29 October 2013

More Cooking than Sewing

Being mid-move is throwing me for a loop. It seems like nothing is ever where I need it to be (especially my sewing stuff!), so I have not been doing much sewing. There has been no progress made on the kaleidoscope quilt or the mug rug for Mug Rug Revival. I did finish one more 3" half hexagon pinwheel, bringing the grand total up to 23!

A while back I used this pattern and followed the sizing to make this potholder for my mom.
I made the fox blue because I'd never seen a blue fox before and I wanted to see one.

She absolutely loves it. Well, my whole family is fanatical about the "What Does the Fox Say" video. My mom and I even have matching mother/daughter shirts. Oh, you haven't seen the video? Here it is:

Anyways, I made her the potholder and she loved it... too much. She refuses to use it because it is too cute. She even took it to her church group's bake sale to show off but didn't use it! This is frustrating because I make things to be used! So I am making her a slightly bigger version as a wall hanging so she can use the stinking potholder. I printed the pattern to fit on legal instead of letter paper, so it is coming to about 10.5" across (25% increase).

I decided to put some wonky stars around the 4 corners to increase the size just a bit more. These stars finished at 3" across, so they were teeny tiny.

Over the weekend I led the annual Underwater Pumpkin Carving event for the dive shop I work at on the side. We had a great turnout but horrible conditions. The water looked like chocolate milk, there was a ripping current and it was so choppy that holding on to your pumpkin was tough. Here I am all suited up to go in (GoPro and all!).

Here is a picture of everyone who came out and all of the pumpkins. Only 4 people were able to successfully carve their pumpkins.

Here is my boyfriend with his amazing first place winning pumpkin! He won three nights at a resort in Cozumel (so I'm a winner too!)!

Anyways, speaking of my boyfriend and I, we are adapting really well to the giant [to us] kitchen at the new house! We did a crazy amount of cooking this weekend. First up, we have some super tasty Chorizo and Sweet Potato chili. It came out ridiculously tasty. The recipe can be found here. We added an extra can of black beans, and would both have liked maybe a little more seasoning, but aren't sure what. Don't get me wrong though, it was super tasty! We had enough leftover for 3 quart sized bags to be frozen. Yay quick meals later!

We also made some baked corn dogs and loosely followed this recipe. The main changes we made were: regular flour (because that's what we had), half cayenne half paprika (I hate heat and it was totally okay), and all beef hot dogs. I still had some black sesame seeds from Japan, so we absolutely used those. Mmm, these came out so delicious. My favorite part of any corn dog is the breading and I rolled the breading out pretty thick on these puppies. Om nom nom.

We even made some salmon patties. The recipe is something he and I Frankensteined out of another recipe. I could be convinced to share it if there is interest. They are so ridiculously tasty. ...Now I'm just showing off ;)

22 October 2013

Quilting and Weird Al

Last week I shared some teaser photos of blocks in progress for a quilt I was working on. I managed to finish all 20 of the complete blocks! These blocks come out to a behemoth 17" on each side! Daaang. So I decided to use 4x5 blocks to make a quilt big enough for me to snuggle under. This incredible block is by Bijou Lovely and can he found here (though I changed it a little to avoid extra seams).
Finished all 20 Kaleidoscope quilt blocks!

Over the weekend my boyfriend and I went to San Antonio to see his friends and family, but mostly to see Weird Al in concert!! Needless to say, I got absolutely no sewing done over the whole weekend. Oh well, it was super fun but waaay too loud. It reminded me of why I stopped going to concerts. Next time I need ear plugs.
Weird Al concert!

Right before I left town, I was able to finish assembling the front of the quilt, and I even picked out backing. On Sunday after we got back to town, I was able to finish up the basting.
Quilt top done and getting basted.

I even filled some bobbins with the gorgeous grey I'm using for quilting.
Some bobbins ready to go!

Then I decided to quilt something else completely. This is the border for the mug rug I'm making for The Mug Rug Revival. This was my first try at pebble FMQ. It doesn't all look this nice, but it's a start!
My first try at pebble quilting.

Then I had to remind myself that this quilt has a deadline. If I want to enter it into the local show, I need to have it done by November 7th. Ahhh!! Luckily this photo was taken after about half the quilting was done.
About half the quilting is done... Not that you can see it.

 I initially planned to do organic diagonal lines, but it just didn't come out the way I wanted, so that all got ripped out. I opted for a stipple instead since this is what I'm a little more comfortable with.
Close up quilting shot

FMQing a giant 68" x 85" quilt on a regular sewing machine is difficult. My wrists hurt and it is only half done! It will be so worth it when the quilt is done! I have no idea if it will be done this week, because midterm grades are due on Friday so I have tons and tons of grading ahead of me!

19 October 2013

Guessing Games

I am generally excited by guessing games. In its most simplistic form, the scientific method is just a guessing game, albeit an educated guessing game, but a guessing game, no less. So the problem plaguing my crafty existence deals with the EPP 3" half hexie pinwheels I have been sewing for my 30's repro quilt. Twenty two of them are already finished (and there was much rejoicing.. yaaay).

