seconds. It should hold its shape and not be too crumbly. If the dough is crumbly, add more water 1 tablespoon at a time. Test by squeezing a small amount of the dough together; if it is still too crumbly, add a bit more water, 1 tablespoon at a time.

Divide dough in half and flatten into a disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight. The dough can be frozen for up to 1 month; thaw overnight in the refrigerator before using.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll dough the desired thickness and place in well-greased tart pan. Cover completely with foil or parchment paper and fill center with pie beads or uncooked beans. Par-bake the crust for 20 minutes. Remove foil or parchment paper carefully as beads will be very hot.

2 shallots, chopped
4 slices bacon, if desired
3/4 cup milk
4 eggs
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup cooked kale
olive oil, salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cook bacon until crisp. Crumble and set aside. Saute shallots in a little olive oil until golden brown. In a medium bowl, mix together shallots, bacon, and kale. Spread in an even layer into prepared crust and sprinkle with majority of cheese.

In a small bowl, whisk together eggs and milk until well-blended. Pour over kale bacon shallot mixture. Top with remaining cheese.

Bake for 30-40 minutes until set.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Roasted Veggie and Black Bean Burritos

I don't have any pictures of these because they disappear far too quickly. I came across this recipe back in early May when I was prepping for baby #2's arrival. I whipped up a dozen for the freezer and have since made the recipe two or three more times. They are delicious and nutritious! I omitted jalepenos and cilantro from the original recipe because I didn't have any on hand and just kept doing so because they were so tasty. I imagine you could substitute a variety of root veggies for the sweet potatoes or any veggies that go well with the spice palate. I started out following the recipe's heating instructions but then got lazy and just went with the microwave. Occasionally, I'll pop them under the broiler for a couple minutes to crisp up, but most of the time I devour them as soon as they're cool enough to eat.

Roasted Veggie and Black Bean Burritos

2 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/2" cubes
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 red onion, diced
Olive oil, about 2 tsp
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
salt and pepper, to taste
1 can (15 oz) black beans drained and rinsed
2 teaspoons lime juice (also omit if I don't have on hand)
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
6-10 burrito-sized tortillas, whole wheat preferred

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Toss veggies in olive oil and season with spices. Place in a large baking dish or sheet pan and roast for 20 minutes, tossing around halfway through. Let cool.

In a medium bowl toss roasted veggies with black beans and lime juice. (This is also where you'd add a handful of chopped cilantro, if using.) Set up an assembly line of burrito, black bean/veggie filling, and cheese.

If desired, warm tortillas first. Add 2-3 heaping tablespoons to the center of each wrap and top with shredded cheese. Fold over bottom of tortilla, tuck in sides, and roll closed.

[At this point, I wrap each burrito in foil and freeze them about 6 per gallon-size bag.]

To heat, you have a couple options:

1. Bake, seam-side down in a baking dish or on a sheet pan in 375 degree oven for about 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.

2. Microwave for 3-5 minutes until center is heated through. To crisp them up, stick under the broiler for 2-3 minutes or in a hot skillet.

Makes 6-10 burritos.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Chocolate Raspberry Banana Bread

Another perk about the CSA I'm participating in is that in addition to the fruits and veggies, each week I get a dozen fresh eggs and bread item made with locally milled flours. When I signed up for the CSA, I was initially ho-hum about the bread item as I bake my own with my trusty breadmaker. Boy, was I wrong! The breads have been super--even the ordinary breads. The more interesting ones such as the blueberry cornbread I replicated last month have been outstanding! This month, I'm on the hunt for a chocolate raspberry bread that I picked up with my CSA share a couple of weeks ago. We gobbled it down in less than 2 days. This recipe from Sally's Baking Addiction comes close in that it's delicious and disappeared in no time flat, but it's definitely a banana bread variation and the original was not. In the future, I might try to adapt this recipe to remove the banana but I'll mostly likely just keep looking. In the meantime, enjoy!

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Chocolate Raspberry Banana Bread
2 cups white whole wheat flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
4 tablespoons butter, softened
2 large eggs
1.5 cups mashed ripe banana (about 3 bananas)
1/3 cup plain yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup dark chocolate chips
1 cup halved raspberries (fresh or frozen)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare 1-2 loaf pans. (I used two. Original recipe calls for only one pan and a longer baking time.)

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside. In a separate large bowl, beat the sugar and butter until well blended. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the mashed banana, yogurt, and vanilla.

Slowly add dry ingredients until just combined. Gently fold in the chocolate chips and raspberries.

Pour into prepared pan(s). Bake 30-40 minutes if using two pans, 50 to 60 minutes if using one or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 15 minutes in the pan on a wire rack, then remove from pan to the wire rack and cool completely.

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Eggplant, Tomato, Garlic, Spinach Saute

As I mentioned last month, this summer I'm participating in a CSA and get a weekly produce selection. What I'm loving about it is eating what's in season and locally grown. If I'm left to my own devices, veggie-wise we'd pretty much eat the same things year-round: zucchini, broccoli, spinach, lettuces, sweet potatoes, peppers, mushrooms, carrots, and potatoes. Not a whole lot variation would happen unless I wanted to make a particular recipe or had a random craving. To some that may be a pretty broad selection, but trust me it gets pretty boring if you're eating your 2-3 veggies per day as we try to do. It's also can be quite expensive to eat produce that's not in season, especially if you're also trying to eat organic. To make a long story short, I love that each week's selection is different (yes, there's some overlap, but it's never the same week to week). It forces me to try new combinations and sometimes eat a lot of things I wouldn't normally purchase in efforts to use all the produce before it spoils or the next week rolls around.

This recipe came from an abundance of tomatoes and eggplant. Ironically, the recipe uses cherry tomatoes which I purchased at Trader Joe's, but I likely had tomatoes on the brain since I've been overwhelmed with an abundance of regular tomatoes in my weekly selection. You could no doubt use regular tomatoes in this recipe, though cherry tomatoes hold their shape well during the cooking process. Inspired by this recipe at Real Simple I had intended to serve it over pasta. Then I started nibbling from the pan and before I knew it, I'd eaten the entire dish sans pasta! Granted, I used a smallish eggplant, but together with the tomatoes and spinach it filled a nine inch sauce pan! I had no idea browning the eggplant in a saucepan would produce a buttery flavor that I just could not get enough of! I meant to add the mozzarella, but forgot and didn't miss it as this dish is too tasty on its own. I recommend serving this with a nice hunk of crusty bread or over pasta (so as stretch it to feed more than a single person :). Without further ago, here's the recipe:

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Eggplant, Tomato, Garlic, Spinach Saute
1 medium eggplant, sliced into 1 x 1/2" pieces
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 lb cherry tomatoes, halved
2 c baby spinach
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper, if desired
salt and pepper
olive oil

Saute the eggplant in olive oil until golden brown, 8-10 minutes. Add tomatoes, garlic, crushed red pepper (if using, I omitted) and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the tomatoes are tender, 2-3 minutes. Stir in spinach and cook until wilted. Adjust seasonings.

I enjoyed this both piping hot and at room temperature.