12.06.2015

Omaha Modern Quilt Guild Challenge: Shades of Gray: Because I Had To

This year the Omaha Modern Quilt Guild issued a challenge ... in honor of the bad books and worse movie, a shades of gray challenge. :) The rules were simple, quilters could use any of the shades of grays from whitest white to blackest black and the tonal shades of one accent color.

I had purchased two charm packs from IKEA for this challenge. It was a mix of black, white, a multi-gray on white print and some bright, bright green. Some of the print pieces had spots of orange.

In brainstorming this project, I set a few goals for myself:

  • Improv Piecing ... no sketches, patterns or mock-ups
  • Curves
  • Some type of quilting that was not straight edge-to-edge straight lines

I began by piecing strips. The fabric became a bit unwieldy at about 36 inches so each strip was about three feet long. Once I had three strips, I was nearing the challenge deadline. :) To add variety, I cut two of the strips lengthwise. Then I smashed with a coordinating gray solid. One of the challenges this project had was that all of the fabric was home dec weight or a medium canvas.

Throughout the process, the orange kept speaking to me. Near the end of the last strip, I added one orange accent. I think it makes the quilt. This led to the name of the quilt, "Because I Had to." It was breaking the rule to include the orange, but the other guild members agreed that it had to be there.

For my quilting pattern, I used my regular domestic machine with a new walking foot. I wasn't so impressed with the walking foot during this project. It kept falling apart. (I've since fixed it.) In the gray sashing, I made an improv connected square and rectangle pattern. In the pieced strips, I outlined the seams to not detract from the piecing. Both styles met my goal of not being straight edge-to-edge lines.

In the end it all worked. I am pleased with the end result. Pleased enough that I entered it in to QuiltCon16. It might not make it, odds are only a little over 16% based on previous shows, but I am proud to enter it into the conversation.

Detail Shots

5.31.2015

Dinner this Week - 05.31.15

We are in full summer swing with tball, 4-H, summer camp and more. This week I am home all week, but the upcoming calendar is pretty crazy with in-state and out of state trips weekly through all of June and July. Last week Anne was with Grandma and Grandpa for an extended weekend, and I went to Ames for a couple of days.

Because of the rainy weather, we still haven't planted beans. The target is Tuesday before more rain later in the week. The rain has given us some family time that is usually hard to come by this time of year.

Dinner will be a lot of quick fix, grab and go things to accommodate the crazy schedule.

Sunday (4-H Dog Club Practice)
Leftovers ... maybe cereal :)
Monday (tball game)
Picnic at the park before the game:
Fried Chicken
Strawberries
Chips
Tuesday (Omaha Modern Quilt Guild Meeting)
Dinner out
Wednesday (tball game)
Picnic at the park before the game:
Cold cuts, cheese and crackers
Strawberries
Thursday
Grilled Tuscan Lemon Chicken
Sauteed Zucchini and Asparagus
Fresh Pineapple
Friday
Mexican Beef and Corn Casserole with some edits ... add tomatoes, swap butter for margarine, maybe crush some corn chips on top
Cantaloupe
Saturday
Honey Dijon Pork Chops
Garlic Bread
Cheesy Broccoli

5.20.2015

Dinner this Week - 05.17.15

So I am posting a little late, but the plan has been in place and been executed since the weekend. It has been tempting to deviate as it is SO cold here. Brr.

It is an important week at our house. Anne will finish Kindergarten on Thursday. We've all learned a lot this year! She will celebrate with a weekend with grandma and grandpa in Denver.

Sunday
Something quick out of the freezer. We ended up with Schwan's Southwest Style Lime Chicken. It always sounds good when I order it but never quite lives up to expectation.
Monday
Tball practice and lots of errands - dinner out.
Tuesday
The kiddos ate early and the grown-ups at late. The kiddos had fruit and Schwan's grilled chicken bites ... we LOVE these.
Five cheese ravioli with mushroom pancetta Alfredo sauce
Fresh fruit
Wednesday
Roasted Mahi Mahi with Citrus Vinaigrette from Williams Sonoma
Roasted potatoes with asiago cheese
Fresh strawberries
Thursday
Meatball Subs
Caprese Salad
Friday
Leftovers
Saturday
Homemade pasta with marinara and meatballs
Sautéed zucchini
Garlic bread

4.19.2015

Cook the Book - Smothered Pork Chops with Onions and Bacon from America's Test Kitchen's Slow Cooker Revolution

I love cookbooks. They are great to collect. Some are a good cover to cover read; I mark the recipes that sound like something my family will eat with little sticky notes along the way. The last few years, I have acquired a whole shelf of books from America's Test Kitchen. Slow cooker Revolution is one of my most used ATK books.

