Sunday, February 28, 2010

Dinner with Friends

I couldn't resist the lure of spring in these daffodils - yes, this snow will melt. But more than any crackling fire in the fireplace, these beautiful blossoms promise the warm breezes of spring are right around the corner.

We had friends over last night for dinner - I love to entertain. And, while this was advertised as casual I still like to "play" - to set a comfortable table, and to create a tasty meal. Last night my menu was compliments of the Vetri Cookbook - some tried and true recipes, others making their preview at this meal, a risky undertaking.

My goal was to have lovely photos of the evening to share with you - clinking glasses and close ups of the food. Guests arrived, corks popped on the cremant (a sparkling wine from the non-Chanpagne region of France), a glass or two later it was - "blog, what blog". We completely enjoyed ourselves - no photos - sorry.

Luckily I snapped a few photos of my table earlier in the day. My newly quilted table runner looked beautiful on the table with my collection of Deruta pottery. We welcomed friends with a beautiful cremant served with 2 different crostini. The first was a crostini of duck rillettes topped with pickled fennel (Vetri recipe) - both recipes very delicious. The second was crostini of tonnato (a simple tuna sauce) topped with roased red pepper, such an easy appetizer.

For a first course I tried, for the first time, the Squid and Artichoke Galette recipe from the Vetri cookbook - sorry Marc, but despite following the recipe exactly, this was a bust. Thankfully I served it with the Charred Brussels Sprouts from the book which were delicious. I appreciate that my friends choked down the galette and even offered up compliments - confirms that they are true friends, but I already knew that.

For our secundo piatti I served the Pappardella (homemade using the Vetri recipe) with Venison and Pear Ragu - it was delicious. I mail ordered the venison from Shaffer Farms - check them out on line - they are located in Central Pennsylvania - Buy Local PA!

Dessert was from the Vetri cookbook as well - Chocolate Polenta Souffle and Vanilla Gelato - yum! I also served homemade marshmallows and apricot pate de fruit along with the dessert. And no dessert is complete without espresso and some after dinner drinks - Boulard Caldavos, Poire Williams, grappa, and more.

Again, sorry for not having photos, but I had my focus elsewhere. Back to healthy eating this week.
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Friday, February 26, 2010

'nuther Nor-Easter

Woke up this morning to the remnants of yet another Nor-Easter here on the east coast. I have no idea how much snow we got, but the wind was fierce! I didn't sleep good last night - who can sleep with all that wind - gave me time to catch up on my favorite blogs. When I woke up this morning I was grumpy - I wanted my espresso and my favorite winter breakfast, fast - a hot bowl of oatmeal with local Pennsylvania maple syrup - Buy Local PA! I love dark amber syrup - it has a rich maple-y flavor, adds a lot more than sweetness to whatever you add it to. And yes - that's my name on the napkin. I have one of those fancy sewing / embroidery machines and I love to make sets of cloth napkins for our table (and as gifts to friends) - this one is probably 10 years old! Every couple of days they get thrown in the laundry - we're saving trees!I use steel cut oats, called oat groats, to make our oatmeal - it has a nice, toothy bite to it. I buy it at a bulk food store outside of my hometown of Fleetwood, PA.

Steel cut oats have a relatively long cooking time - so I cook up a batch of about 6 servings, keep it in the fridge, and reheat on the stovetop as needed.

Finished my table runner this morning - here's the A side - bird's eye view -

Take a step back and have a look. There is no rhyme or reason to the quilting - it's a liberated quilt - no rules, remember? I'm using it on the table for my dinner party tomorrow night - wonder who will be the first to spill red wine on it? I used mostly Kaffe Fassett fabrics. The solid fabric is a new line from Moda called Basic Gray - I love the painterly look but so wish they had a softer hand - it will work nicely in wall hangings.

