Month: July 2013

Knit Baby "Quilt" Blanket

  I’m really excited to show you guys today’s project.  It’s one I’ve had in the works for an exceptionally long time and then had to keep hidden because I didn’t want to ruin the surprise.  My dear, dear friends in Pittsburgh are expecting a baby and I finally handed over this blanket:
  This is a couple dozen knit stitches/patterns joined together into one blanket.
  To make the blanket I created 6 separate “scarves” of a certain number of stitches.  One scarf for instance is composed of all knit patterns that are 24 stitches wide.  Once the scarves were all completed I used the same yarn to stitch them together.  After they were stitched into a square I borrowed my mom’s foam mat and blocked it to get out some of the weird pulling spots where some of the patterns were narrower than others.  Finally, I crocheted a frame of single crochet stitches around the outside to stabilize everything.
  Probably the most challenging part of this project was finding enough interesting patterns that had the right number of stitches.  There were lots of them that were just 1 or 2 stitches off from what I needed.  Luckily, the internet is a wonderful resource for knitting, so I managed to muddle through.
  I’m really happy with how it turned out.  I had this concept for a long time before I started executing it.  I love the “sampler” look in all one color.  With all the lacey stitches there are lots of holes for little fingers to explore.  My friends love it and I can’t wait to see their little one all wrapped up inside!

Sweet Potato with Goat Cheese and Roasted Grapes

  Today’s recipe is a little hard to categorize.  It really isn’t quite a main dish…but it’s good enough that you could eat just this for dinner.  Your call if you serve it with other food or just gorge.  Either way, I’m not judging.
4 sweet potatoes
2 c red, seedless grapes
1 tsp coconut oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
4 oz goat cheese
2 Tbsp honey
pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg

  Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees.  Stab your sweet potatoes with a fork and then wrap them in tin foil.  Bake them for around an hour, until they’re nice and soft and then remove them from the tinfoil.  Carefully (look out for steam burns!) cut a slit down the center of the potato and then let them cool until you can handle them.
  While they’re cooling, turn your oven up to 450 degrees.  Toss your grapes with your oil and a pinch of salt and pepper and then place them on a lined baking sheet.  Roast them for around 20 minutes.  They’ll start to explode.  Take them out of the oven and set aside.
  When your potatoes are no longer molten hot, scoop the bulk of the flesh out of the skin (doing your best to not rip through the skin) and mash it in a large bowl with 3 oz of the goat cheese, your cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, pepper and honey.  Once everything is combined, place it back into the skins and top with the remaining goat cheese and your roasted grapes.  Drizzle with additional honey if you’d like.
  So heads up parents, 3 year olds think roasted grapes look gross.  They’re incredibly wrong, roasted grapes are delicious, but if your kid is anything like mine, you’re going to have to employ severe levels of bribery to ever get one of those suckers past their lips.  In general, this was not an easy sell to G.  Darn.  Meant I got all his refused leftovers.  The Mr. and I both really liked this.  I felt a little guilty calling it a meal…it’s really pretty sweet and doesn’t exactly have any green leafies or anything, but, eh, I suppose it’s still better than heading out for fast food, right?

Cotton Gym Shorts

  Last week G got some sleep shorts and R got a sleep sack, all in the name of keeping my little boys cool in the hot weather…but here I was, still trying to zumba in long yoga pants!  It was my turn for something lightweight for the weather.
  Using the same basic method I used to make G’s shorts, stealing a pattern from a pair of my sleep shorts (and somehow managing to again not stretch everything out quite far enough) and then lengthening them, I made this pair.
  The pattern needs a little bit of modification before I try to make another pair.  I had to slash the sides of mine just like G’s (clearly I’m not doing so hot on the pattern making with pants this summer), and while I like that they’re fairly snug to my legs for when I’m jumping around doing African dance and stretches and what not, they don’t fall quite right.
  The shoes I wear are dance shoes and the only color I could find is black…so I pretty much look like the biggest dork on earth wearing them with these shorts, but I can’t really blame the shorts for that.  The point was to make myself something I could dance in without dying of heat, and for that they’re perfect.  So, for their intended purpose?  Complete and total win.  For any sort of added stylishness or feeling like anything but an awkward, pasty white girl attempting the salsa?  Fail.

Apple Cinnamon Pork Chops

  I’ve started making notes to myself about recipes if I think they may sit for a little before they get written up…if I make several new recipes in a week for instance.  Today’s recipe’s note was simply “SO GOOD”.

