Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Sensational Soup for Dinner {Gail}

It was time tonight for me to make my first soup from 300 Sensational Soups by Deeds and Snyder as part of Samantha’s and my project to make all the soups from the book … over the next 3 years. That’s a lot of soup, but we all love soup!

African Peanut Soup,
just a bit spicy to battle the winter chill.
... and no, this picture isn't that creative, but
I love using my snowflake dishes during the cold months!

How is making soup about creativity, you say? I say, how is following a recipe for a new combination of ingredients any different from following a pattern for a crocheted scarf? We love to make things by hand and from scratch, and whether we get guidance or total direction from a pattern or a recipe, or think up something totally original ourselves, we are sure to put our creative twist on it in some way.

Since these recipes are so seemingly … perfect (!) we will get creative with side dishes, presentations, and 2nd-go adaptations. You can’t keep the Creative down in we2!

And don’t worry about us for the summer months – this book has dessert soups, fruit soups, cold soups, plus our summers here in Western Washington State are anything but long heated months of sun. We usually have spells of nice balmy weather during July, August and most of September though, so that’s when we’ll take advantage of those cold refreshing soups. (Plus we can cook, sample, and freeze for winter meals.) Right now, we are appreciating these hearty warming choices in our typical 40 degrees and rain monotony (with rare snowstorms) of October through March.

After I received this book in the mail, before I even did more than flip the pages, I handed it to my husband and said, “Pick one to make next week.” He wandered up to me a few minutes later and handed me the open book. If I’d seen this title before I gave him the book, I could have predicted it would be his choice! He picked African Peanut Soup.

He has a love for a local restaurant’s African Peanut Soup, but it is different from this recipe. I thought he’d be disappointed once we got this made because does not have rice but sweet potatoes; that’s a big difference.
Just a few of the tasty ingredients in African Peanut Soup.
Also: ground turkey, chunky peanut butter, ginger, tomatoes.
I'm not sure what makes Muchi curry powder unique, but it tasted great in this recipe!
Hubby chopped and measured. I stood at the stove and called for ingredients like a good master chef ;) Our package of ground turkey was 1.25 lbs, and the recipe only called for 1 lb but we put it all in anyway. We got this soup put together pretty quickly – I love family teamwork! It doesn’t take long at the stove – about 10 minutes of browning and sautéing, then waiting to turn down the heat after most of the ingredients come to a simmer; about 10 minutes later you add the rest of everything and simmer for another 20 minutes.

Half a pot of African Peanut Soup left
for the freezer, or for sharing!
 Well, hubby loved it and so did we! Since there are only three of us to cook for in this house anymore :( we still have plenty of leftovers. I may send some to Sam (in the same bowl I brought some of her salmon soup home for her dad last week – this may become a well-traveled bowl!)

You could put this together easily after a busy day if you took 15 minutes ahead of time to measure spices and chop sweet potato, onion, garlic and ginger. Set the 2 canned ingredients beside the can opener, collect everything else in one spot in the frig, and set out the pan on the stove. Ready!

Did I mention that this soup is full of nice lean ground turkey? Do you know that sweet potatoes are full of antioxidants and healthy fiber? This soup is not only delicious; it is good for you, too! Perfect…

So tasty!
Our opinions of this cookbook are our own and unsolicited, just so you know. Still, we feel everyone who likes soup would appreciate this cookbook!


Friday, January 27, 2012

TAST Week 4 Cretan Stitch {Gail}

Now I'm starting to feel a little crazy! Like a Crazy Quilter, that is! I enjoyed learning this stitch -- between it and the feather stitch I finally feel like I can begin doing some authentic CQ seam treatments. YAY! Then my daughter's and my blog here can really go "crazy" with everything from soup (to crochet to scrapbooking to costumes) to... well, nuts if I decide to incorporate them in a CQ block. (hopefully someone remembers that saying, from soup to nuts?)

Once I did small samples of both open and closed Cretan Stitch, I was compelled to attempt something organic. Looking at various examples on the internet was so inspiring, and discussions of this stitch always mentioned leaves. So, I sketched then I stitched. Here are my first attempts on my doodle cloth.

I need practice, and/or possibly just different fabric, to do a better job spacing my stitches on the leaf. (click to enlarge) 
I started on the left, can you tell? ;)

Happy Stitching!