22 x 3" Half Hexie pinwheels done!

The problem is: How many of these stinking things am I going to have to make before the quilt is an acceptable size for an adult to use? You see, I have absolutely no idea (hence the 'guessing game' intro) but I have fabric cut for 33 more. Hopefully that will at least get me close. All that is know is that I need to put on my big girl panties and head down/power though some half hexies. I mean, I could plot it out and know for sure, but then it wouldn't be a guess.

I also started working on a little something for a local quilt show. I have never entered anything into a quilt show before so I am nervous. The entry form says that I need to have a 4" hanging sleeve on the back of the quilt. Does that mean a 4" wide strip folded in half lengthwise for a 2" wide pocket or an 8" wide strip folded in half to make a 4" wide pocket?

I'm going to be purposefully sneaky for now and only show you teaser photos. This first photo shows 48 identical blocks that are missing one more piece. I still need to make 32 more. Sheesh!

Also, I am ridiculously amazed at how well those 4 seams met up. All 48 blocks look that tidy! I did modify the pattern a tad to eliminate a few extra seams. I hate superfluous seams. The original block pattern had the green triangle as a HST that was then sewn to a grey square and then sewn to the strip between that and the yellow triangle. No thanks. I would much rather get rid of all those failure points and bulk, because really, that's what seams are to me... Places to mess up. Here is a close up of the tidyness that is this block.

I just noticed one more seam that could be eliminated when I make 32 more of these. The strip to the right of the pink HST could easily be one continuous strip! Spwee!

Now on to cooking! My boyfriend's family was in town last weekend which meant he and I spent a good amount of time cooking. I had no idea what to do for breakfast on Sunday, so I went a recipe I have been tweaking: Lemon Poppyseed French Toast. The recipe might finally be perfected which means it could soon be unveiled. I leave you with a picture of it. Omnomnom.
Lemon poppyseed French toast!

14 October 2013

Bacon Jam Empanadas

Almost a year ago a friend of mine posted something about making bacon jam. My ears always perk up when I hear the word "jam" because I love canning and finding someone remotely close to my age who makes jam is rare. But she said BACON jam. What the heck? I frantically started googling. I found this book along with a review mentioning a forward by Paula Deen and immediately ordered a copy.

The narrative they include at the beginning of the cookbook is definitely worth a read (hello, crying because of a cook book), but the most outstanding thing I have found has to be the bacon jam. Because I am utterly incapable of following recipes, I modified it. So here it is, with my modifications. The ridiculously photo heavy version is followed by the text-only version.


To begin with, you are going to chop up one pound of bacon. I learned that it is easier to chop if your knife is super sharp and the bacon is right out of the fridge. I chopped the fatty bits into smaller pieces (1/2") and the meaty bits into 1" pieces. Mmm, bacon.

Now we need to add the bacon to a pan.

Then you barely cook the bacon in a pan. At this point, you do not want crispy bacon. If you enjoy your bacon more well-done (I'm right there with you, so trust me), it will be well done later. It should look like ham, with the edges just barely turning brown.

Scoop it into a metal colander with a bowl under it to drain. Leave about 1 tablespoon of fat in the pan, or add it back in. This is going to add all that incredible bacony goodness to your onions (sorry to my vegetarian and vegan friends who probably aren't reading this anyways).

OH YEAH! Onions! While your bacon was cooking, you could have saved time and diced your onions. Or you can do it now. Whatevs.

But once your onions are chopped, you will add them into the greasy pan.

Now you are going to follow a bunch of tedious steps that could have been done before you started everything, while your bacon was cooking, or now, while your onions are cooking.

Grab some garlic.

Peel a few cloves in whatever way seems easy to you. I like bashing them with the side of an ulu.

Then dice those bad boys up! 

Pick some rosemary.

And chop that up too.

Measure out some red pepper flakes. I had already put my garlic and rosemary in one vessel at this point. They all go in at the same time, so it totally works.

And some cayenne pepper. Not too much though, if you aren't fond of spicy stuff.

Then you need some brown sugar. 

But don't you dare mix any of that with the onions... Yet. 

Hokay, so, here is the Earth. Ack! I mean, back to the onions. You want them to get nice and gorgeous brown. Once they look good enough to eat on their own and your whole kitchen smells like heaven, add the garlic, rosemary, cayenne, and red pepper flakes.

Oh snap! don't forget the brown sugar!

Mmm, the rosemary is so fragrant at this point. But I like bubbles! So we need to add some liquids. Let's start with coffee. Now, my boyfriend and I don't really drink coffee so we had to buy instant coffee.

All around the world, coffee snobs are weeping. I'm sorry. Anyways, add some strong coffee of any kind! Woaa, hello blurry pictures!

I struggle to make anything without balsamic vinegar (I have put in in cupcakes, frosting, ice cream, you name it!), so let's add some of that!

How about some maple syrup since maple and bacon compliment each other so nicely!

