Monday, August 29, 2016

Sausage Scramble and Jelly Roll Stars

Sausage Scramble and Jelly Roll Stars:
This seems like an appropriate title for something that sounds delicious!  The sausage scramble is something I’ve been making for breakfast or lunch for quite a while… it’s low in carbs and satisfying.  I put a lot of vegetables in mine, which add to the flavor, and occasionally I will make it with hot sausage, or if regular pork sausage is on sale, I add some hot pepper flakes to it.  Here’s my recipe.
Sausage Scramble:
Brown 1# pork sausage in a large pan.  As the sausage cooks, add: 

½ to 1 cup chopped onion
1 green pepper, chopped (use less, if desired)
1 red or yellow pepper, chopped (use less, if desired)
1 to 2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms (optional)
1 – 2# bag of southern style frozen hash brown potatoes (squares, not the shredded potatoes)
Season to taste with salt and pepper.  (Red Pepper flakes, optional)
Cover pan and cook for about 10 to 15 minutes longer, until everything is heated through and potatoes are cooked.  Cool slightly and store in a covered container in the refrigerator.  To serve, put one cup of the sausage mixture into a small frying pan (no additional grease needed), cover and heat through on medium heat, about 5 minutes.  I put an egg in the center when it has heated, turn the heat to medium/low, cover again, and let the moisture steam the egg.  This scramble makes enough for meals for at least a week for me, and doesn’t raise my glucose much. 

The Jelly Roll Stars are not part of my breakfast, although I wish they could be!  I am partial to pre-cut fabrics, and in quilting jargon, a jelly roll is a package of 2-1/2” strips, usually with 40 to 42 strips in a roll.  They often have at least 2 of each color in a complete fabric line of the designer, so they are an easy way to get a variety of fabric for quilt blocks without having to buy a lot of yardage.  I’ve been “playing” with
various ways to use the strips, mostly in more traditional blocks.  Two jelly roll strips can be joined the long way on both sides, and then cut into triangles using a right-angle ruler, like the E-Z cut ruler. The few stitches at the tip of the triangle pull out easily, and when the triangle is opened, it is a 3-1/2” half square triangle!  One strip set will yield about 15 half square triangles.  For this star pattern, also known as the LeMoyne Star, or in some areas it is shortened to “Lemon Star”, you need three different sets of 4 HST’s: the two main colors together and each of the main colors with a background color.  So each of the jelly roll strips will yield enough HST’s for 3 blocks, plus 3 of each color left over for another project.  If you want the blocks to be scrappy, it takes 14” of fabric to make the 4 HST’s, so you would need 28” of each of 2 colors and 28” of background fabric to make a block, plus 14” of a 3-1/2” strip to make four 3-1/2” background squares for the corners.  I cut the corner strips from yardage with the June Tailor Shape Cut ruler, into 3-1/2” strips and then cut
those into 3-1/2” squares.  Most patterns for the LeMoyne Star use y-seams, or inset seams, but by using the HST’s, it can be made in rows and the rows joined to make the stars.  I like to lay the block out on the ironing board next to my sewing machine, and sew the pieces in each row together, then join the horizontal rows to complete the block.  The only pinning I do is joining the horizontal rows… with one pin where the pieces of the star connect, three pins in each row.  By checking to make sure the “points” match as I pin, the stars come together easily, without cut-off points. 
TIP:  Remember to remove the selvedge before you measure the 14”.
There are many different ways the blocks can be set… they can be joined as they are, or with added sashing to separate the blocks.  The 4 corners could be “snowballed” to give it a different look when the blocks are sashed and joined. 