Sensational Soups! {Sam}

Soup, soup, and more SOUP!  That is what the agenda is for the next three years!  Three years?!  Yup, Mom and I are going Julie&Julia style and going to make every recipe out of this awesome cookbook we found: 300 Sensational Soups. However, if you’ve seen that movie, we aren’t quite as crazy as Julie was.  In order to complete her challenge she had to make 524 recipes in one year!  This cookbook only has 300 recipes in it and we want some freedom SO… our goal:  Each of us makes 1 soup a week out of the cookbook for the next three years!  In other words, ALL of the soups will be made by one of us.

What prompted this:  Well…
Mom bought cookbook.
I borrowed cookbook.
I made a soup from it and invited Mom and brother up to share.
We decided we had to try them all!

The first one that prompted this decision: Curried Salmon Soup in Coconut Stock

The following is a little glimpse through pictures of how the prep went for the soup and the salad Mom made to accompany it!
Aaron prepped the salmon he caught a few months ago and froze for us.
Jicama being sliced for the salad
Cilantro, jalapeno slices, cucumber, mango…. Yummmm.
First up in the pan: onions, green onions, garlic, ginger!
Sauté.  PS… love my colorful melamine spoons!
Add curry powder, we used spicy curry powder!

Next in the pan: Sweet potato and chicken stock!

Meanwhile, salad is prepped in the bowl!
Soup gets some coconut milk and baby corn.
Salad gets grated ginger, fresh squeezed lime, and pressed garlic. 
Look at all those kitchen tools at work!
Cubed salmon goes into the pot next!
And tadaaaa!  SOUP!  And delicious soup, garnished with cilantro and lime!  We also served it with a little bowl of rice.  Wishing I had some leftovers right about now.
The salad was delicious too, and the mango a perfect complement to this curry soup!
1 soup down, 299 left to make!  We will be blogging about these soups frequently, so if you want to follow along make sure you pick up the cookbook!  It is fairly cheap through amazon.  And we will test them all for you so you know which ones are the best!  Happy Cooking!


Saturday, January 21, 2012

RE: Pot Pourri of Crafting {Sam}

Apparently when I read the post my Mom wrote a few days ago I missed the little message to me at the bottom!  SO...

Yes, Mom, if I make some soup from your cookbook I will save you some!  In fact, its in my plan for today to menu plan for next week and go grocery shopping now that the roads are driveable!  As they have not been for the last few days! (See the picture of my car below)

Yay!  Snow!

To answer the other question... "What did I work on?"  I can only really show you a glimpse as it is a gift and she hasn't seen it yet!  When she does I will post more about it!

Embelishment flower!

Short and Sweet today, as I need to go get ready for my hubby to come home (he's been gone for three weeks in China)!  Will post more on soups and crafting soon!!


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

not-so-Wordless Wednesday: TAST Wk 3 Feather Stitch {Gail}

I just can't do it. Wordless isn't me, especially for something that's not as obvious as it seems!

I've never done feather stitch before since it never showed up in any of the kits I did as a kid, and I haven't jumped into CQ until now. I never felt the need to use it in any other creations so I never bothered to learn it.

Feather stitch; geometrically inclined me likes the random, free-form technique a lot!
I started with the basics on the left, then veered the heavy stitching off to the right by making the left-most feather lopsided. After a few more stitches, I abandoned the Aida grid and curved it around and tapered it down. Not so hard!

I wanted to fill in some empty space so the photo didn't look so blank, so I started filling the space in the upper left with sideways stitching. When I got to one end, I stitched back the other way keeping the stitches one square away from previous work. I really liked the fill! The third and fourth rows are offset by 2 squares. I really like my nested feather stitches best! (nest, feather HA!)

Then I speed-stitched the white with no precision, just to see what it would look like. Funnily, I can see myself using this organic style most -- no marking, no worries!

I'm already seeing many ways to get creative with this aside from wide borders or branchy plants.

