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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Half Square Triangles

32 HSTs done in time to watch the Oscars!

Now the fun part begins...laying it out on the design wall.  I think that is my favorite part of quilting, as there are countless options.  :)

How to Corn Beef

Corned beef = beef brisket + salt + sugar + spices + water + weights + 3 weeks!
It's called "corned" because it was originally made with coarse salt, about the size of a corn kernel.  When I picked up the corned beef spices and brisket, I didn't know it had to cure for three weeks.  Since I'd already invested in the ingredients, and had only to invest a little time...I decided to take a crack at it.  The knives are used to keep the meat  from rising to the top of the brine.  The Joy of Cooking says to turn the meat every 5 days. 

The brine started out clear, but 24 hours later its turning red.  Will have to find out which spice is responsible for that.  I'm not familiar with all the spices in this mix.  Had no idea that corned beef spices include juniper berries.  The spice mix smells fantastic, so I have high hopes for my homemade GF corned beef! 

Friday, February 25, 2011

Adventures in Gluten Free Living-Spices

GF monotony has set in, so I needed inspiration.  Having heard good things about Penzey's Spices, I dropped by.  Had hoped to find a GF beef base, but no dice.  Still, I found other goodies.  Making soups from scratch will be easier with the Bouquet Garni.  The Vanilla Sugar will be fun to try on oatmeal and to sprinkle on fresh fruits that need just a hint of sugar.  I have yet to make or buy a good GF salad dressing so I'm looking forward to trying the Green Goddess mix with light sour cream or plain Greek yogurt.  But the best find of all is the Corned Beef Spices!  

I've been thinking about St. Pattie's Day.  But all my internet searches for gluten free corned beef result in the same thing: Hormel's Corned Beef Hash in a can.  Definitely NOT what I want to eat on St. Pat's Day!  So I bought a beef brisket and I'm gonna give it a whirl.   My family tends to get together in mid-March to celebrate triple birthdays.  We almost always go out for corned beef and cabbage.  Even if I can't have it at the restaurant, I won't feel bad if I know I can have it at home.  Now, just how much salt and water constitutes a brine, and how long does it have to soak?  Will have to report back with results!  :)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Inching Along

What's so special about the bottom two squares?  They're the LAST ONES!  32 little nine patches may not look like much, but they are HUGE to me.

Quilting time has been dramatically reduced since I had to go gluten free.  Friday Night Sew-Ins have turned into Friday Night Bake-Ins.  At least now I have a few bread recipes worth repeating.  This weekend I made beef stock from scratch since all the commercial stocks contain gluten, and the "beef flavored" broths taste fake.  Did you know Whole Foods charges $16.00/lb. for beef bones?  Insanity!  I need to make friends with a sympathetic butcher!  I used stew cubes from the regular grocery store, and then made Italian Beef with the leftover meat.  All of this has taken time away from quilting.

The good news is that I'm s-l-o-w-l-y getting the hang of GF cooking.  And gradually, I'm reclaiming some time to quilt to my heart's desire.  Life is good!  :)

Friday, February 18, 2011

Crochet with Plastic Bags

While killing time in the surgical waiting room yesterday, I met a woman who was crocheting a tote bag - much like this one.  It was  attractive, springy/stretchy to the touch, and very STRONG!  Tres gauche for grocery shopping!

Having feared that yesterday might be my last opportunity to see my 101 year old grandmother alive, I hastily fled to her bedside.  In the process, I didn't stop to think, "Gee, maybe I should take my camera along, in case I see something crafty!"  Happily, Grandma came through surgery with flying colors.  But you'll just have to take my word that it was a good lookin' bag!

The young lady in this video demonstrates the technique.  She has crocheted a variety of items in addition to tote bags: 

Another link on the same topic is quite creative and entertaining:

It might be fun to try a craft that doesn't leave me covered in thread and pins! :)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Prayer for Grandma

This is my grandma a few months ago.  She fell yesterday and broke a hip.  Last night a decision had to be made: continue to live in terrible pain or have high risk surgery.  She had surgery this afternoon and was back in her room by supper time.  Once again, we are astonished at her strength!  The doctor explained that the greatest risk comes during recovery, so she's not out of the woods.  If you are so inclined, please say a prayer for Clara.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

New Projects

This project will look a lot like some you've seen before. 

