I felt like sewing last weekend.
Normally, when the urge strikes, I try to wait it out and hope that it passes. I really don’t enjoy the hassle of getting the machine set up, finding matching thread, pre-shrinking fabric and cleaning up the mess that sewing creates. However, I have to admit that if you can sew, you can make some cool stuff.
A friend recently had a baby boy, and I thought oh, shucks, I should make him a baby blanket. Even if you are not an expert seamstress (which I certainly am not), you can make a great baby blanket. I learned how to make them when I was ten. They involve nothing but straight seams, unless you want to get fancy (which I certainly do not).
I prefer to make mine from two layers of cotton flannel, so they are extremely soft. The weight is really nice – not too heavy, but not too light. There are several sizes for baby blankets, depending on personal taste, and whether they are for swaddling, the crib, the car seat, or a carriage. The finished measurement I was going for in this case is about 36” x 43,” to be used as a combination crib blanket and swaddling blanket. For that, I bought 2 1/8th yards of 45” fabric.
Step 1: Start by pre-washing your flannel. This is going to make it softer and also remove that weird sizing smell. Dry it in the dryer – this is an important part of pre-shrinking.
Step 2: Ironing. You know how much I love that, but it is a necessary step. You don’t want to give a wrinkled blanket as a gift. People would talk. Get it nice and flat.
Step 3: Fold the fabric in half and lay it out on the table, right (printed) sides together. It may not be perfectly even. Don’t stress. Do the best you can, and trim it up so that it’s as even as possible.
Step 4: Pin the edges together. See the way I have the pins? This is so that you can just sew right over them with your sewing machine (be careful – don’t actually let your sewing machine needle hit a pin). LEAVE AN OPENING OF SIX INCHES WHEN YOU ARE AT THE LAST SECTION. You will need to turn the blanket inside out when you are almost done. For a seam, I use the 5/8 mark on my sewing machine.
Step 5: Trim the edges. I like to use pinking shears, which keeps the fabric from unraveling. Check out the trick on the corners – cut at an angle, which will get them to come out nice and pointed.
Step 6: Cup of coffee and cookie break. Domesticity is tiring. We don’t want your blood sugar dropping.
Step 7: Turn the blanket inside-out . For those corners, if you don’t have a special tool for that purpose, get a pencil and poke the fabric out. Finally, it’s time to stitch that opening closed. Fold the raw fabric edges of your opening inside, and hand-stitch (or machine stitch, if you prefer) the opening closed.
Step 8: Back to the iron. Give the blanket a nice pressing, run a lint roller over it to get the loose threads and dryer lint off of it , and it is ready to be wrapped. It looks especially cute if you use ribbon to tie it up. Easy!
Pinning the edges
Sewing away . . .
Trimming edges and corners
Pho Ga is a Vietnamese chicken soup. I give Mr. Logisical credit for discovering its magical, cold-killing properties. When I began coming down with a cold about a year and a half ago, he ran out and got me chicken soup from a local Vietnamese restaurant. Funny thing: I got better. Faster. Like, the next day faster.
So naturally, the next time he came down with a scratchy throat and runny nose, I made a dash back to the same restaurant. The nice lady at the counter asked me: Do you have a cold? Stunned, I said no, but my husband was coming down with one, and how did she know? Laughingly, she said that she had many customers who bought Pho Ga at the first sign of a cold.
I am sure you are thinking well, of course, chicken soup is good for a cold.
This is better. There is something about the combination of ingredients, I believe, that makes it superior for not just alleviating cold symptoms, but getting rid of them, altogether. We eat this soup now at the first sign of a scratchy throat or the sniffles. I am not sure if it is the herbs, or the Sriracha sauce, the lemon, or the ginger, or if it’s just the combination of these things that makes it work . . . but it does.
But here is the catch. The soup runs about $8, here for an order. That’s not horrendously expensive, but it was enough to make me wonder if I could make it, myself. I have a little obsession about DIY.
I have learned to keep the ingredients around in case I want to make it right away. Even if you are an apartment-dweller, you can grow herbs in pots. If you want to give this remedy a try, here are the how-to’s.
