Learning each and every day

My quest to edify myself a bit every day

Archive for the month “September, 2012”

Day 279 – September 22

What a busy day of learning I had today! Four new recipes and a new trick on my serger. Let’s start with the recipes. I’ve had sort of a mixed bag of luck with recipes as of late, and today was no different. For dinner, I made a carmelized onion tart using a recipe from my new Vegetarian cookbook. Since I was having company, I doubled the recipe and added mushrooms to one of the tarts. It turned out really pretty good. It did take FOREVER to carmelize 3 lbs of onions, though! It’s really a very simple recipe, with the only time-consuming step being the carmelizing.

A pic.

And the recipe.

Carmelized onion tart from Vegetarian: a collection of over 100 essential recipes

Serves 4-6
7T unsalted butter
1lb 5oz onions, thinly sliced
2 eggs
1/3 cups heavy cream
salt and pepper
3/4 cup grated Gruyere cheese
8-inch ready-baked pastry shell
3/4 cup coarsely grated Parmesan cheese

1. Melt the butter in a heavy-bottom skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently to avoid burning, for 30 minutes, or until well-browned and carmelized. Remove the onions from the skillet and set aside.
2. Beat the eggs in a large bowl, stir in the cream, and season with salt and pepper. Add the Gruyere and mix well. Stir in the cooked onions.
3. Pour the egg and onion mixture into the baked tart shell and sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese. Put on a cookie sheet. Bake in a preheated oven, 375 F for 15-20 minutes until the filling has set and begun to brown.
4. Remove from the oven and let rest for at least 10 minutes. The tart can be served hot or left to cool to room temperature.

For lunch, I gave the fam a little treat with some hot vanilla. The basic idea is you heat milk, add vanilla, add a dollop of chocolate whipped cream and viola. I’ll be honest, this sounded much yummier than it ended up being, in my opinion. I wasn’t all that impressed and think I’ll stick to my traditional hot chocolate. My family, on the other hand, thought it was AMAZING! So, I guess I’ll make it for them, just not for me.

I also tried another drink today from my drinks and desserts board on pinterest. It was crockpot pumpkin lattes. Sounds amazing, right? Milk, coffee, pumpkin, sugar, cinnamon and vanilla all mixed together and cooked on high. There’s no nice way to say this, so I’ll just be blunt: my first thought when tasting it . . . “Yuck!” It was really quite bad. It just tasted like plain pumpkin. I realized I’d forgotten the sugar, so I added the 8T . . .definitely not enough, so I dumped in some powdered sugar. Still, I was completely uninspired by the drink. I didn’t want to just pitch 6 cups of milk down the drain, so I put the whole mixture in the fridge to deal with later. After letting it sit overnight, it was a little better, but still not crazy delish like I thought it would be. I added about 2T of chocolate syrup and that made it drinkable. It was actually pretty good as the liquid base for my oatmeal, so I’m thinking that’s how I’ll use it up.

As I mentioned before, we we expecting company this weekend, so I made a cake for Sabbath dinner. I saw this recipe for orange creamsicle cake requiring only 3 ingredients: cake mix, greek yogurt and orange juice. Normally I make my desserts from scratch, but laziness was prevailing and I thought it would be fun to give this a try. *sigh* Another flop. First of all, it tasted nothing like orange, definitely not creamy. Second, it just wasn’t all that great. It’s highly possible that my normally picky palette is even pickier in my 9-month preggo state, because everyone else that tried the cake thought it was delicious. *shrug* I think I’ll stick to my “from scratch” creations instead. I DO think that the cake would have been improved with some orange frosting. I had neither real butter nor cream cheese, so I couldn’t test my hypothesis.

The final new recipe was the main entree for Sabbath dinner; honey lime enchiladas Sounded yummy and seemed to be a nice change from the regular enchiladas I make. I substituted soy protein for the meat but basically kept to the recipe. Mine didn’t turn out looking all nice and golden. I’m thinking it’s because I didn’t bake it right away. Rather, it sat in the fridge overnight and then I cooked it after church. In any case, it was really quite good. I think next time I’ll use more honey and lime, and probably put some honey and lime in the sauce. Otherwise, this recipe was a winner! Phew, finally a success for today!

