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: https://soundcloud.com/acornavi/jim-wilson-crickets-audio   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.   


  1. What a wonderful post designed to make me feel better about food and quilts when the weather is so very hot and sticky. I really enjoyed the old and the new kaleidoscope quilts!

  2. Thanks, Victoria! I always love looking at your quilts, also... and your blog!