2 cans chicken broth plus 2 cans water
2 T. freshly grated ginger
½ bag rice noodles (OK to substitute vermicelli, if you can’t get rice noodles)
2 cans cooked chicken, or leftover chicken, shredded
2 cups bean sprouts, rinsed and drained
Fresh, washed, chopped herbs: mint, cilantro, and basil (Thai basil, if you can get it; otherwise, any fresh basil is fine). Aim for about 4 tablespoons of each. Don’t skimp – this may be a vital part of the medicinal properties of this recipe.
½ cup sliced green onions
One lemon, cut into quarters
Sriracha Sauce (aka, “Rooster Sauce” – a hot chili sauce)
First thing: you need to soften the rice noodles, or they will be very similar to rubber bands. This can be accomplished by patiently soaking them in hot water for about a half hour, or by throwing them into boiling water for about 15 minutes. I dislike rubber bands, so I boil those suckers. Get them going first.
Combine the chicken broth, water, the chicken, and ginger. Bring just to a boil; set aside.
Drain the noodles.
Wash and dry the herbs; chop. Make little piles of each. I suppose you could combine them, but that wouldn’t look as sporty at the table.
Get a soup bowl and put about a half cup of bean sprouts in it, followed by a scoop of noodles. Ladle chicken broth mixture over that. Top with about a tablespoon each of the herbs and green onions.
Add a teaspoon of hoisin sauce on top.
Now: Do not wimp out on me. Put a few drops of Sriracha sauce on top. DO IT. This is part of the magic. Have some water ready if you are deathly afraid of spicy food. I like four drops, five if I’m really snuffy. IT’S NOT THAT SPICY. I am kind of a spice wuss, but this doesn’t bother me.
Squeeze a quarter of the lemon on top.
Your nose is going to run, and that’s a good thing. Eat it up, go to bed early, and if you have any symptoms left the next day, eat the leftovers.
Thank me later.
Stuff to go on Pho Ga
Ready to slice.
Make German Lemon Cognac Cake.
As with all great recipes, this one has a story.
My delightful neighbor Sandra gave me a big bag of fresh-picked lemons. Although they look really sporty as a centerpiece (see below), I thought it best to begin using and enjoying them. Enter this recipe, which I have adapted, below.
Originally titled “German Lemon Cake” (Zitronenkuchen), as you can see, it has morphed into a German Lemon Cognac Cake. The first time that Miss Scarlett and I made this cake, we were out of rum. Necessity being the mother of invention, we substituted Courvoisier. It was to die for. When Mr. Logistical got home, he had a slice and was also wowed.
"Mr. L.: “It’s great. What is in this?”
“Mr. L: You used COURVOISIER in a CAKE ????”
He proceeded to have a cow.
For the record, it only calls for two tablespoons of liquor. And a tad extra in the glaze, if you like.
The next time I made it, remembering the have-a-cow incident, I stuck with the recipe and used rum. It was okay, but frankly, it was nowhere near as exciting. I am not a huge fan of rum, so that may have influenced my judgment.
So today, when I decided to put my fresh lemons to good use, I went looking for the Courvoisier. I couldn’t find it in the bar area, in the storage area, or even the very high cupboard that I cannot reach without a stool. I did find some Jim Beam and the Grand Marnier up there, but no Courvoisier. I finally sucked up my courage and asked Mr. Logistical where he had hidden it. After he had a cow (yes, again), he looked and we determined that it had been used up. At that point, he dug out some cognac and brandy. Certain that I can tell the difference between Remy-Martin cognac and Korbel brandy, I challenged him to a taste test. Mind you, this taste-testing was taking place around 10:45 a.m., and I am sure the neighbors are talking. Naturally, I failed the “pick the high-quality alcohol” test and picked el cheapo. This is not a surprise – in fact quite typical for me. However, Mr. L., who was being a sport and taste-testing right along with me, decided I should probably go with the fancier hooch.
I have a couple of other notes about this recipe.
-Although I despise sifting, which is tedious, I sifted the flour and cornstarch. To me, if you are going to use up five eggs and over a pound of butter, you’d better go all out and sift to make sure it doesn’t come out lumpy.
-Fresh lemon juice is nice but the bottled works fine.
-I add just a tad – a half-teaspoon – more hooch to the lemon juice-powdered sugar mixture that goes over the warm cake. Oh, why not.
Although the recipe calls for poking the cake with a long fork or a knitting needle, a chopstick works fine.