In preparation for the soon-to-arrive squish, I’ve been contemplating altering some shirt patterns to create some nursing shirts. Last night I started work on a dolman shirt that looked super easy. The pattern called for gathering. I know how to gather on a sewing machine, I’ve done it tons. But, I was going to be making this shirt on the serger, and I wanted to learn how to gather on a serger. I found two tutorials using different methods. I tried both, but couldn’t get one of them to work. This first tutorial from the blog Serger Emporium gives you very little control over the amount of gathering and you need to try it on practice fabric before doing it on the real thing. As it turns out, this was the only one I had any success with. I was really hoping to get this tute from Fiberosity to work since you pull on the threads and directly decide how much gathering to put in the fabric. Sadly, I couldn’t for the life of me figure out which two threads were the needle threads, and pulling on any of the threads individually yielded me nothing. I’m going to keep fiddling with this one, though. But for the time being, the tute from Serger Emporium is quite simple to follow and it works!

So there you have it, my very busy day of learning!

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Day 278 – September 20

Let’s start out with a quick review of yesterday’s recipe, the orzo with eggplant. It was “edible”, as my mom likes to say, but I didn’t find it delicious. I think the babes at a bit of it, and DH thought it was delish. For me, it just seemed like the outcome wasn’t worth the amount of time put into making it. If you try it, I’d be curious to hear your thoughts.

Today was a very cool, fall-like day, so I was inspired to make something pumpkin-ish. Yesterday, my 3yo had asked if I could make pancakes for breakfast today. I generally reserve pancakes for the weekend since I have a bit more time. Since I still wanted to make something special, I decided on scones, as they are pretty quick to whip up. I pinned this recipe for pumpkin chocolate chip scones and figured today, in all of its fall-like excellentness, would be a great day to try them out.

I didn’t really read through the directions carefully before starting. (Tsk! Tsk!) Imagine my dismay at discovering that I was supposed to let the dough chill in the fridge for 30 minutes! Shoot! I was starving and wanted the scones NOW! Since I ended up with more scones than what would fit on one tray, I went ahead and dumped the first tray in the fridge and baked the second tray immediately. Honestly, I didn’t notice any difference between the chilled and non-chilled scones. Both were super delish and I wanted to eat every last one! The babes loved them as did DH. I’ll definitely be making these again, maybe varying what type of chip to use and varying the spices.

Day 277 – September 19

Despite my ambivalence towards my previous recipe find from Smitten Kitchen, it still is one of my favorite foodie blogs. As such, I check the blog often for additions. Today I decided to try out an eggplant recipe: Baked Orzo with Eggplant and Mozzarella. I really need to learn to look for the “Serves X” in recipes before deciding how much to buy. I only bough enough eggplant to make a single batch, which serves 4. Likely, that won’t be enough for our family, but we’ll see.

The recipe was medium in difficulty and time-consumption. You have to let the eggplant drain for 30 minutes, and then it’s about 10-15 of frying prep, and then 40 minutes in the oven. So definitely not something that you can make if you need a quick dinner. We ended up not eating it tonight since we would have ended up having dinner at 7:00, which is bedtime around here. We’ll probably try it out tomorrow, so I’ll be back with a review. It looks like it will be pretty good, but I’m gonna go ahead and guess that the babes probably won’t like it. They haven’t been thrilled with any of the other eggplant recipes I’ve tried, so I see no reason why this would be different!

Be back tomorrow with an update!

Day 275 – September 17

The year is about 3/4 of the way over, and I’ve discovered that learning doesn’t happen on a daily basis. I can go several days without learning or trying anything new. And then the next day, I’ll learn/try 3 or 4 new things. Today is an example of that. Since I usually do lots of food posts, I’ll start with the non-food thing.

