Thursday, August 18, 2011

Vintage Skills: Hand Embroidery, Basic Daisy

Hopefully all of the practice with basting and back stitching has encouraged some confidence and excitement to move on to more challenging stitches. The basic daisy is a fun embellishment for clothing, purses, handkerchiefs, greeting cards, and much, much more. If the daisies are grouped together, they create a lovely floral decoration, especially if different colored threads are used. This technique is not difficult, but it may take some practice to really get the hang of it.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Vintage Skills: Hand Embroidery, Back Stitch

The back stitch is a very important basic stitch in embroidery. It outlines beautifully and adds special detail to both simple and complex designs. This stitch can also be used to mend clothing if a seam becomes ripped or loose. The concept of this stitch is to start the stitches just close to the end of a line, but not at the end, and go backwards to make the first stitch.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Hamburger and Pepper Pasta

I think my taste buds have changed on me. I find that lately I not only tolerate some spicy food, but I am actually craving it. Now, for me, jalapeno peppers are spicy...or used to be, anyhow. Lately I adore pepper jack cheese, so I bought some to use this week, not having an idea as to how. There were two peppers, one red, one green, in my fridge that needed to be cooked, so I thought a one pan dish would be perfect for dinner.

Hamburger and Pepper Pasta
1 Red bell pepper, chopped
1 Green bell pepper, chopped
1 Small onion, chopped
1 Clove garlic, minced
2 T Extra virgin olive oil
1 Lb ground beef
2 Cups fusili pasta/elbow macaroni
1 Box chicken stock/broth
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Cup pepper jack cheese, cut into cubes
1 Cup cheddar cheese, shredded

Heat the pan to medium-high heat, add olive oil. Saute peppers, onion, and garlic until soft. Crumble ground beef into the pan, and brown. Add the chicken broth and the pasta. Make sure the pasta is under the liquid, and cover with a lid. Cook for about 20 minutes or until pasta is tender. Turn heat to low, and add the pepper jack cheese. Stir until melted, then add the cheddar. Melt the cheddar and remove from heat. Serve hot.

Sauteed peppers, onion, garlic, and browned beef in the oil.

Chicken stock and pasta added.

Keep the lid on to prevent the pasta from drying out.

Adding the pepper jack cheese.

Adding the cheddar cheese.

Mmmm, super cheesy, peppery pasta.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Sour Cherry Preserves

Making jam from scratch is never something I imagined myself doing, but recently I happened upon an amazing blog, called Tigress in a Jam and now I am obessed with trying to make jam at home. My best friend has three amazing cherry trees in her yard, but she told me that they tasted awful and thought they were inedible and probably just for the birds. So when I saw a post from the Tigress on sour cherries, I began to wonder if my friend had sour cherries. The blog had a few recipes to try with sour cherries, so I asked my friend if I could stop by and pick some cherries. I am SO glad we did! I happen to love sour food. When people are running and screaming for water after eating a particularly sour food, I tend to taste that food and grin in appreciation.

I brought home loads of cherries, but the season for them had just barely passed, and I had to sort through many that had burst open. Still, with the amount that was in good shape, I made the most amazing cherry pie (another first for me) and amazing preserves courtesy of this blog post's recipe. I was surprised at how easy it was to make...well, it was after I sorted, washed, and removed the stems and pits. I ended up with just a small amount less cherries than the recipe called for, so I cut down some of the sugar and the lemon juice and decided that I would keep my jam in the fridge for safety's sake. I've heard that jam making is easy, and now that I've done it, I just can't stop myself! The best part is that if the jam doesn't jell properly, the end product is a delightful syrup that can be used on ice cream, yogurt, pancakes, and all sorts of good food! All you do is add the ingredients to a pot on low heat, dissolve the sugar, then raise the heat a tad, stir, and wait till it's ready. Easy!

See that foam? You just heat the fruit in the pot, and the juice releases along with air bubbles.
The foam can be skimmed off easily with a spoon.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Apple Sauce From Scratch

My good friend had a couple of apple trees with ripe fruit ready to pick, so I packed up my daughter and grabbed some beautiful apples. They were very tart, but now that they've rested a bit, they are much sweeter. The taste is between a yellow and a green apple, so they are very delicious. The only drawback with the apples is that they will not keep as well if left for long periods of time. Since I had two other generous friends who let me pick fruit from their trees, I gave them some of the apples, and decided to try and preserve some of my apples for future use.  Following the advice of another brilliant friend of mine, I decided to make my own applesauce and keep it safely in the freezer. It was surprisingly easy to make, and it tasted like apple pie filling!
Here's all you need:
Apples, sugar, and cinnamon

First, I peeled the apples. Then, I sliced them up into chunks and dumped them into a large pot. I don't mind the natural brown color that cut apples get, so I left mine as is, but if the color is a problem, a bit of lemon juice will stop the color change. On low heat, the chunks became soft enough to release juice and soften up for mashing into a beautiful, chunky applesauce. Then I used my potato masher and carefully mashed the apples, making sure to not burn myself on the steam or rogue bits of apple that shot out of the pan from the movement. To finish the applesauce, I added sugar and cinnamon. I like mine a little tart, so I used a little sugar and a little cinnamon. I just added a little bit at a time, and tasted it until it was just right. Not bad for my first time making applesauce!

This is when I added the chopped apples.

As they heat, the color becomes a gorgeous golden brown.
This is when the apples start to get soft and begin to release juice.

The finished product. Pure bliss!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Food and Books and Books About Food

I love summer, especially this summer, which I have dubbed the summer of food and books. Jen and I have become healthily obsessed with food, specifically things like homemade sauces, preserves, and organic produce. My kitchen has never seen this much action before; I'm actually using all my gadgets and appliances, and I'm using every meal as an opportunity to experiment. I'm finding that I can cook even complicated meals with minimal stress and mess. It's almost surreal to get through the preparation of a pot of mushroom risotto without cursing, crying, or throwing my wooden spoon, but hey, it's a nice change.

I have been reading like crazy, especially books about food. Like I said, I am nursing a healthy obsession here. Sometimes I sit and read through my cookbooks, which has its own appeal, but what's even better is a book that combines food and great stories. My favorite food book is Tender at the Bone by Ruth Reichl, a memoir of the food writer and critic's early life in a dysfunctional home with a mother who not only can't cook, but really, truly cannot cook. Despite her mother's disasterous turns in and out of the kitchen , Reichl is able to find strength and love and personal connections through food. This book gave me a deep appreciation for the ways we can connect through food, and respect for food safety rules. It's funny, it's sad, it's relateable, but the best part? This book has recipies! I tried a few of the recipies, but my absolute favorite was for Nonna's Lemon Ricotta Biscuits, which my husband and I make all the time now.

So go ahead, read a great book and cook some great food this summer; that's what I'll be doing.