Inspired and Quilting Again!

March 6th, 2011

Stalled; stalled and feeling uninspired with my quilting.

Uninspired

Me, before last Sunday, about quilting

Then last Sunday, an Eleanor Burns PBS quilting segment showcasing her version of “Trip Around the World” sparked my creativity and I was off! I ordered her book but was just too jazzed to wait….

So I found another version of the pattern in my book collection….

Quilting Books

Books, books, and more books

dug into my stash of fabric,

Fabric Stash

Fabric Stash

and began to cut strips.

I’ve spent several hours each day piecing, using Harriet Hargrave’s starch method for joining corners and straightening rows and by yesterday afternoon, I completed the 5 sections now ready to join into the main body of the quilt.

Pink and Green Trip Round the World

Work in Progress - Pink and Green Trip Round the World

It’s time to pick border colors…..

Ha rah!

Healthy Pizza

February 28th, 2011

Again, I’m trying to cook healthier with lots of flavor. Tonight’s creation was Whole Wheat Pizza topped with Swiss chard, caramelized red onions, kalamata olives, hot Italian sausage and feta cheese. With a drizzle of olive oil and 20 year old balsamic vinegar, this delightful creation won the day with it’s complex flavor.

Healthy Pizza

Yummy, healthy, flavorful pizza

Ronald McDonald House Meal Delicious

February 23rd, 2011
Dinner February 21, 2011 at the Ronald McDonald House in San Francisco

Dinner February 21, 2011 at the Ronald McDonald House in San Francisco

Our meal last night was wonderful.  Once again, we fed the wonderful families and staff at the Ronald McDonald House in San Francisco.    After the warm welcome I received in January, Don joined in the fun and helped out with our February dinner.  Everyone enjoyed the meal which ended with Triple Chocolate Brownie Sundaes (not in the picture).  Staff, who were not on duty, came in just to eat with us; a family I’d met in January who’s little one was discharged from the hospital,  came back just to say hello and share some food.

It warms my heart to be able to do this, to offer a bit of normalcy to people who’s lives are turned upside down when their child is so ill.  As much as this does for them, it does as much, or more, for me. I am filled with gratitude today for all that I have and the health and safety of our family.  (You have the same opportunity to feel this good 😉

On technical note.  If you read the menu from the last posting, you will see that there was only a turkey and not the ham along with it.  Well, when the turkey came off the smoker on Sunday night, we deboned it, there was only 5 lbs of meat in a 12 lb bird.  Hmmmmm, that wasn’t going to do.  Water injected and deboned, the loss of 7 lbs was surprising.  Don popped out in the morning, picked up a 10lb ham and voila, meat for the crowd.

We’re scheduling the next meal for March.

Ronald McDonald House Meal Prep Day

February 20th, 2011
San Francisco Ronald McDonaldn House

Anyone can volunteer

Today we’re prepping to cook again at the SF Ronald McDonald House; dinner for 25.

The menu is set:

Smoked BBQ Turkey (a specialty of Don’s)
Wheat Berry Waldorf Salad
Maple Glazed Winter Squash and Parsnips
Honey Whole Wheat Rolls
Brownie Sundaes

The turkey’s been sitting in the bring since yesterday. Apple juice, oranges, ginger and more make up this wonderful brew. Today, Don will smoke the bird and baste it with a Chardonnay Butter sauce. Tomorrow we’ll warm the meat gently at the house.

Three batches of dinner rolls are sitting on the counter rising. This afternoon I’ll bake 4 batches of triple chocolate fudge brownies and serve them with vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce and whipped cream. The recipe says one batch makes 64 1″ brownies…who are they kidding?

The wheat berry salad is delish…I’ve made this before. The squash/parsnip is new, but what’s now to love about vegi’s roasted in maple syrup? Epicurious.com gave this recipe 4 stars.

We’ll bake the squash at the house so the smell of cooking with fill the air.  The rest we’ll prep today and tomorrow morning.

Interesting how this meal ends up looking a lot like Thanksgiving….