And here's the B side - bird's eye view -

And taking a step back. I really like both sides - what do you think?
Just to end on a whine - this is what my garage roof looks like today - over 4 feet of drifted snow; yesterday it was almost free of snow from the last storm. Got to get it off of there before March 7th - that's the date an Amish gentleman from Berks County is predicting the biggest snow storm of the year - oh, how I hope he is wrong!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Sweetly Sings My Bird

Say "Hi" to Sweetie, my little birdie that sits atop my sewing machine - she has quite a magnetic personality. She guards my EZ thread needle - the one I use to bury all of my quilting threads in the batting. If I'm sewing really fast, and my machine starts bouncing around a little, she'll start singing her little tweetie song - always makes me smile! I especially love her colors, so much so that ... they are showing up in my new project. If you haven't noticed, I keep a number of projects going at the same time. When I finish a big project I like to reward myself with a quickie project, so, here's my quickie - a table runner - a liberated table runner - no rules, cut and sew - using up the fabrics I purchased on my shopping trip yesterday. I just cut a bunch of strips and started sewing.
Here's my table runner - I've moved the blocks around since I snapped this photo to breakup the blocks with the darker red solid. I had a lot of strips left over after piecing it - so I decided to piece the back - you'll have to wait until tomorrow to see the back, and the quilting.
I apologize for not having a recipe today - here's the reason - I did make a cabbage and pork dish for dinner, but I just didn't like it enough to share. In addition to quilting my table runner, I've been cooking all day as well - getting ready for a dinner party Saturday night - today I made duck rillettes and pickled fennel for my appetizer. Promise to share a full photo review of the dinner party with you on Sunday!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Pita Perfect

No - that's not my thread collection - but a girl can have her dreams! I was out shopping today with friends - the only way to shop. I love to shop for fabric - and I have many favorite fabric shops. I've decided to list all of my favorite fabric shops at this blog - one list, no playing favorites - they are all great - long live the independent fabric shop! Stay tuned for the listing.
I picked up this lovely little collection of fabric while I was out today - I'm hoping to have time tomorrow to create a table runner for my dining room table - big dinner party scheduled for Saturday and I'd love to have something new on the table - I cannot wait to share the menu with you for the dinner party!
For tonight's dinner it's vegetarian - Greek Salad Pita Sandwiches and a Celery Root, Carrot and and Beet Salad. First things first - I need to make pitas - yes - homemade pita - it is so easy. You can find the recipe at the King Arthur Flour website. Here are my ingredients all ready to go - I used 2 cups of all purpose flour and one cup of whole wheat flour. I love SAF instant yeast for all bread baking.
Meet my baking center - my favorite part of the kitchen!
I use my Kitchenaid mixer to mix and knead the dough - it comes together nicely.
Into the oven for an hour of proofing - my oven has a proofing setting - love it!
The magic of yeast - after one hour my dough has more than doubled!
The dough gets divided into 8 pieces,
and rolled out into 6 inch circles.
Here they are in the oven after 5 minutes of baking - beautifully puffy.
Mmmmm, yummy, puffy pita.
The dinner of many veggies - and, yes, we really eat like this.
Yes, this is edible - it is celery root, or celeriac. I love the mild celery flavor. It can be a bit challenging to peel, but it's well worth the effort.
Here is the salad - Celery Root, Carrot and Beet Salad - I used the leftover Kumquat dressing instead of the recipe's vinaigrette. I stuffed the pitas with a salad of cucumber, onion, radicchio, kalamata olives, radishes, parsley and feta cheese; and, topped everything with homemade tzatziki. I made the tzatziki using 1 cup of 2% Greek yogurt, 1 cup of diced English cucumber, 2 tablespoons chopped sweet onion, 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon chopped dill, and 1 chopped clove of garlic.
And now for the best news of the day - the snow blower came home from it's visit to the snow blower infirmary - yea! Snow prediction for tomorrow - possibly another foot - enuf white stuff!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Moody Machines

Maybe it was the weather or maybe it's overdue for a full overhaul - but my little Bernina was in a funk today. I kept getting "please check the upper and lower thread for thread breakage or empty bobbin" warning. I checked, I cleaned, and it kept popping up - check, clean, mild expletives, but no solution. It is sewing just fine despite the warning - soon, I promise, I will take you in for a good cleaning. Finally finished up Cheryl's quilt today - as soon as I have news on her book you'll be the first to know.
Favorite quote from the Olympics last night (I'm addicted to the Olympics) in reference to one of the ice dancer's attire - "here's the top now let's go over it" - truer words were never spoken. That quote is a keeper for my Layers Quilting group.