4 thick boneless pork chops 
1 sweet apple, thinly sliced
3 shallots, thinly sliced
¼ c white wine
5 Tbsp coconut oil, divided
cinnamon, to taste
salt and pepper to taste
  Start by rubbing your cinnamon, salt and pepper onto the pork chop.  Heat 4 Tbsp of your coconut oil into a large skillet and melt it over medium heat.  Add your thinly sliced apples and shallots and cook them for around 5 minutes.  Remove them from the pan and set them aside before adding the rest of the coconut oil to the pan.  Add your pork chops to the pan and resist the urge to scoot them around.  Let them sear for 2 minutes on each side.  Add your wine to the pan and bring it to a boil to cook the alcohol off.  Return the apples and shallots, put a cover on everything and cook it over medium heat for around 7 minutes (until your pork chops reach a safe temperature of 145).
  This was ridiculously good.  We served it with pears and brie cheese and I did a little happy dance in my chair while I ate.  The leftover chop was incredible the next day too.  Pork can be a little challenging sometimes, but this recipe is definitely a winner!

Customizing Photographs for Artwork

  In the year and a half since I wrote this post about sewing fuzzy pillow shams for my bedroom I’ve officially done nothing in there.  I am a model of decorating diligence and dedication.  You’d think I’d gotten pregnant, moved my sewing studio and had a baby or something…
  Anyhow, you may have noticed in the original shot that I have this print hanging on the wall by our bed:
  I love that particular painting, and the colors are absolutely perfect for our room…but I somewhat hesitate to use well known pieces of art in our home for fear of ending up with the “high end dorm room” look, where everybody had their framed poster of Gustav Klimt’s “The Kiss”.
  So I’ve been working to create my own piece with a similar feel.  Here’s what I’ve created so far:
  And here is the original photograph I started with:
  It’s not quite to where I’m happy with it yet.  I’m going to want it like 2’x3′ for over the head of the bed and I’m just not sure it won’t look goofy at the moment, but it’s a good start.
  To make the changes, using Photoshop, I first adjusted the color of the sky using Image/Adjustments/Selective Color and then adjusting the Cyan and Blue levels to appear more turquoise.  Next I created a new layer and applied a Diffuse Glow filter (in Filter/Distort) to crank up the whites of the flowers, clouds and the highlights on the branches and adjusted the opacity to make it a subtle glow instead of an entire washing out.
  Finally I created another layer and applied a Poster Edge (Filter/Artistic) filter, doing the same messing-with-the-opacity to get it where I wanted it.
  As I said, I haven’t quite gotten it where I want it yet, so most likely it’s going to be a situation where this is a work in progress for years as well (so dedicated), but I’m at least headed in the right direction!
  I know I sort of glossed over the exact details of how I’ve done this, so if you have any specific questions about how I’ve done this, please leave me a comment!

Rosemary and Olive Frittata

  Lest any of you think that I’ve given up my love affair with crustless egg pie…we’re making another frittata today.
8 large eggs
1/2 c Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
 salt and black pepper to taste
1/2 c black olives, cut in half
2 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped
Olive oil, for greasing pan
  Making certain one of your racks is positioned in the middle, start your oven preheating to 400 degrees.  The original recipe calls for a springform pan with parchment paper, but for mine I used a non-stick skillet rubbed with olive oil.
  Mix all of your ingredients together in a large bowl before pouring into your pan.  If you would like a more even distribution of olives you can always position them in the pan before pouring the other ingredients on top, but that seemed like more work than it was worth to me!
  Bake everything for about 15 minutes in your preheated oven, until the top puffs up and the sides start to pull away from the pan.  Mine actually got a huge mountain of an air bubble in the middle of it.  Let cool for a bit before serving.
  I love the olives in this.  The pecorino with them is a great combination and the overall flavor of this is just a touch sour in a way that makes it especially delicious in this hot weather.  G has decided he does not like olives, but happily ate a couple pieces of this none the less…only halfheartedly complaining while he did it.  As much as we’ve been struggling to get him to eat anything without wailing and gnashing of teeth lately, I’m going to go ahead and call that a win.  This is quick, easy and surprisingly sophisticated tasting.  An awesome option for a quick dinner with friends.

Lightweight Sleep Sack for Baby

  Tuesday I showed you the warm weather sleep shorts I made for G.  He’s not the only one whose sleeping wardrobe has been getting updated though.  R sleeps better for us when he’s in a sleep sack.  He’s past the age where swaddling is particularly effective, but he still does better with something around his feet.  All the appropriately sized sleep sacks we had were fleece though…obviously not an option in this weather.  Old pillow cases to the rescue AGAIN!