Things that sparkle and shine

February 19th, 2011

Ha rah to me, I finished it! Sitting in my stash for years, this beautiful beaded ornament languished undone, unloved. Thanks to an EGA project in January  that required beading, I got the itch to finish this. The good news is I LOVE it, the better news, is I have a second kit in another color to make it again!  It will make a wonderful addition to our Christmas tree this year.

Blue Beaded Ornament

Isn't it lovely!

The Art of Eating Well and Healthy

February 18th, 2011

Don and I have decided we need to eat healthier. The problem is, we’re foodies; we love flavor. So can two foodies, who love food, also find a way to eat healthier?

I decided to take the challenge and begin again to cook with loads of flavor in a healthy way.  I returned to one of my favorite food writers, Mark Bittman, and became re-inspired.  Using various recipes from the internet and my bevy of cookbooks, I created  White Beans with Roasted Tomatoes, Sausage, and Spinach.  It turned out delicious.

One side note, I don’t really measure much when cooking (baking is another matter all together) and cook by sight, taste and smell.  The measurements in this recipe are approximate and can be changed depending on your tastes.

Enjoy!

White Beans with Roasted Tomatoes, Sausage, and Spinach

  • 2 cups cooked white beans
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes
  • salt (preferably sea salt)
  • freshly ground pepper
  • sugar (optional)
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup onions/leeks/shallots – chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic – chopped
  • 1 link hot Italian sausage (yes just one, the size you’d get on a sandwich.  We’re after flavor here)
  • 1 T tomato paste or catchup
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning (basil, marjoram, oregano)
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 4 cups fresh spinich
  • Balsamic vinegar – syrupy & sweet 20 year old
  • I started with dried white navy beans, soaked them overnight and cooked them for about an hour before using them.  If you don’t have navy beans, any white bean will work.  You may also use canned white beans, but they should be drained and rinsed to remove the excess sale.
    Preheat oven to 400F degrees.  Lightly coat the cherry tomatoes in olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  If the tomatoes are not sweet, sprinkle a small amount of sugar over them.  Place into oven and roast for 20-30 minutes, or until skins begin to burst and brown.
    Meanwhile, place chicken stock in saucepan with the sausage and cook over low heat until the sausage is done (internal temperature will register between 170-180F degrees). When done, remove from stock and chop into 1/4 inch pieces.  Retain stock.
    In a 12″ saute pan, heat 1-2 T of olive oil.  Place onion into pan and cook until color begins to change.  Add garlic and cook 1 more minute.  Add chopped sausage, Italian seasoning, tomato paste/catchup, cooked beans and remaining stock.  Cook over low heat until flavors are melded and the stock has been reduced.
    In an separate fry pan, heat 1 T olive oil and add spinach.  Season with salt and pepper and cook until wilted; about 3-4 minutes.
    To serve, place bean mixture into individual bowls and top with cooked spinach.  Drizzle with balsamic vinegar.
    NOTE:  if you don’t have the sweet and syrupy balsamic vinegar, you can simulate the taste by reducing regular balsamic vinegar on the stove and adding sugar or honey to the mix.
    NOTE2:  I used Italian seasoning because I didn’t have any fresh herbs in the house.  The next time I make this, I will use fresh herbs, but add them at the end to the completed bean mix.

    I can’t seem to stop…..

    February 15th, 2011

    When I was in my 20’s, I couldn’t cook. I didn’t grow up in one of those households where maternal generations of women gathered in the kitchen and shared. I could make a few recipes, but cooking to me isn’t just the recipes, it’s the technique of why I do something.

    After many failed attempts (I couldn’t even boil rice), I began to get my “food” legs and made my first Souffle….Life International Cookbook Series, the cooking of Provence. It was a great success. If I had to name one moment in my life when my cooking mojo took a shift, it would have to be the day I made that first, beautiful, perfect cheese souffle.

    Fast forward 30+ years and a lifetime in the kitchen. About a month ago, I got the bug to make a souffle for dinner. Little did I know, it would lead to this…..