Then comes the wonderful stout beer. You can use any type of stout you can find. While my boyfriend and I don't drink coffee, we do drink a lot of beer. This was my on hand selection for stouts.

Any stout will work. You can probably find some at your local grocery store. Just add some in.

A very important step is to start drinking some of the leftover stout. Unless you don't like stout, in which case you can send it my way.

Then we have to add the most important ingredient in bacon jam: THE BACON! Now that it is drained, just add it all back in. Weeeee!

Mix it all up and get it heated to a nice low simmer.

You are going to simmer it for up to an hour but probably not less than 45 minutes. If it starts getting a little dry, you can add some water or more beer (that is, if you didn't drink all the beer already).

Here is a picture of what it looks like around the halfway point. I kept saying "just keep stirring, just keep stirring..."

After 45 minutes to an hour of simmering, mixing, watching, sniffing, drooling, and drinking you end you end up with this glorious thing:

Then for good measure, add in a splash of bourbon and let the jam absorb that up!

Now we are ready to assemble the empanadas. I made the dough the night before. The directions are fairly easy; Mix all dry ingredients.

Then add the butter and just enough water to make it kinda doughy but not too sticky. Knead. Refrigerate. I forgot to take pictures of those steps. It was late. Please forgive me.

When you are ready to roll out the dough, you can use a floured surface, or roll it out between sheets of wax paper. Either way, roll it out, then use something circular with a diameter between 4"-5" to cut out circles. I used 4.5" diameter Pyrex bowls.

Fill each circle with equal parts bacon jam and shredded extra sharp cheddar. Ooookay, you don't have to use extra sharp cheddar, but I think it adds a nice bite. That's what I look for in food... Bite.

Then fold your circles in half and crimp the edges. I sprinkled some cheese on top because it looked pretty and I suck at estimating how much cheese to shred which results in way too much leftover shredded cheese. 

Then bake them on a parchment paper lined baking sheet (because who really wants to wash dishes?) until they look golden brown and drop dead gorgeous! Taaadaaa! Bacon Jam Empanadas! 

Unless you do a double or possibly even triple recipe of crust, you are going to have some extra jam. No worries. I have been using it in sandwiches, on salads, in quesadillas, on toast, with eggs, and just about anything. The possibilities are seemingly endless!  

Bacon-Jam Empanadas

For the Bacon Jam
1 pound bacon
1 medium sweet yellow onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried rosemary, chopped
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or less if you do not like spicy)
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup freshly brewed strong coffee
2 tablespoons stout beer
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons Kentucky bourbon

For the Empanadas

1 recipe Cornmeal Crust (below), unbaked
1 cup shredded white extra sharp cheddar cheese

To make the bacon jam:  Roughly chop the bacon into 1/2 to 1-inch pieces.  Render the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until the edges start to turn brown but the bacon is still soft.  Drain the rendered bacon fat by setting a fine-mesh sieve over a bowl and spooning the bacon and rendered fat into the sieve.  Let the bacon sit in the sieve while you caramelize the onions.

Add the sliced onions to the skillet, then add 1 tablespoon of the rendered bacon fat and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the onions are translucent and starting to brown, 10 to 12 minutes.

Add the garlic, rosemary, red pepper flakes, brown sugar, coffee, beer, balsamic vinegar, and maple syrup, stir, and bring to a light boil.  Add the drained bacon and bring back to a light boil, then turn the heat down to medium-low.  You want to keep a low, steady simmer to reduce the liquid and thicken it without burning the jam.  The process of reduction can take as long as 1 hour.  If the jam becomes too dry, add 1 to 2 tablespoons water.

Remove the bacon jam from the heat, add the bourbon, and let cool for 20 minutes. Once it has cooled, you can put the jam in an airtight container and store it for up to 1 week in the refrigerator.

To make the empanadas:  Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Remove the cornmeal crust from the refrigerator and let it sit on the counter for 15 minutes.

Lightly flour a smooth work surface.  Use a rolling pin to roll the dough out 1/8 inch thick. Using a 4.5 -inch biscuit cutter or tart mold, cut the dough into circles.

Place 1 tablespoon bacon jam and about 1 tablespoon shredded cheddar cheese in the center of each round.  (You will have extra bacon jam.) Fold each dough round in half over the filling, making sure you don't tear the dough or push the filling to the edges, and using your fingers, press the edges together and then crimp them with the tines of a fork to seal them.

Place the empanadas on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 18-22 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve the empanadas warm.  

Cornmeal Crust

1 1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour 
1/3 cup yellow cornmeal
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cubed
1/4 cup ice water, plus more if necessary

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, and salt.  Using a pastry cutter, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse oatmeal.  Add 1/4 cup ice water, one tablespoon at a time while stirring lightly with a fork until the flour is moistened, then gently knead the dough 4 to 6 times in the bowl, until it comes together.  You may have to add up to an additional 2 tablespoons water if the dough seems dry or less if it seems moist.

Shape the dough into a ball and flatten it into a thick disk.  Wrap it in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 1 day.