I’ve been making my own laundry detergent for quite a few months now. I use the Fels-Naptha bar soap and grate it up. It works pretty well, and is inexpensive to make. But all of that grating can be, well, grating. So I found this recipe that requires no grating. It’s basically washing soda, borax and dish soap. Super easy to make and I think it works. I’ve done about 3 loads of laundry with it . . .so far, so good. I only made a little bit, just in case it’s terrible. I have yet to wash a really muddy load, so we’ll see how it does with that. I’m hoping this works well as it will be much easier to make.

For dinner tonight, I tried a zucchini rice recipe from the blog Smitten Kitchen. I really like it when recipes tell you how many people it serves. This recipe turned out to be not very much, more like a side dish than an entree. It wasn’t my favorite. DH thought it smelled funny, but tasted good. I think the smell came from the sun-dried tomato cheese, and I didn’t really care for that flavor. But, I didn’t have any parmesen, so substituted the sun-dried instead. I think I would have used more rice, at least twice as much. And the proportions of the veggies seemed off. I didn’t have enough zucchini or tomatoes to do two full layers. Eh, oh well.

The other recipe I tried was for no-bake energy bites. I think this name is a real misnomer. Energy bites makes it sound like they are really healthy and you can snack on them all day long. But let’s be realistic here, people. It has lots of peanut butter in it and chocolate chips. Don’t get me wrong, they are easy to make and yummy (the babes kept asking for more and more). I just wouldn’t consider them to be particularly healthy.

Day 272 – September 14

After the failed recipe from yesterday, you’d think I’d stay away from my Vegetarian cookbook. You’d be wrong. I saw a vegetarian lasagna recipe that looked interesting. Again, I doubled the recipe since it only serves 4. Holy cow! This was a labor intensive recipe! I spend 1.5 hours in prep, and then it had to cook for 30 minutes. It was nuts! Granted, I did take about 5-10 minutes while the zucchini was cooking to make a quick Greek Salad. And I was dealing with a 2yo who refused to sleep and kept getting in and out of the baby carrier. But still, 1.5 hours is a LOOONG prep. Definitely not a recipe I would make for a regular weeknight. Since it’s for Sabbath, I suppose it’s okay. I just hope that the flavor is amazing!

It really looks pretty good: grilled eggplant, canned tomatoes, zucchini sauteed with garlic, parsely and mace (I have no idea what that is, so I used marjoram) and a bechamel sauce infused with black pepper, bay leaves and onion. There definitely wasn’t enough sauce. I had to pull out a little bit of jarred pasta sauce to supplement. Even though I doubled the sauce, I still needed half again as much more. I ended up with ALOT of veggies. I had too many zucchini, and the casserole dish was stuffed to the the top. I thought for sure I was going to end up with a mess in the bottom of my oven. Thankfully, it was okay.

The recipe says to cook the lasagna and then serve right away. Since I made it today for Sabbath, which is tomorrow, I ignored that part. Besides, I tend to think that lasagna is one of those things that tastes better the second day. I’ll wait till tomorrow to actually post this so that I can give a review of the flavor. All I have to say is that it had better be amazing, given the amount of prep time!!

The other thing I made today was a pumpkin chocolate chip bread. This was super yummy! I was finishing up the canned yams, so I didn’t use pumpkin. Honestly, the flavor was no different. I pinned the recipe from the Taste of Home blog. Since we were having the bread alongside apple sauce and berry smoothies for supper, I made 6 mini loaves and 2 slightly bigger loaves. That means that it didn’t take 60 minutes to cook. The mini loaves were done after 30 minutes and the slightly bigger ones were done after 45 minutes. I’ll definitely be keeping this recipe around for the fall! I’ll probably play around with the spices, maybe adding some cloves or nutmeg or even ginger . . we’ll see!

Quick update on the lasagna . .. . it was quite good, just not good enough to be worth all of the work. The sauce needed a bit more flavoring and I could have used more salt. All in all, it was okay for today, not sure if I’ll make it again. Maybe I’ll add some mushrooms next time.