Here are the stars of tonight's dinner - our veggies include a side of delicata squash, and our main course headliners featuring asparagus, spring onions, and a parsley tarragon gremolata. The flavor secret - saffron, direct from Lancaster, PA. Saffron is the stamen of the crocus flower, and this saffron from Shank's receives rave reviews over the imported stuff - give it a try.

The menu for tonight is Sauteed Chicken Cutlets with Asparagus, Spring Onions and Parsley - Tarragon Gremolata - you can prepare according to the recipe, but I suggest cutting the olive oil and butter measurements in half; and, I omitted the cream completely - it didn't need it. Delicata squash is delicious as a side dish - no need to peel - simply half, remove seeds, and slice into half inch slices - toss with 1 teaspoon of olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes.

Here are two more tools I love - 1. my microplane zester - good for zesting citrus, grating hard cheeses and nutmeg; and 2. the "scooper outer" - sorry I don't know the name of this - it is intended to de-seed a cucumber but you'll find many uses of it in the kitchen - it makes quick work of de-seeding the delicata squash.

After dinner we had a Brown Butter Pecan Biscotti with our espresso - yes, I am keeping it light this week, but I'm all about including a little treat now and again. These biscotti are made by my good friend Laura Smith - visit her website, to find out where you can buy them - they are delicious!

In a Bind

I needed to make binding today for I quilt I made for my friend, Cheryl Lynch - she asked that I make something for the gallery for her soon to be published book - can't show you a photo of the quilt, but I can tell you I used all Kaffe Fassett fabric from Glorious Color, Liza Lucy's on-line resource for all things Kaffe. I'm using the Venetian glass pattern for the binding - I only use bias binding - I love the process of making the binding. I start with a square of fabric large enough to give me the needed 236 inches of fabric.

Woops - mistake sewing my binding triangles together - need to seam rip. Here I go living on the edge again. I know a lot of quilters are content to pick stitches out when they've made a mistake. Sorry, that just takes too long for me. We are using a tool called a seam ripper, not a seam picker. I slip my seam ripper into the seam and, very carefully, slide it along the seam, ripping it open. You need to stop every couple of inches to clean the ripper of thread. Warning - you want to get proficient on this method before you try it on a project. If you are not careful you run the risk of slicing the fabric. When you get good at it you can open up a 2 foot seam in a few seconds - I'm good at it!

Once I get my binding tube together I use a smaller cutting mat to slip into the tube to cut my binding. This is not a great photo, but hopefully you understand. By slipping the mat inside of the tube you can simply spin the tube as you cut your binding.

Once my binding is cut I iron it - as I iron the length of binding I roll it onto my can of spray starch - that way it's not all over my sewing room floor picking up loose thread and getting all messy. When I sew the binding onto the quilt I put the "spool" of binding on the floor and unwind as needed.

Here are two important tools I cannot live without when it comes to binding. The red laminated paper, called the "Strip Ticket" is invaluable - one side has an illustrated step by step instruction of how to make continuous binding, and the reverse side has a chart listing the amount of fabric needed according to your binding width and desired length. You can find a version of the Strip Ticket in most quilting shops. The Fons and Porter Binding Tool is a relatively new tool for me, and I don't know how I lived without it - take my advice - you need it - you will get a flat final seam every time.

Too close for comfort - today I calculated that I needed 236 inches of binding. That was a loose estimation - my border is scalloped - oh no, I cut exactly 236 inches. I like to have a few extra feet of binding. Panic - slightly - I didn't have any more fabric left! I could not believe it - 4 inches of leftover binding - way too close for comfort!