I googled “History of the LeMoyne Star quilt block” and found this information:
“Lemoyne Star” is the name of a traditional quilt design whose earliest known published date is 1911 (according to Barbara Brackman’s Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns). It falls into the category of “eight-point/45° diamond stars.” The pattern itself has earlier origins than its published date. Ruth Finley in her book Old Patchwork Quilts and the Women Who Made Them, 1929, states that this particular quilt block was called “Star of Lemoyne”, “Lemoyne Star”, or “Lemon Star” (in New England), and she reveals that the design takes its name from the two LeMoyne brothers who settled Louisiana in 1699.
-Patricia L. Cummings, Quilter’s Muse Virtual Museum,

I was cutting several 2-1/2” strips from my yardage when I purchased new fabric long before they were popular to use, long before they were coined “jelly rolls”.  I sorted them into bins according to color: light, medium, and dark.  I also cut 1-1/2” strips and sorted those into bins of light and dark.  I now cut 5” strips, as well, and cut those into 5” pieces, to make my own charm squares.  Since I learned to make 8 half square triangles from 2 squares of fabric, I also have small bins with 10”, 8” and 6” strips to facilitate cutting those. It’s easy for me to pull strips from the bins when I want to start a new quilt or test a pattern by making a block or two. 

We quilters are fortunate to have so much information at our fingertips on the internet… and so many talented authors of quilt books demonstrating new, modern methods of cutting and sewing the pieces.  Pre-cuts give us instant variety and the luxury of having the strips or pieces already cut and ready for our own creativity to transform them into works of art when the inspiration hits. Quilters truly are artists who use fabric as their medium.  Modern quilters paint portraits and landscapes with fabric and thread, moving far out of the familiar realm of the beginning quilters who initiated us into their society.  Most quilters have generous spirits… many of the quilters I know donate dozens and even hundreds of charity quilts annually to various organizations, and those quilts provide blankets of love for the recipients.  Quilting provides me a marvelous opportunity to exercise my creativity, and the list of quilts I want to make “someday” far exceeds the years I have yet to live, I fear.  Quilts are like dear friends… we cherish the old but always appreciate the color and warmth new ones add to the fabric of our lives.

Sausage Scramble

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Bacon and Bootie Slippers:

Bacon and Bootie Slippers:
I like bacon, but I do NOT like cooking bacon!  It’s messy and I seem to have grease everywhere.  I was talking to one of my long-time friends the other day about omelets, and she told me one of her favorites is a bacon and cheese omelet.  I don’t like eggs much, but my glucose numbers appreciate them!  My omelet of choice is usually mushroom and cheese or fresh tomatoes, herbs, and cheese.  I have been visualizing the flavor of Priss’s bacon and cheese omelet… and today I bit the bullet and cooked up a pound of bacon to use for omelets, green salad garnish, and other things. 

I sliced the whole pound, still layered as it was in the package, into about ¾” slices and put them into my “omelet for one” pan on medium heat.  I covered it for the first few minutes until the bacon
warmed and the slices began to separate into pieces.  Then I continued cooking it on medium heat, draining off the fat a couple of times, until the pieces were crispy but not cooked hard.  I drained the cooked pieces and put them on a paper towel to absorb more of the grease.  It worked out very well.  I’ll store the bacon in my refrigerator and enjoy it without having to go through cooking it every time.  I’ll keep the bacon grease to use in cooking.  That pound of bacon yielded EIGHT OUNCES of grease!  My husband used to love bacon grease spread on home-made bread, liberally salted!  I never tried it, and doubt I ever will.  My lunch was a bacon and cheese omelet.  Here’s how I make mine.
Lightly beat one or two eggs in a small bowl with a fork.  Beat in a bit of salt and pepper, and about a
Tablespoon of whipping cream.  Pour into a small non-stick pan, coated with about a teaspoon of butter or bacon grease.  Cook over medium to low heat, lifting up the edge of the omelet and tipping the pan so the egg on top runs to the bottom of the omelet.  When the egg looks mostly cooked, I spread the filling on one side of the middle, then flip the part without the filling over the other half.  Cook a few minutes longer, to melt the cheese and/or warm the filling.  Slide the omelet onto a plate and enjoy!
For a mushroom omelet, sauté the sliced fresh mushrooms in about a Tablespoon of butter, then remove them to a small dish, cook the omelet, and then fill it with the cooked mushrooms and some shredded cheese. 
  For a tomato omelet, sauté a chopped Roma tomato with basil, chives or green onion, sometimes adding other herbs.  The tomato filling is spread on the omelet and topped with shredded cheese.   A Bacon/Cheese omelet is made the same way, with about ¼ cup of cooked bacon bits and a small handful of shredded cheese.  A ham and cheese omelet is made the same way, using diced ham in place of the bacon.  
It turned out great, and I liked the bacon and cheese combination so much I made a grilled cheese sandwich for supper… with a slice of American cheese, a slice of Hot Pepper cheese, and bacon pieces in the middle.  I thought I had invented something new, until my sister told me her friend has been making those grilled bacon and cheese sandwiches for years!
My Minnesota grandchildren were here with me for a few weeks again this summer.  They didn't want to do any sewing projects this time, preferring to just relax and unwind by playing video games and watching movies.  Of course, Charlotte and Quentin had their cheese omelets nearly every morning.  Some things never change! 