Day 271 – September 13

For the most part, I’ve been pretty lucky when trying out new recipes. I think there have only been a handful of times that I made something that ended up being terrible. Today was pretty close to being one of those times. If you remember from a few previous posts, I have a new Vegetarian cookbook that I like quite well. Today I thought I’d try out a mushroom stroganoff. It’s been years since I’ve made stroganoff. I really like it, and I love mushrooms, so this seemed like a good combo.

Since we have more than 4 people in our family, I doubled it. I used 2 lbs of mushrooms, 2.5 cups of vegetable broth, fresh marjoram and about 1 cup of yogurt. The mushroom concoction was served over white rice. . . . . .. It was not very good at all. I kinda suspected that it was going to be bland when I got to adding the ingredients and thought, “Hmm . .. there’s nothing in here that is going to make it taste good.” So I added the marjoram, some salt and I think another spice. It wasn’t creamy at all. In my mind, stroganoff should be a whitish color. This as brown and bland. DH suggested putting in some marianted tofu. I think that would have helped, but I’m just not willing to make the recipe again to find out. It really needed something other than plain yogurt for the dairy portion, something like half and half or even heavy cream. The boys seemed to eat it just fine, but DD’s assessment: “This tastes funny.” For once, I totally agreed with her.

Oh well . . .I guess every recipe can’t be a winner!

Day 270 – September 12

I learned a few new cooking things today, inadvertently. I wanted to make Tater Tot casserole, which is ostensibly super easy and quick. Wouldn’t you know it, I had neither cream of mushroom soup or evaporated milk. Soooo, off to my sauces Pinterest board I went. I used this recipe for evaporated milk (basically just powdered milk and water), and this recipe for the cream of mushroom soup. I ended up doing a cream of celery since all of the mushrooms were already spoken for. It was a little more work than just opening up a can, but the result was equally as yummy, and probably healthier.

I also tried a sweet potato recipe. The taters really needed to get used up as they were starting to grow. I tried this sweet potato fries recipe from foodie.com. I don’t think mine turned out very crispy, but I’m guessing that’s because I cut them so small. I used my mandoline to slice them up, and ended up with little sticks as opposed to bigger, french fry-like sticks. In any case, I thought they were pretty good, and easy. So I’ll probably try this again, cutting the pieces a little bigger this time.

You can see here how small they were. Small, but still yummy!

Day 269 – September 11

I was planning on doing the first half of this post as yesterday’s post. I learned how to make a reversible, double-layered ring sling. The problem is, I messed up . . . . the zippered pocket was too high so it ended up being right at the rings (not good), and the rings I used were too small. Sooo, I got to spend some quality time with my seam ripper. Bascially, I just has to rip it all out and start over. Boo! But I finished it today and I’m pretty happy with it. I’m discovering that a double-layer sling is much trickier to adjust than a single layer.

I used a tutorial from Jan’s website, Sleeping Baby Productions. IMO, she’s the ring sling guru since she’s been making them for a very long time, and she has TONS of great baby stuff tutorials on her website. This is the tute that I used. I added an inset zippered pocket, cuz apparently I like to sew zippered pockets! I also did an Eesty-style shoulder (two smallish pleats on the outside and gathered in the center. I used a cotton fabric, I think it’s a batik, that I found at an estate sale, it’s really gorgeous. For the other side, I bought some bright green brocade, that’s also gorgeous. If I wouldn’t have messed up, it would have been a super easy project. Alas, I goofed up.

Here I am modelling it with demo baby.

And a better shot of the brocade.

Today, I learned how to make a fleece sling. Actually, it was just a basic sling, but I used Jan’s instructions here on how to cut out the bulk in the fleece, making it much easier to sew the rings in. This sling is likely going to be for DH to use around the house if he needs to get the LO up quickly, and just for a short time. I’ll also use it to get to and from the car and house. Some of you may be asking, “Why bother putting the baby in a carrier to walk to the car?” Well, when you have 3 other children to wrangle, a diaper bag and any other stuff that may be going to the car, it’s MUCH easier to get there and back if I have two free hands rather than one.

Anyway, I added a crazy little patchwork of fleece scraps at the bottom, just for fun. It’s really longer than I like for it to be, but DH is a good foot and change taller than me, so it will be just fine for him.