While I know that ATK recipes are tested and really do work best when all of the seemingly random ingredients are included and measured precisely and all the instructions are followed to a T, in this case, I've found a couple of modifications that work better for my household's tastes. My adaptation follows.

Two nights later, the leftovers made excellent Green Chile Pork Burrito Bowls.

Smothered Pork Chops with Onions and Bacon

Adapted from Slow Cooker Revolution, page 109

8 6 oz. bone-in pork chops, seasoned with salt and pepper and browned
6 oz bacon, chopped and browned
2 onions, sliced or roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 c. reduced sodium chicken broth

Layer pork chops in the bottom of a slow cooker. Toss the next four ingredients to combine. Layer on top of chops. Pour chicken broth over mixture.

Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours. Serve warm.

Make Your Own Takeout - Green Chile Pork Burrito Bowls

All the taco places have some version of a rice bowl with some of their seasoned meat and/or beans, sometimes some veg and a sprinkle of cheese on top. When faced with some leftover Smothered Pork Chops with Onion and Bacon, green chile burrito bowls seemed like a good plan. It utilized the leftovers in a way that didn't feel like leftovers and yielded not only dinner, but four lunches as well.

Green Chile Pork Burrito Bowls

4 cups cooked rice
1-2 lbs. pork, cooked and shredded
1 16 oz. jar salsa verde
2 cans low salt added whole black beans, drained and rinsed
1 lb queso fresco, cubed

Combine pork and salsa. Layer rice, pork mixture, beans and cheese in a bowl. Heat in the microwave to warm ingredients and melt the cheese. Add sour cream, guacamole, chopped red onion, etc., as you desire. Really, it's that simple.

4.18.2015

Dinner this Week - 03.19.15

Home all week! I am looking forward to full days at the office and evenings at home, more or less.
Sunday
Make Your Own Takeout Green Chile Pork Burrito Bowls
Fresh Berries
Monday
Breakfast for Dinner
Scrambled Eggs
Toasted English Muffins with Homemade Blueberry Jam
Tuesday
Last Soccer Game of the Season - Dinner Out
Wednesday
Baked Salmon with Garlic and Dijon from Natasha's Kitchen
Grilled Potatoes and Green Beans
Thursday
Pizza Night
Fresh Fruit
Friday
Shrimp, Tomato and Spinach Pasta in Garlic Butter Sauce from Julia's Album
Fresh Fruit
Garlic Bread
Saturday
Dinner Out - Fundraiser for Church Youth Group Nationwide Assembly Trip

3.25.2015

Lemon Pepper Chicken and Rice

With a quick overnight followed by a day-trip this week, I spent some time over the weekend exploring new one-pot dishes looking for some new options. I found the motherlode at Yellow Bliss Road. Quite a few of her creations have been added to my Pinterest boards this week. Kristin's Lemon Chicken & Broccoli Rice was a shoe-in for this week's menu as I knew I had fresh lemons nearing the end of their shelf life. My original plan was to make the recipe as published, but I didn't have all the ingredients so my modified version follows.

It happened to work that three of my favorite Penzy's products found their way into this dish. My relationship with Penzy's is simply that I am a customer. They did not sponsor or compensate me in any way for this post. I have discovered many blends that have made their way into my regular rotation and found their products to be of high, consistent quality at a price that works for my budget. I happen to have a store not all that far away and have visited there a couple of times each year for about a decade now.

Lemon Pepper Chicken and Rice

Serves 4

1 lb. boneless chicken, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 c. rice or mixed grains (for this rendition I used mixed rice, oat, barley, wheat and spelt)
1 tbs. Penzy's Onions Toasted Minced
1 1/3 c. chicken broth
Juice of 2 lemons
1 tsp. Penzy's Lemon Peel Powder
1 tsp. Penny's French Four Spice
Steamed mixed veggies
  • Heat the oil in a small Dutch oven. Add the chicken and cook over medium heat until browned.
  • Add the rice or mixed grains. Toast in the oil until golden.
  • Add the broth, lemon juice and spices. Cover and cook following the grain package directions.
  • Prepare steamed veggies (or reheat leftovers).
  • Serve separately or combine chicken and rice mixture with vegetables.

3.22.2015

Back in the Saddle - Dinner this Week - 03.22.15

So, I took a little break, not just from posting, but from dinner most nights as well. There was this chair that I was standing on then I wasn't. A complex sprain and possible break kept me mostly out of the kitchen for a couple of months. For future reference, it is not generally a good idea to perplex your orthopedic surgeon. We cleaned out most of the freezer stash, ate our fair share of takeout, scrambled eggs and simple pasta with jarred sauce.