I had knit slippers for the children, and they loved them!  It’s always fun to make things when they are so much appreciated.  Here’s the basic pattern I used… I experimented and used more or less stitches and rows to vary the sizes.  The slippers shown at the left would fit a large man, a baby, and a 2 or 3 year old.

Knitted Bootie Slippers:
Size 10-1/2 circular needless (I made two slippers at the same time)
Knitting worsted weight yarn, 2 strands used to knit the slipper.
This pattern makes an adult medium size (about a woman’s 7 to 9), but size depends on type of yarn used and can be varied by using more or less stitches.
Cast on 60 stitches for each slipper.  I used 2 separate balls for each slipper, doing them at the same time.  This way, they will look the same, if you make a striped pattern or vary yarns.
Knit 10 rows.  This garter stitch section will form the bottom of the slipper.  If you want a wider slipper, you could knit 12 rows in garter stitch.  A child size might only be 6 or 8 rows of garter stitch.
Next row: 
Row 1:  Knit to half the stitches, minus 3.  With 60 stitches, that means knit 27 stitches,
Knit 2 together, purl 2, knit 2 together, knit to end of row.
Row 2:  Purl 26 stitches, Purl 2 together, knit 2, purl 2 together, purl to end of row.
Repeat these two rows, always using one less stitch to the center section of each row, until 30 stitches remain (half the original amount of stitches).  For example, row 3 would be 25 stitches before knitting 2 together, row 4 would be 24 stitches, etc.  You are decreasing 2 stitches on each row.
End on a knit row.
Cuff:  Knit every row for 8 rows.  Bind off the 30 remaining stitches on each slipper.  Sew bottom and back seams.  Here are photos of the grandchildren in their slippers... Ava's are lavender, Quentin has the purple slippers and Charlotte has the pink, of course. 


I have wanted a yarn bowl for a long time, but they are not cheap.  I recently saw a wooden yarn bowl on sale, but when I looked at the dimensions, it was only about 6” across.  Then I saw a tip on using the little paper clips on a container to keep the yarn separated… and it works like a charm.  Here’s a photo of my NEW AND IMPROVED yarn bowl (or basket).  I had originally bought the clips to use for sandwiching quilts, but they weren’t big enough… now I have a use for at least a few of them.  
I would rather come up with a unique idea any day than spend a lot of money on something marketed to make me want to buy it! 

I've been marathon watching episodes of Outlander… for the second time.  I watched them when they were first aired, but like a lot of things, much of it was forgotten.  I tend to listen to TV while I am sewing!  On this second time around, I am picking up things I didn’t catch the first time.  It’s a wonderful historical drama about time travel and Scotland in the 1700’s and all the political strife between European countries at that time… marking the beginning of the end of the Highland Scottish clans and their way of life.  The scenery is hauntingly beautiful, as is the background music, and the romance is a bit more graphic than I’m used to, but… it hasn’t given me a heart attack yet!  The series is based on novels written by Diana Gabaldon, and a friend recommended it to me when it first was being aired on Starz.  I just noticed the first season is available on Netflix, but both seasons are still “on demand” on my cable network.  If you are in the mood for some escapism… this might be a good place to start your journey.  