Here I am with demo baby.

Now we just need the real baby to come on out so we can us the new slings!

Day 266 – September 8

Today was a biggie for learning and trying new things. I guess I was just in the mood to experiment in the kitchen.

Let’s start with breakfast. I hadn’t made pancakes for everyone in a long time, so I tried two recipes that I had pinned on my breakfast board: Cream Cheese Pancakes and Pumpkin pancakes with cinnamon syrup. I didn’t really care for the cream cheese pancakes, they were far too eggy for my liking. The babes, on the other hand, thought they were great. They were super easy to make, although I’m not sure I’ll be making them again.

The pumpkin pancakes, on the other hand, were lovely. I actually didn’t have pumpkin puree, so I whizzed up a can of yams that I had laying around. The allspice gave a nice flavor and the cinnamon syrup was a yummy addition. I’ll be making these alot this fall!

On to lunch!

Pasta is a staple around here, as is macaroni and cheese. I found this recipe for crock pot mac n’ cheese and figured it would be the perfect thing to leave cooking on Sabbath morning while at church. The idea was good, but the end result was a little bland. But I think a more gourmet cheese (gruyere, fontina, etc.), more salt, and a few seasonings would go a long way towards improving the flavor.

To accompany the entree, I made some green beans. I used this brussel sprouts recipe from the Smitten Kitchen blog and just substituted green beans. DH thought it was delish.

The babes were a little less enthused about the dijon, but they ate it, because they REALLY wanted a chance at dessert, which was meringues.

The recipe is pinned here and was ostensibly supposed to use both dark and white chocolate chips. Sadly, I only had white chocolate chips, but the meringues still turned out just fine. I will say that no way were they ready to be taken out of the oven after 35-40 minutes. I left them in for about 50 minutes, then turned the oven off and let them sit in the oven until we got back from church, 1.5 hours later.

Day 264 & 265 – September 6 &7

September 6 – For some reason, I always manage to be working on projects at the last minute. So right before I go on a trip, I decide that I MUST have this bag or outfit or something. This means that I end up staying up late to finish the project. This time, for the first time every, I didn’t actually finish the bag I wanted to finish. I DID finish 5 other bags, so I guess that’s alright=)

Since I didn’t finish the bag on this trip, I finished it on Thursday. I usually design my own bags or loosely follow a tutorial. This time, I went ahead and bought a pattern since it was cheap and was close to what I wanted. I used Simplicity 2600, but made quite a few changes.

The pattern called for quilting all of the pieces. Quilting is a giant pain, and I didn’t have time, so I skipped that, added interfacing and a lining. This also means I didn’t have to bind all of the interior seams.

It also called for padding in the shoulder straps. I skipped the padding, serged the edges and instead added a little snap on padded section.

The side pockets were converted to zipper pockets .

and I put two non-zip pockets instead of just one.

I’m pretty happy with how it turned out, now I just need an excuse to try it out. I’ll probably use it as my hospital bag in a few weeks.

September 7 – I have alot of baby carriers. Partly because I’ve had a pile of babies, and partly because I like to sew, so I’m always making new carriers to try out a different technique or to add a different feature. I also have given away a bunch of carriers to people, so I’m always making more to replace the gifted carriers. On The Babywearer, there are a few of us who thought it would be fun to learn about traditional carriers from around the world and either make them or buy them. Last week we used Mexican rebozos. This week we are trying out the African kanga and kitenge. Next week, we are going to try a Russian apron. I’m totally intrigued by this idea, so it should be interested. I happened to have a tablecloth that someone gave to me at a yard sale since it had some holes in it. The embroidery was lovely, so I went ahead and used the tablecloth, patching up the holes where necessary.

This is the apron folded in half and laid straight out. You can see that the top is narrower than the bottom.

A close-up of the nice embroidery.

My little patches.

My decorative stitching used to attach the binding to the top of the apron.

I’m guessing I’ll just be using this with demo baby since I don’t really see how this is going to be comfy with a 25lb 2 year old.

Here’s a link to a webpage showing how the apron would be used.

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