This next one will be wall-sized for a fund raiser.  When I get sick and tired of making  3" nine patches, I can switch gears to the next project.

This is for a baby girl expected in mid-April.  I've been in the mood to work with purple or lilac so this'll be fun.  It was also the only kit that did not include a bright, solid, satin fabric.  To me, babies and satin do not go together.  Better to make a soft, cuddly quilt!  If time allows I may add some applique to spice it up a bit.

Amarylis in Full Bloom

WOW!  Six big beautiful blooms at once. 

Successful Gluten Free Bread

This recipe is from Gluten-Free Baking Classics by Annalise Roberts.  I used her Bread Mix B, which has equal parts millet and sorghum flours. It called for 2 TBSP of sugar, but I used 3 TBSP of honey. I'm happy with the flavor. I brushed it with butter to soften the crust.

Ms. Roberts recommends the following tools for baking success: Light colored bread pans (not dark non-stick pans), an oven thermometer, and an instant read thermometer.  I was very surprised to learn my oven is 50 degrees too cool!

I've also been experimenting with bread mixes.  Be it homemade or from a are my criteria for a successful loaf of GF bread:

1.  Accurate nutrition labeling, showing values for both the dry mix and as prepared.
2.  Includes whole grains for fiber.
3.  Tastes good fresh from the oven and still tastes good after freezing and thawing.
4.  Can be eaten at room temperature without toasting or microwaving.
5.  Directions should be complete, with consistent results.
6.  Should not collapse in on itself while cooling.
7.  Should not cost an arm and a leg.

Number 4 is most important because there are times when you want to participate in a social event, but there's nothing there you can eat.  I try to either bring a GF item to share, or bring a sandwich along.  In a situation like this, the bread has to stand on its own with no grilling, toasting or microwaving. 

I've tried 4 GF bread mixes to date:

Gluten Free Pantry Sandwich Loaf - $4.89 for the mix plus eggs, oil or butter, milk or water.  Main ingredients are white rice flour and brown rice flour.  Fiber is less than 1 gram/slice.  Directions are poor.  If you bake as directed (just 30-40 minutes), it will be undercooked in the center.  On the upside - it tastes great and passes the room temperature test with flying colors.  On the front of the box, it says its a cholesterol free food - but the directions call for 2 eggs.  They don't list the nutrients for the prepared product, so the cholesterol-free statement is very misleading.  I'm opposed to this line of GF products because of the deceptive labeling.

Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Bread Mix - $4.49 for the mix, plus eggs, oil or butter, milk or water.  Primary ingredients are garbanzo bean flour and potato starch.  This mix calls for one whole egg and enough egg whites to make 3/4 cup - about 5 large eggs.  Separating four eggs negates the convenience of a mix for me.  Fiber is 3 gm/slice.  Baking directions are accurate.  It freezes and thaws well.  It makes a bigger loaf (9 x 5") than the other brands, so it lasts longer.  Tastes a little like navy bean soup though.  Its better if you add some honey. 

Pamela's Gluten Free Bread Mix - $4.49, plus other ingredients.  Primary ingredients are sorghum flour and tapioca flour.  Fiber is 3 gm/slice.  It passes the room temperature test, and has a good flavor.  In fact, I know a woman who buys Pamela's by the case from the Internet.  This mix makes a moist product that is nutritious and economical. 

King Arthur's Gluten Free Bread Mix - I had such high hopes for this new product.  The first problem is the price: $7.99 just for the mix.  Of course, you add other ingredients (as with the other brands).  But I scanned the baking directions and decided to try it despite the sticker shock.  One thing I really like about this product is that there are two risings, so you get a better texture.  It's reassuring if you've spent a lifetime punching down your dough to let the air out.  They also tell you how to get a good looking loaf top, by wetting two fingers and smoothing out the top after you pour it into the pan.  Fiber is less than 1 gram.  Nutrition labeling shows nutrients for mix alone, and as prepared.  Primary ingrediets are white rice and tapioca starch.  Flavor and satiety are a big dissappointment.  The white rice flavor is unmistakable. 