Tonight's healthy dinner is vegetarian, actually vegan - we are having Sauteed Greens and Cannellini Beans accompanied by a slice of wheat berry bread topped with carrot and fennel bruschetta. You can follow the beans and greens recipe as written - it is only 270 calories per serving. Instead of using canned cannellini beans I used dried calypso beans - aren't they beautiful? I like making something with dried beans on a Monday - makes me feel like I'm back in Louisiana where they make red beans and rice on Mondays, giving the women time to do their laundry - I didn't do any laundry today! The kale is from the West Chester Grower's Market - kale is so beautiful - I've been known to use it in bouquets on the dinner table.

I'm not a real gadget person in the kitchen, but I do love these small 2 ounce measuring cups from OXO - great for portioning out oil - at 100 calories per tablespoon you really need to watch portions.
Here's dinner - served in and on gorgeous pottery from Willi Singleton, an amazingly talented artist who resides at the base of Hawk Mountain. To make the carrot and fennel bruschetta I simply sauteed in 2 teaspoons olive oil - 5 sliced carrots, 1/2 cup chopped fennel, 1/4 cup chopped onion, 1 minced clove of garlic, 1 tablespoon capers, 4 diced dried apricots. I finished the bruschetta with a handful of chopped parsley, and then spread the mixture onto the bread - loaded with whole grain goodness and a powerful blast of Vitamin A - it's all good for you!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Progress Report: Feathers and Scallops

"a thread from the edge" - what is the deep meaning to the name of this blog? First - it's me - there is no deep meaning to anything I do, period, I am just not that complicated. I do drive myself to being the best I can be - some think I have a perfection complex - and in quilting, that philosophy can lead you to the edge. Case in point - here is a sampling of my current quilt - those are all of the threads I pull to the top of the quilt, which I will eventually bury in the batting - when I'm good and ready. Until that time, they sit on the top of my quilt, getting tangled, getting in the way, and getting on my nerves - moving me closer to the edge.

I've been busy working on my feathers in an attempt to impress you. I think I'm improving daily. I admit I am still chalking in some of the feather motif, but I am getting better at "free birding" my feathers. Have a gander at the twin feathers on my one corner block - not bad - eh?

Scallop Update - no, silly - not quilted scallops, dinner scallops. I'm going to try to give you a healthy dinner entree every day this week, and tonight's dinner entree includes the lovely sweet mollusk, scallops. Two large scallops cost you a whole of 25 calories - perfect protein source while you are trying to keep the calories in check. The secret is you need to watch your preparation method. Tonight's entree, Seared Scallops with Fennel Salad and Kumquat Vinaigrette, is a reduced calorie version based on the original recipe from epicurious. A kumquat looks like a small orange, about the size of an olive. They are in season and readily available now. I love to eat them plain - you need to squeeze them between your fingers to release the bitter oil, and then eat the whole fruit - the skin actually has sweetness, while the pulpy inside is quite sour - eaten together they balance out. I'm playing with my photos today - here are my kumquats as seen by the impressionist eye.
Add ImageAnd, here is a still life of my ingredients - kumquats, radicchio, fennel, scallions, and tarragon (it pains me to buy tarragon - in the summer it becoms a weed in my herb garden).
Here are my changes to the original recipe - I made the dressing as written but used only 4 ounces of olive oil in the dressing, and added 4 ounces of water - savings of 800 calories. The original recipe had you use the entire amount of dressing - I used only 1/4 of the dressing in the final dish and have the remainder to use in the future. I seared the scallops in only 2 teaspoons of olive oil - that's all you need if you have a good hot pan. My scallops seared perfectly - and I saved over 300 calories in the searing process. All I did was cut excess olive oil from the recipe and I saved over 1100 calories. This dish is chockful of beautiful crunchy veggies - calorie-wise they just don't count; flavor-wise they are amazing. I served 6 scallops per serving - 75 calories of pure protein. I accompanied the dish with a slice of whole grain bread rubbed with garlic and toasted under the broiler.