    Cheese Souffle

    Reliving the dream...the original recipe that started it all

    Cheese Souffle

    Doesn't this look amazing? It tasted wonderful too

    Next it was on to Spinach Souffle; enter Julia Child…..  Why not go to the source of all things French and see what Julia had to say about the souffle.  The first volume of Mastering the Art of French Cooking is filled with the why’s and wherefore’s of it all.  The results were spectacular….

    Before baking

    Baked Spinach Souffle

    Coming of the of oven

    Spinach Souffle...chef with prize!

    A trip to the farmer’s market brought us to Strawberry Souffle and a recipe from Epicurious.com – http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Strawberry-Souffle-with-Sliced-Strawberries-5247

    Strawbery Souffle

    A thing of beauty..

    Strawberry Souffle being served

    Delicious too!

    The latest chapter in the Souffle Extravaganza happened last night.  It was back to Julia and Salmon Souffle for Valentine’s day.

    Salmon Souffle

    Coming out of the oven

    Salmon Souffle Done

    Ready to eat, a Valentine's treat!

    So now where?  Maybe it’s time to switch to a new challenge…….Oh Juliaaaaaaaa

    Playing with flash

    January 29th, 2011

    Red and Purple Bouncing Balls 1

    Being grateful and giving back in the new year

    January 6th, 2011

    New Years Eve for Don and I has turned into a quiet evening at home these days.  We’ve had those years of parties and noise, and find a quite evening at home is more our speed (no old fart jokes please).  This year was no different with the exception that Kris joined us.  We found real polish sausage shipped in from Chicago(yes, there are more people of Polish descent living in Chicago than in Warsaw, Poland) and I made my Grandma David’s sauerkraut recipe.  We added homemade pierogi that we’d made on Christmas Eve.  The meal became a true ethnic delight!  We poured glasses of our favorite bubbly, Frank Family Vineyards Rouge, and toasted the New Year.

    There is an Eastern European tradition to eat pork and sauerkraut for good luck in the new year and through the course of our conversation about this tradition, something wonderful happened.  We moved from the good luck we wanted for ourselves in the new year to the things  we were grateful for in the past year; the good things that had happened; difficult things we learned from; the things we were glad were just over.

    This  lead me to the realization that I needed once again to find a place to give back for all the bounty I have.

    I’d finished a volunteer project for Taproot earlier this year, leading a project that installed a donor database system for Public Architecture.  I worked with some wonderful people; but the project was over and I was feeling at loose ends….I needed something else.  I started thinking back on all the volunteer work I’ve done in the past; was there a clue there to point me to my next opportunity.

    Then it hit me; Ronald McDonald House (RMH).   They “provide“home-away-from-home” for families so they can stay close by their hospitalized child at little or no cost. The Houses are built on the simple idea that nothing else should matter when a family is focused on healing their child – not where they can afford to stay, where they will get their next meal or where they will lay their head at night to rest.”

    I’d volunteered for years in Rochester at the RMH, supplying meals to the families staying there.  Why not do it here?  I am grateful that I work for myself, that my schedule is flexible, that I have a gift in the kitchen, and most of all, I am grateful that when Kris was born 11 weeks early, that he was so well cared for at Strong Childrens Hospital and has had the opportunity to grow into a wonderful man……

    Then, the excuses started; the RMH is in San Francisco, it’s a long commute, I’ll have to schlep all the stuff alone, blah, blah, blah.  It was going to be too easy not to do it; it was going to be too easy to forget how grateful I am for my life; it was going to be too easy to not give myself the gift of service and how it makes me feel when I give back.  So before I lost momentum, I called the RMH in SF, filled out the volunteer form, and am  on the schedule for next week.

    My New Year’s resolution  is that I won’t let the excuses keep me from acknowledging my gratitude.  In the day to day pulse and speed of my life, I can lose sight of it.  Volunteering and giving back helps me honor all that I am grateful for.

    Flooring Renovation

    November 9th, 2010

    Checkout these pictures of the flooring renovation. We’re on day 7 now and most of the tile is done. The wood flooring is next. Checkout the living room and dining room chaos. 110 boxes packed and in other rooms; dust everywhere. They promise they’ll be gone by Thanksgiving ;-)