Happy Stitching! Gail

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Pot Pourri of Crafting on a Snowy Day {Gail}

Snow in Western Washington State
not common; enough to stick is rare.
I love snow!!!
Yesterday I went to Sam’s house for the day, for a variety of reasons. Since I was travelling there, we decided to spend the rest of the day crafting – always a good choice! I left home armed with a knitting project I am working on. Actually, two. One is boring, and one needs my hands to be smoother than they are right now (time to concentrate on hand cream.) I also brought yarn to make a toddler hat that I can finish in a couple hours. I also brought a new cookbook to look through; got it for Christmas but only a few days ago! I brought some doodle paper, and my New Year’s Day Tote Bag, for which I finally purchased the orange buttons – they needed stitching on, plus I had rick-rack to make a flower for extra fun on the bag. I certainly could have kept busy, but aside from doodling there weren’t a lot of creative avenues there.

I had to stop at The fabric and craft store on my way, and while I was there I decided everything I had with me was just not going to do. Not for a whole day! Therefore, I made the well-thought-out, logical decision ;) to pick up a very modest assortment of NEW items for a NEW project to work on. Um, yeah, like I need a new project. Or more supplies. It must be the microscopic fibers floating in the air of these stores that interfere with all common sense I have. Anyway, I actually did a great job of choosing only what I needed for a little crazy quilt block to practice stitching on, plus I had a slew of coupons that needed using up, so it ended up costing very little.

… “costing very little” is relative, of course. I spent about $10-12. The actual project, finished, will use far less than 10% of everything I bought, but my stash of Crazy Quilting threads is expanded, I actually did need another embroidery hoop, and a few more fat quarters of fabric make so little difference in my stash that they’re practically invisible! That’s my shopping “after-action debriefing” (aka justification.)

Even though it was a snowy day and I had snowflakes on the brain, I found a bird print fabric that just sang of spring to me. (you'll see it below, hang in there) The colors are exciting. I could just see a tiny CQ block featuring one happy little birdie! But arriving at Sam’s, I got busy and put the embellishments on my NY bag so I could call it finished finally. Three buttons sewn on, then playing with rick-rack to create a frilly backing for the 4th button took a while. I am really happy with the results! Then I realized I still needed to take the top edge of the bag back to the sewing machine for that brown zigzag topstitching. As soon as I post this, that’s my next task! By the time you read this, the bag will be done!

Next, I knit on the boring project for a while: a scarf made in 1x1 rib (knit one, purl one for you non-knitters) from a “star-of-the-show” yarn on very large needles. To make sure the yarn can show its stuff and the scarf is drapey, I am working this project very loosely. One of the needles fell out. The knitting started to come apart… but I am NOT starting this scarf over (again.) So I hung in there and fixed it, then followed my self-imposed policy of knitting a while longer after fixing a problem; it’s like getting back on the horse after you fall off – If I leave a project with frustration, I’m likely to ignore it for a long time. After 2 more rows (woot – 28 stitches… ) I put it down and got out my new stuff! The feeling was akin to being excused to recess in first grade – whooo hoo, let’s go play!

I fiddled around with the fabrics, decided the little CQ block would be a card front, Sam cut a window into a piece of adhesive backed paper for me, I took a snapshot of my arrangement.
Basted patches in the hoop;
blanket stitching along one seam to start.

Then I started snipping and basting. Soon I had a CQ block in the hoop ready to stitch on. After one row of blanket stitching we decided to go to dinner and then I had to head home before travelling got ugly. But still, I definitely had the thrill of creating something fresh from those fabrics! You’ll see the finished block in a few days. Really!

She still has my new soup cookbook. That had to be said, so it is on the record. I want it back. Sam, if you make something from it before I do, then you must share at least one serving for a tasting! OK? OK! Your mommy says so.

So, Sam, what did YOU work on?

Happy January, all! If you are a stitcher, happy stitching!


Saturday, January 7, 2012

Homemade Tomato Soup {Sam}

One of my personal goals for the year is to make healthier food and to have it more readily available.  Making double batches of things and then freezing them for later is one way I am going to accomplish it.  This way on those nights when nobody feels like cooking, there is still something healthy to pull out of the freezer and heat up instead of either resorting to eating out or eating chicken strips and egg rolls.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy chicken strips and egg rolls, but I don’t want them every night! 

This week I decided to make some homemade tomato soup!  Soup is perfect for winter time and healthy and goes great with a turkey-cheddar Panini if I feel so inclined!  After doing some research on various recipes I decided on a recipe from Two Peas and Their Pod.  I absolutely love this food blog, and highly recommend it for some great recipes!!  Everything I have tried so far has been a hit!  I found this recipe on their 50 Healthy Recipes to Kick off 2012 list and in anticipation of its greatness bought enough ingredients to double the batch and freeze some for later!  I am SO glad I did!!