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Tuscan Chicken and Kaleidoscope Quilts

Tuscan Chicken and Kaleidoscope Quilts

Summer sun… one of the things I love most about Cincinnati.  We seldom have a day that doesn't have some sunshine, even when it’s stormy.  The humidity is high most of the time, but the central air conditioning keeps me quite comfortable and able to quilt year ‘round.  A couple of quilts I’m working on presently are kaleidoscope quilts.  Kaleidoscope quilts have so many patterns that emerge when the blocks are put together.  My love of kaleidoscopes goes back over 40 years, when I started some kaleidoscope blocks in all colors from my limited fabric stash at that time.  Most of the fabrics in the quilt were remnants from clothing sewn for my family, and pieced whenever I could find some spare minutes… usually at night, after my children were in bed.  These pieces were cut by hand with scissors, using cardboard templates.   
The sections were hand quilted (thanks to Georgia Bonesteel’s wonderful instructions for QAYG… quilt as you go), while I was sitting in PTA and church meetings.  I never did finish this quilt… I think I have 3 sections done… and I have no idea where the shoebox of pieces to complete the quilt is hiding, after the move to Ohio from Minnesota.  Perhaps the sections will be made into baby quilts, instead of becoming another bed quilt.

One “new” kaleidoscope is done with Robert Kaufman’s Tuscan Wildflower fabric line.  Butterflies and flowers flitter across the blocks in purples, pinks, teals, and shades of ivory.  To make this quilt, I joined 2-1/2” jelly roll strips in sets of three, then cut them into triangles with a kaleidoscope ruler.  The ivory fabrics were also Kaufman fabrics from other lines, and joined in strip sets of three, as well.  Each block takes four
triangles of each of the strip sets, four prints and four ivories.  The corners are Fossil Fern fabric in a coordinating shade of teal.

Two blocks form the patterns on this quilt (shown on the right), one with the Fossil Fern Teal corners and the other block with Ivory corners.  The two form pinwheel blocks where they meet, as shown in the photo above.  Only the blocks in the top two rows have been joined, so far,

The third kaleidoscope quilt, shown below, is done with various pastel and medium-range jelly roll strips cut from my stash, which has grown far beyond expectations since my early days of quilting. 

The kaleidoscope ruler is shown at left, and the June Tailor Shape Cut ruler on the right. The alternate triangles are cut from 6-1/2” strips of unbleached muslin, and the corner pieces are cut from 4” strips of muslin.  Those strips are cut into 4” squares, and those squares are cut once on the
diagonal to make the corner triangles.

Sewing the pieces of the block together is really not difficult, even though many of the seams are on the bias.  The trick I learned after sewing a few blocks is to start sewing from the wide end of the triangles and tapering down to the point.  Then when I joined two sets of two triangles together, I again paid close attention to butting the seams at the point.  I joined four of the triangles together at a time, so that I had two halves of the block.  I pressed the halves carefully, pressing the seams of each half in opposite directions so the seams would butt together at the center where all the points meet.  I didn't need to use any pins until I joined the two halves of the kaleidoscope block.  I just put one pin at the center, checking to make sure the “triangle points” met, adjusting, if necessary.  Most of the centers match almost perfectly, but if there is a slight difference, I think that will not be very apparent when it is quilted.  After joining the eight triangles to form the kaleidoscope, I sewed the four corners on the block.   The photos to the left show the four 2-piece sections ready to join, and the completed triangles ready to put on the corner pieces.  The photo below shows how to butt the seams to achieve a better joining of the points in the center of the block.
I did notice that using the thinner muslin required trimming the block after it was sewn, whereas blocks pieced with the heavier Kaufman fabrics didn't need to be trimmed.  Working with the lovely Kaufman Tuscan Wildflower fabrics led me to dream up other Tuscan delights!  