  To make this, all I did was lay one of his current sleep sacks on top of the pillowcase and trace around it, leaving the bottom of the pillow case sealed shut and cutting into it for the neck and armholes towards the open end.  Another option, if you don’t currently have a sleep sack, would be to use a onesie for a basic guideline on neck and arm size (though obviously your sack has to be significantly longer than a onesie!)  Once I had the pillowcase cut to the correct shape, I slashed down the middle of the front piece and installed the zipper.  Then I sewed up the side seams before finishing the armholes and neckline.  As a note…I install the zippers upside down so the pull tab winds up at the baby’s feet.  This is a little preemptive at this point, but becomes super important once you start using these sacks to keep little nudists from ripping off all their clothing and diaper in the night.  If you want to do it the same way you need a separating zipper for this to actually work.
  Because these are a quick and dirty project using old pillow cases they don’t ever turn out terribly pretty.  They’re not something I’m going to pull out to show off my sewing skills for sure.  The zipper always creates a pleat at the bottom using this method, and since I just fold over my arm and neck holes to stitch them, they’re always pretty warped and hideous.  I could do it the right way…separate the front from the back, put the zipper in first before reattaching them…finish the neck/armholes with bias tape…but, nah.  These are a practical item that I’m just making so the baby sleeps well for these few hot months, so I’m gonna stick with slapdash.
  Have any questions about how to make a bag to shove your baby in?  Leave a comment or shoot me an email!

Coconut & Macadamia Nut Freezer Bars (Primal)

  With this heat wave sweeping the nation, I think it’s time to make something cold.  While we’re at it, lets make it sweet…and decadent.  Avert your eyes if you’re trying to keep things low fat.
1 c unsweetened flaked coconut
3/4 c raw, unsalted macadamia nuts
3/4 c almonds
3/4 c melted coconut oil
1 Tbsp chia seeds 
Pinch of sea salt
  Start by preheating your oven to 350 ºF.  Place your coconut flakes on a baking sheet and toast them for around 5 minutes til they’re lightly browned.
  Set up your food processor and use it to combine your nuts and coconut oil until they’re nice and smooth.  Add the coconut flakes and chia and mix everything together by pulsing a few more times.
  Line an approximately 8″x 8″ pan with parchment paper and pour your mixture into it.  Sprinkle a bit of sea salt on top and place in the freezer to solidify.  They should be cold enough to serve in about half an hour.  Cut them into bars to serve.
  The original recipe for this uses all macadamia nuts.  I love macadamia nuts, but those suckers are expensive, so we subbed in almonds for half the volume.  Unsurprisingly with all the fat in them, these are really rich.  They have a fabulous flavor and, hooray! lots of healthy omega 3s.  They’re not in-your-face sweet, but they’re a wonderful treat!

Pillowcase Sleep Shorts

  G is quite the proper little gentleman.  Regardless of how hot it gets, he refuses to sleep in just his underpants and absolutely must be wearing a top and pants of some sort at night.  That’s fine…but unfortunately all of his pajamas that fit were long sleeved, full length flannel numbers.  Not exactly conducive to good sleep in 80-degrees-at-night kind of weather.
  Lucky for him, Mama had some old pillow cases that were just begging to be turned into shorts.
  To create these I used my usual technique for making my own pattern from a pair of shorts I knew fit him.  I actually messed up a little doing it…I forgot to stretch out the elastic in the waistband and so the first pair I made was, ahem, a bit snug.  No problem!  Just slashed the sides and put in a band of contrasting fabric.  He loves the “stripes” down the side anyhow.
  These are a quick, easy project and now he has a couple pairs of light-weight cotton shorts to snooze in.  Honestly, they turned out cute enough I’m probably going to have a hard time reserving them for pajamas!

Mushroom and Thyme Pie Pockets

  So remember how I said Thursday that I’ve come to the conclusion anything called pie is delicious?  This recipe isn’t changing my opinion on that one bit.
1 Tbsp butter, plus 1 tsp to grease the baking sheet
1 Tbsp olive oil
8 oz mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp fresh thyme
¼ tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
¼ c whipping cream
2 sheets puff pastry
4 oz Gruyère cheese, shredded
1 large egg mixed with 1 Tbsp water (for egg wash)
  Start by heating your olive oil and butter in a large pan.  When they are hot, saute your mushrooms over medium high heat for about 5 minutes.  Add your onions and saute another 5 minutes before adding the garlic and thyme and continuing to saute for 1 more minute.  Mix in your cream, salt and pepper and let everything cook for around 2 minutes, or until most of the liquid evaporates.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.  Start your oven preheating to 375 degrees.
  Meanwhile, cut each of your pastry sheets into 6 pieces.  Spread 1/6th of your mushroom mixture topped with 1/6 of your cheese into the center of 6 of your pastry pieces, leaving about .5″ around the edge.  Brush the edge of the pastry with egg wash before  placing your remaining pastry pieces on top.  Press the edges together to create a sealed pocket.
  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper before placing the pies on it.  Brush each of the pies lightly with egg wash and cut 2 small vents in the top.  Bake for about 25 minutes, rotating them once, until everything is puffed and golden.  Allow to cool for a few minutes before removing from the pan and serving.
  These were delicious and the leftovers made wonderful grab-and-go lunches the next day.  Score one more for “pies”!