For the actual recipe, visit here: Roasted Tomato Basil Soup

Here are the basics of how I did it: 

Ingredients (Minus Tomatoes because they were already roasting in the oven)

Roasted Tomatoes, The recipe said to roast them for 45 minutes, but I think I left them in there for about an hour, maybe even 1hour and 15minutes.  Partly because I got distracted with something else, partly because they just didn’t seem roasted enough to me. 

Cooking the onions for a few minutes until tender… See, they are starting to turn more translucent!

Added red pepper flakes and garlic!!  Side note – wish I had measured so I could recreate next time, but I added a few more red pepper flakes than they called for (maybe double, maybe a little less than double), but it was the perfect amount of spicy heat in the end!!

After adding the vegetable stock, basil and diced tomatoes.

Finished roasted tomatoes!

Everything is in the pot… I can’t even begin to describe the smell in my house at this point, but it was MAGNIFI-SCENT!  ;)

After letting everything cook together for another 30minutes.

Used my trusty Immersion Blender, and voila!!  Soup!!

See all the little flecks of basil!  Oh delicious basil, I couldn’t live without your tasty-ness!  J

Like I said, perfect with a turkey-cheddar Panini!  Had the same exact thing for lunch the next day too!

The double batch I made was enough for dinner and lunch for two (not huge bowls), and then I separated the rest into six bags and froze them!  So in all, this doubled recipe will create the center of 8 meals total!  That is definitely a win in my book!  And I’m so looking forward to the next time I don’t feel like cooking!  ;)


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Monday, January 2, 2012

Sewing on New Year's Day {Gail}

I made a tote bag today, New Year’s Day 2012. I read of someone’s tradition that sewing a complete project on the first day of the year will bring you good luck with your sewing all year long. I liked it, so I adopted it!

I decided a tote bag – I love bags! – would be just the ticket. I’m always dragging my latest magazines, book purchases, puzzle magazines, tablets for lists, and graph paper for dreaming up projects… (aah, graph paper…) whenever I go even the smallest trip or am a passenger.  Having a bag just for these makes a lot of sense.

This project also kick started my sewing for the Stash Buster Contest at patternreview.com. Since one of my main 2012 NY Resolutions is “To sew and quilt productively,” this is the perfect contest for me right now!
I certainly have a stash to work on! (Quiet, daughter Sam!!)

I dove into that stash and found a piece of lightweight canvas fabric that feeds my odd-but-typical January color attraction: neon greens and oranges. it also has brown, pink, a golden tan, and light orange. For the lining, I found a piece of tightly woven quilting cotton in a softer green with hints of the main fabric colors throughout. Then I chose the accent fabric for the bottom of the tote bag, the darkest, most neutral color: milk chocolate in a twill I picked up on clearance last year. I knew I had some brown cotton webbing for the handles, and was able to find that, as well! (whew!)

My fabric choices: a colorful print, brown accent, muted calm lining, and brown cotton webbing for straps.
As I've mentioned before, I don’t use patterns for basic tote bags any more. The engineer in me finds it easier to start with the question, “What do I want to carry in this bag?” I then determine the measurements of the bag and work backward. Here is my worksheet from today, and a bit of a tutorial follows. Shouldn’t be too hard to decipher if you want to do things this way yourself!

My tote worksheet for this project.
Click to make it bigger. SA = seam allowance.
At the lower right, you'll see a note about shortening the lining.
I chopped off 2" before sewing it in. Just so ya know.

I then cut the fabric. A big cutting mat and 60mm rotary cutter makes cutting out bags very accurate and quick. By placing the mat at the end of my big table, I can walk around 3 sides to cut – no turning the mat or the fabric.

Cutting complete. Now...

... a bit of dessert before hitting the sewing machine.
Homemade gingerbread, whipped cream, and chopped crystallized ginger. Mmmmm!
I began sewing. The actual stitching of the tote bag goes fairly quickly if you don’t have to figure it out from scratch. Here’s my list:

1. Do I want pockets in the lining? Put them on first. I didn’t, but then I did after I spotted a nice curvy scrap left from cutting out the accent fabric! So much for keeping it simple!  I turned it into a raw edge appliqué pocket and placed it fairly high on the lining. I will put an accent button along the top edge 3/4 off-center just to keep the pocket from sagging open.