I made this chicken dish this afternoon, as well.  Most of it went into a casserole to be warmed up for mother/daughter night this week, but I did save some out for my own dinner tonight, and it was truly delicious.  I call it scrumptious!  I bought a family pack of boneless skinless chicken breasts, and there were six breasts in the pack… so three went into this recipe and the other three are in the slow cooker tonight, and will be part of the filling for chicken enchiladas.  I also got some tortillas that were low carb, high fiber… 6 carbs per tortilla, to make the enchiladas.

Scrumptious Chicken, Tuscan Style:

Mix in a pie pan or plate:
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon dried Basil
½ teaspoon dried Oregano
Roll 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts in the seasoned flour mixture, coating them well.
Brown the breaded chicken breasts in 3 Tablespoons of Olive Oil over medium heat.
Cover and simmer for 20 minutes, until chicken is fully cooked. 
While chicken cooks, put water on to boil to cook the pasta.  I used a 14-oz. package of brown rice fettuccine noodles. 
Before adding noodles to the boiling water, put about 1 teaspoon of Olive Oil into the water, to prevent pasta from sticking.
Cook as directed on package.
While chicken and pasta are cooking, thinly slice one large red pepper. 
(I cut mine in half, removed seeds, and cut each half into thirds, then sliced those sections into thin strips.)
Remove cover from frying pan and cook chicken a few minutes longer, allowing it to crisp up slightly.
Transfer chicken breasts to a plate and put the red pepper strips into the pan. 
Sauté red pepper strips for about 5 minutes on medium heat until partially softened.
Add 1 large Tablespoon minced garlic to peppers in pan and sauté lightly.  (I use bottled minced garlic)
Add 1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour to the pan and stir in thoroughly.
Add 1 heaping Tablespoon chicken broth paste.
Add 1 cup milk. 
Cook over medium heat until mixture thickens slightly, stirring to prevent scorching.
Stir in ½ cup whipping cream
Add: 4 cups fresh spinach, cleaned well
Simmer until spinach begins to wilt, stirring occasionally.
Stir in 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese.
Drain noodles.  Mix noodles with half the spinach/red pepper sauce in a pasta bowl or casserole.
Slice chicken.  Serve pasta and sauce with sliced chicken on top.  Top with remaining sauce.
Garnish with additional basil, if desired.
To make this entirely gluten-free, substitute rice or other non-gluten flour for the all-purpose flour in this recipe.
Serves 6 to 8, depending on the appetites of those dining!  A tossed salad with cherry tomatoes and ripe olives, and garlic breadsticks complete the meal nicely. 

I think winter will come early this year.  The fall storms seem to have moved in, and some days it feels like fall is in the air.  My daughter laughed when I told her that, telling me that our humidity and heat have not felt much like fall.  This is true… but there is something, perhaps in the cicada song echoing through the dark of night, that resonates deep within me, foretelling the cooler weather and perhaps a harsher winter on the horizon.  The sounds of nature are musical... the breeze ruffling through leaves, birdsong, and even the chirping of insects.  My friend, Nancy, sent a link to a recording of crickets chirping, slowed down 50 times, and they sound like an angelic choir. You can hear it here:   It reminded me of when I was a little girl on the farm in Wisconsin, not so far from the shores of Lake Superior, when I would lie in bed at night and fall asleep to the singing of the frogs.  It was, and still is, one of the most comforting sounds to me… beautiful in its simplicity.  Now, I wonder what they would sound like if their song was recorded and slowed down to allow me to hear the soul of their music.  I wonder if the cicadas, also, have a unique song of their own. There are so many things in this wonderful world that I discover every day… new things, exciting things.  There is poetry and music all around us… we have only to recognize it.