This week is a fairly typical week. I'll be out Monday but everything else is a day trip or a regular day at the office. We kick off our short soccer season on Saturday morning and will hopefully be able to hit the local Easter egg hunt as well. H should enjoy picking up the bright eggs and A is a pro by now.

I have half a head of cabbage left over from last week's St. Patty's dinner so it will feature prominently in tonight's dinner. It's been nicer the last week or so making me anxious to dust off the grill later in the week. Busy days have me trying some new skillet dinners, too.

Sunday
Cabbage Sausage Supper
Strawberries
Cheesy Cornbread
Monday
Soft Tacos
Strawberries
Tuesday
Lemon Chicken Broccoli Rice
Grapes
Wednesday
Grilled Bacon-wrapped Sirloin Fillets
Grilled Diced Potatoes and Green Beans
Grapes
Thursday
Slow Cooker Sausage and Tortellini
Garlic Bread
Friday
Grilled Salmon
Steamed Veggies
Brownies
Saturday
Dinner out

1.12.2015

Dinner this Week - 01.11.15

It is cold here. Bone-chilling, I don't want to go outside cold so this week will feature warm things, comforting things.

I also want to point out that I realize I prefaced this as a craft, food, family blog, but up to this point, have only posted food. Much of my free time over winter break was spent cleaning and organizing my studio. G decided I could have one of his vintage standing, roll-around toolboxes and chaos ensued. This afternoon, I finally got all the pieces put back together and started my first block in Pat Sloan's 2015 Vacation Time Block of the Month Quilt. I also compiled a list of in-progress and in-my-head sewing tasks to do this year. I need to share at least one project I did last year, too, that hasn't been blogged. So, there are non-food topics to come. :)

Sunday
Leftover Chicken Fajita Casserole
Apple Pie
Monday
Breakfast for Dinner
Scrambled Eggs
Toast
Bacon
Tuesday
Creamy White Bean and Bacon Soup from Table for Two
Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
Oranges
Wednesday
Slow Cooker Lemon Rosemary Chicken
Steamed Cauliflower
Grapes
Thursday
Goulash
Oranges
Friday
Make Your Own Homemade Pizza
Saturday
Leftovers

1.04.2015

Dinner this Week - 01.04.15

I am so excited to be back to a schedule this week! While the holidays and some time off have been fabulous, it will be nice for life to return to normal, whatever that is.

One of the big adventures of the week was the death of our downstairs chest freezer. A morning of cold sorting, discarding and rearranging ensued. The bright side is I now have a very clear idea of what we have to move forward planning the coming week's meals to utilize stores and cut the grocery budget for awhile. Since we have a smaller chest freezer on the main level, we have opted to not replace it at this time. All in all, the process made me feel a bit like a hoarder. Replacing the storage space will just allow for storing more food than we really need to have on hand at one time. I like to preserve fresh produce, especially fruit for pies, crisps and smoothies, as well as summer's sweet corn and tomatoes whenever said things are fresh and available affordably, but I've maybe gotten a bit carried away the last few years. How much freezer storage do you have? How full is it? We were lucky, my in-laws were only using about a quarter of their freezer so my three laundry tubs of frozen fruits and veggies are hanging out there until we can get our food supply under control.

One last note on the freezer thing ... fortunately G was in the basement when the freezer made the clunky sound of death. We were able to respond immediately without any concern for the safety of the food in the freezer. If this happens to you, only food that is still firm is safe to return to the freezer. Food that is 40° or colder can be refrigerated and used within standard refrigeration time frames. Food that has thawed and been warmer than 40° should be discarded. Your safety is more important than whatever the value of the food lost.

Finally, you'll notice we eat a lot of oranges these days. Not only are they in season, but we have a half a case to work through. It is a common fundraiser for local FFA chapters to sell fruit and this year we got oranges plus a few apples. Luckily, I knew that I had plenty of apples from a summer pick and freeze and had not ordered a case of apples to freeze as I have the last few years. :)

Sunday
Garlic Butter Baked Crab Legs
Farro with Pistachios and Herbs (I used a wild rice blend and a dried herb blend as they were in my pantry.)
Steamed Cauliflower
Oranges
Monday
Chili and Cornbread
Oranges
Tuesday
Leftover Chili and Cornbread
Oranges
Wednesday
Pork Chops with Mushroom Pan Gravy
Leftover Rice with Pistachios
Steamed Broccoli
Apple Wedges
Thursday
Breakfast for Dinner
Scrambled Eggs
Bacon
Toast
Oranges
Friday
Chicken Fajitas
Oranges
Saturday
Dinner out or takeout

Have a great week!

Dinner This Week - October has begun!

I love October! We are generally done with 90 degree temps, the leaves turn pretty colors and harvest is in full swing. One of late Septem...