Pocket in the lining, from a scrap.
Raw edge applique style.
 2. Stitch the bottom and both sides of the lining. Leave a 4”-6” opening in the SIDE of the lining for turning the assembled bag right side out near the end. Backstitch at both ends of this opening.
3. Do I want a pocket(s) on the outside of the bag? If so, create pocket and baste it in place so the stitching of the bottom fabric and straps will end up holding it in place. I skipped this.
4. Apply the accent fabric / bottom reinforcement. I just turned under 1/2” of the brown, pinned it onto the bottom edge of the main fabric panels, and topstitched it with the green thread I was already using. I love contrast top stitching! I basted across the bottom edge, too.

Best color representation!
Adding the accent fabric.

Topstitching the accent fabric down.

5. Sew the main fabric front and back together along the bottom and apply a continuous handle strap OR apply a strap to each of the front and back, then sew the bottom together. I came up a little short on webbing length, so I applied it only as far down as the accent fabric. My bar-tacks at top and bottom will give extra strength. I’m getting some hot-red-orange buttons to stitch onto these 4 spots as accents to make this Solution look like a Design Feature ;)

Detail of strap application. Soon to have orange accent button.
6. Stitch up the main fabric sides.
7. Miter the corners of the bag and lining. By pressing the side seams toward the same side (both to the front, or both to the back) and then pressing the *bottom* seam the opposite way, your corner mitering is a breeze. Pull out the fabric to the very corner point of the bag and nest those seams together and pin.
Notice that the side seam (left) is pressed up;
the bottom seam (right, under) is pressed down.
This evens out the bulk and makes the
bottom corners of your bag look awesome!

Getting ready to miter the corners on bag and lining.

Use a see-through ruler to mark your stitching line. I had decided to make my bag 3” thick, so I centered my ruler’s 3” width (1.5” away from ruler’s long edge) along the seam line and slid it along until I found the spot where I would make a 3” side. Mark, stitch, trim 4 places.

for a 3" thick bag, mark exactly perpendicular
to the seams where it is 3" across.
(sorry for that glaring sun from my flash)

Stitch both bag and both lining corners
then trim off the extra

8. Nest the right-side-out-lining into the inside-out-bag (RST = right sides together.) Most instructions have you put the lining on the outside, but linings need to be shorter than the main bag and it’s more difficult their way. So, RST, lining inside! Nest the side seams of lining and bag; if they’re both going the same way, turn the lining halfway around. See the pin at the far left? This reduces the bulk at the top edge!  Pin all around and sew the top edge.
Almost done! Put the lining inside the bag, RST
9. Press top edge: I designed this bag with a 1” fold-over “facing” – the outer fabric folds inward and shows for 1” on the inside. For this method, you press both seam allowances toward the outer bag. If you are having both lining and bag fabric meet evenly at the top edge of the bag, press this seam open firmly.
This is what I want to happen once I turn the bag:
 a 1" facing of my main fabric turned to the inside.
By pressing the top edge seam correctly while still at the inside-out stage,
you'll have an easier time managing that top edge once you turn it right-side-out.
10. Turn the bag right side out through the opening in the lining side seam, then stitch or fuse the opening closed. Give everything a nice press.

I like to use a thin strip of fusible tape to hold that
opening closed. Sometimes I'll hand stitch it, too.

Getting the lining seam in place just before fusing.
Horrible picture. this may not be here if you look again ;)

All that’s left after that is any final topstitching and embellishing you want! I mentioned I am putting red-orange buttons at the spot where the straps meet the brown accent fabric. I’ll use brown thread to sew them on. I will probably also stitch with a brown zigzag near the top edge of the bag. This will anchor the top edge, and I like that it will also be a negative image of the green stitching on the brown straps. I chose to do a zigzag to echo the zaggy edges of the flowers in the print.

My bag! It's only half full -- It will be able to
carry enough stuff to keep me busy, for sure!
I may not be able to carry IT, however! ;)

As I sit here typing, I’ve been admiring my bag. I like it! I’m sure it will come in very handy, hopefully for a couple years or more!

Happy Stitching!