German Lemon Cognac Cake
(Adapted from Allrecipes.com)
1 1/8 cups butter, softened
1 ¼ cups sugar
3 T. rum, cognac, whatever . . .
1 cup white flour
1 cup cornstarch
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a 9 x 5 loaf pan.
In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, once at a time, mixing well after each one. Stir in the (rum, cognac, whatever) then mix in the flour and cornstarch. Pour into the prepared loaf pan.
Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a knife inserted into the crown comes out clean. Cool for at least 10 minutes before removing from the pan.
While the cake is baking, mix together the lemon juice, confectioners’ sugar, and a splash of rum, cognac, whatever. When the cake comes out of the oven, poke with a long fork, knitting needle, or chopstick all over. Pour the glaze over the top, and let it soak in. Cut into slices to serve.
Fresh lemons, looking sporty
Here is a really good problem to have: Too many avocados. Thanks to a generous neighbor, as well as a generous co-workers, we have had avocados aplenty, lately. I do not usually have a problem finding ways to use them -- quite the opposite, in fact, because they are one of my favorite foods. Yesterday, though, I felt like baking, and a neighbor had given me a recipe for this bread that I wanted to try. As is typical for me, I forgot to take a photo of the big, beautiful loaf when it was hot from the oven. I continue to fail as a food photographer. However, the thing is half-eaten, so you know my recipes are for Real People. ;-)I adapted the recipe slightly. Miss Scarlett is not a huge fan of nuts, so I left those out (but will include next time, because I really like them). Secondly, I used low-fat buttermilk. Thirdly, the dough was much too dry when I added the wet to the dry ingredients, so I added an additional 1/2 cup of buttermilk. I think that was a good move, because it's a very moist, dense loaf. The amount of sugar (3/4 cup) was just perfect -- sweet, but not too sweet. Here is the link to the recipe, if you find yourself with some extra avocado.
Sauteed Escarole with Toasted Pearl Couscous and Poached Eggs
(Adapted From Sunset magazine)
The dish, nearly completed -- just awaiting the poached eggs.
I ran across this marvelous recipe in the January issue of Sunset magazine, and just had to share it. (My compliments to its creator, Chef Ethan Stowell at Staple & Fancy Mercantile in Seattle.) Truth be told, I do not think I had ever eaten escarole before. Now, I am HOOKED. I am also hooked on pearl couscous, which is a shame, because it's a little on the pricey side. It looks sporty as all get-out, though, especially if you get the tri-colored variety. I apologize for not having a good picture of the final plated product. My family unanimously loved it!
1 cup pearl couscous
About 5 tbsp. EVOO, divided
About 3/4 tsp salt, divided
1/2 tsp. crushed garlic
2 large heads escarole, stem ends trimmed, leaves rinsed and drained.
1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
About 1/2 tsp. pepper
1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
4 large eggs
About 1/2 cup finely-grated parmesan cheese
Toast the couscous in 1 T. oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until mostly golden, 7 to 8 minutes. Add 1/4 tsp. salt and 2 cups water; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer until barely tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain.
Cook garlic in remaining 1/4 cup oil in a large frying pan over medium heat until softened but still pale, 2 to 3 minutes. Add escarole and cook until it begins to wilt, 2 to 3 minutes. Add couscous and stir to coat, then add broth and 1/2 tsp. pepper and cook 2 to 3 minutes more. Season with about 1/4 tsp. salt and pepper to taste and keep warm.
Fill saucepan used for couscous 3/4 full of water, add vinegar, and cook over high heat until bubbles barely break the surface. Reduce heat to medium-low. Crack eggs into water and give water a gentle stir to ensure eggs aren't sticking to pan. Cook 3 minutes for runny yolks. With a slotted spoon, transfer eggs to paper towels. Sprinkle with about 1/4 tsp. salt and pepper to taste.
Divide escarole mixture among 4 soup plates and set an egg on each. Drizzle with more oil and sprinkle with parmesan.
The Hilo Coffee Mill has great coffee. I recently discovered that they also have wonderful tea (am sipping a "Hunny Rooibos") as I write this. But here is a great Saturday hook: A petting zoo. That is Miss Scarlett holding a bunny. I was surprised that we were able to get her to leave it there!