Frozen bread products I've tried are: Udi's bread, Kinnikinnic bagels, Ener-G Rice Bread and Kinnikinnic Many Wonder Multigrain Rice Bread.  None of these pass the room temperature test.  Ener-G tasted like chemicals, so I tossed the whole loaf.  The KK bagels tasted fine but the texture was nothing like a regular bagel. These bagels were toasted, cubed and turned into bread pudding.  Udi's bread is OK for a grilled sandwich.  The Many Wonder bread is supposed to be like rye bread.  Its also OK for grilling.
And so, my quest for the perfect GF loaf continues.  I'm learning with each experiment, and will share more results in the future.  :)

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Packers Win the Super Bowl!

Woo Hoo!

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Squirrels

This is one happy dog! 

Its been four long, miserable days since the blizzard.  Four days since Dottie could fly off the deck to chase squirrels.  She was moping, so I shoveled a path for her.  The instant she realized she was free, she bounded off the deck through two feet of snow straight to her favorite tree.  I wish I had a video camera! 

I took this picture from a "dog's eye view."  THIS is Dottie in pursuit of a dog biscuit!  :)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Jeans Quilt 2011 Top Complete

My goal for this weekend was to complete this quilt top, starch it and put it away for a bit.  The top is complete.  Tomorrow I'll starch it for basting.  Then I'll begin two projects with April deadlines. 

One is a baby quilt, the other a wall sized food quilt for the silent auction at the Wisconsin Dietetic Association conference. 

I may need to cheat and buy a kit for the baby quilt.  Or it might be an opportunity to try my hand at making a rag quilt.  I saw a cute one on the blogs the other day.  Will think about the baby quilt while assembling nine patches for the food quilt.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Blossoms and Blizzards

I've been taking a picture of my amarylis each day.
Every day I come home to more color.
I'm hoping the first two flowers will last long enough that I'll have four blooms at once.
But if I draw back the curtain, I'm quickly reminded it IS still winter.  Yikes! 
Which would you rather look at? 

This is a shoulder height drift at my back door.  It snowed so heavily through the screen door, I had to remove it to open it.  Then I went out with a jacket over my PJs to shovel a path for my pooch to get outside!  

I think I'll close the curtain, and pretend I'm somewhere warm and wonderful :)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Thoughts on Jeans, and Where to Find Them

I'd been thinking about making a jeans quilt, when I happened upon some 3X denim dresses at a garage sale.  I loved the light denim with pink flowers so much I decided right then and there to make this quilt.  The pink jeans came from Goodwill and St. Vinnie's thrift shops.  This quilt was an HS graduation gift for my neice.  A young friend of mine was expected to graduate from HS one year later.  I asked if she wanted a college quilt too, and she said "Yes, but make mine purple."  I spent the next year combing thrift shops and garage sales to produce this quilt.  There's a black on purple paisley fabric in this quilt that I would love to find again.
This quilt included some corduroy and twills.  Had I not modified my plan I'd probably still be looking for purple jeans.  I found that Oshkosh B'Gosh girls clothing and Lands End lilac jeans in womens and girls sizes worked great.  I did cheat a bit and bought the fabric for the border.  After a year of hunting I wanted to get this project done on time.  I made the small quilt below from the purple and lilac scraps.

In the process of hunting down these fabrics, I managed to acquire a whole bunch of old jeans, and found several yards of a dark, dark denim at a yard sale.  So I was inspired to make a quilt for a nephew.  I didn't think to weigh this quilt...but it was even heavier than the one I'm making now.

Next I made a red, white and blue quilt during the presidential election.

While hunting down more red jeans, I found some wild aqua colored jeans, prompting me to make this quilt for my Sweetie and I to use at football games and marching band competions in late autumn.
 Meanwhile my jeans stash grew.  I still have pastels....
...and reds, whites, and red and whites.

And one of my favorites - sparkly jeans!

Then there are the light weight denims used for shirting.  I even found denim sheets and bed skirts (another garage sale special).  These allow you to make a lightweight binding, without losing the jeans look.

Prior to starting my latest quilt, I unearthed 20-30 leftover squares, then cut up 5 or 6 pairs of jeans.  Eventually, when word gets out that you make quilts from jeans, people start giving you stuff and you only need to hunt for the different or unusual.  Anything I can't use gets donated to Goodwill and St. Vinnie's.

Funny how one thing leads to another! 
Currently I need a very large and tall person to donate (to me, Goodwill or St. Vinnies) some black jeans - preferably ones they outgrew or that didn't fit just right...before the jeans wore out.  That, or I have to come up with a better idea for an inner border and binding on my current project.   :)