Friday, April 27, 2012

Sewing Kit: Zakka Style

The Week Four assignment for the Zakka Sew A Long was this sewing kit. While I read every assurance that it was pretty simple - it looked really, really hard and I put it off all week.

Can I wander beside the topic a bit and say how brilliant I think  having a sew a long for Zakka Styleis. When you think about it, the number one reason people don't by craft books is, "I never end up using them" so by giving us a reason to take a shot at the projects - in a timely fashion - we can all justify any and all sequels. I love it. 

I need this sort of motivation to not put off projects like this.
  Thank you to everyone involved!

I decided to follow the lead of Katy at Monkey Do and not use leather cord for the ties. I agree, leather doesn't tie all that well. Plus I didn't have any. Her Double Fold Binding Ties tutorial was excellent and I didn't have any problems beyond burning my fingers... like crazy. Any tips on avoiding burns when making these folds?

My only hiccup was the pocket binding. I did not get what the instructions wanted me to do. I tried, following closely as possible, twice, picking it out each time and then I just said to heck with it and did my own binding-esque thing that looked pretty identical.  Maybe sewing at two in the morning makes things harder than it needs to be. You think?

Here it is all tied up. I love that the pin cushion fits in the pocket, or if your pockets are already filled just inside. It's a great pattern!

Thanks for visiting. 

In case you missed it, I posted one of my favorite EASY dinners last night (very off my usual blogging schedule). If you want to read more about Baked Tomato Pasta, CLICK HERE.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Easy Baked Tomato Pasta

This is a staple dinner at our house. I've served it to guests who hate tomatoes and had them ask for the recipe. It's ridiculously good and incredibly flexible. 

Trying to write it up as a recipe was a bit tricky because it's very much a 'by feel' and 'how much you have on hand' sort of dish. You can make it meaty or vegetarian, rich or light, for one or for a crowd. It's a great trick to have up your sleeve. 

Please take the amounts with a grain of salt. In the end, you're halving tomatoes, topping them with fresh bread crumbs, cheese and oil and baking them until thick, flavorful and reduced. Then you stir, add pasta and pasta water and eat.

Easy as falling down stairs.

I made this for the boys for lunch and they were pretty much ready to erect a statue in my honor. And did you catch that... I made it for lunch. It's that simple.

Pasta with Baked Tomato Sauce
Serves 4 (or as many people as you want from 1-12 with adjustments)

extra-virgin olive oil (about 1/4 of a cup) or melted butter
Roma tomatoes, halved (I use 2-4 lbs) Cherry tomatoes work great too.
1/3 lb (hot) italian sausage (or 1/2 lb, or none)
A few slices of bread or 1/3 cup plain dry FRESH breadcrumbs (please don't use bought. Gross!)
1/4 cup (or more) freshly grated Parmigiano (or Romano, Asiago etc)
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped (if you like garlic. We do.)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 pound dried pasta:  rotini or spaghetti are great
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, torn

* Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut off the ends of a french loaf or grab a few slices of bread and throw them in the oven while you preheat. I had artisan bread so I tore it into chunks to toast faster.

Once they've dried out a bit, whir them up in a food processor 

with a chunk of cheese 

(you might end up with a few larger pieces of cheese. No one's ever complained to me about getting extra cheese so I wouldn't worry about it. But if it bugs you, break them up with your fingers.

Add a little salt (1/2 tsp). Garlic salt is fine.

Brush a 13-by-9-inch baking dish with oil or butter. Crumble little pieces of uncooked italian sausage all over the bottom of the pan. If you're crowd is hungry add up to 1/2 pound of italian sausage, if they're vegetarian, omit sausage altogether. Works fine both ways.

* Place the tomatoes cut side up in the dish on top of the sausage. For cherry tomatoes just cut them in half. For Romas, I like to get rid of the hard core in the center and some of the seeds. It's personal preference though. The recipe works just fine if you just cut them in half and hull them. 

*  Sprinkle the bread-crumb mixture over the tomatoes, making sure that each cut side is well covered with the crumb mixture. I tossed in a little minced garlic as well. 

Drizzle with olive oil. Melted butter is delicious in place of the oil but makes it taste a lot richer. 

* Sprinkle with pepper.

*  Bake until the tomatoes are cooked through and starting to brown on top, about 20 minutes for cherry tomatoes and up to 40 minutes for romas.

Oops. My back acted up and I got my non-cooking kid to keep an eye on the tomatoes. They're a little overcooked... but it's no big deal, they'll only taste better. I'll add more pasta water.

You know the tomatoes are ready when you press on them with a fork and they collapse.

*Boil one pound of pasta in salted water.

Meanwhile... this step is completely optional but it's must in our house. I flip the tomatoes over, press them down with a fork and the skin pops right off. Then I slide the tines of the fork under the skin and lift it off. This step makes the sauce a lot smoother. Tomato skins are creepy to us.

Removing them only took a minute. Doggy wanted to help :-)

*Stir. You'll end up with a porridge looking pan of mush. It's delicious. 

*Chop up some herbs. I love LOTS of basil but didn't have more then a few leaves so I chopped up some parsley too.

*Before draining pasta, save some pasta water.  This is a really large glass, since my tomatoes were overcooked I knew I'd be needing a lot of water to make the sauce.

* Add herbs and some pasta water. About half... ish. Add more water as needed. I've been known to add water before second helpings if it gets dry.

*Stir it together. Saucy!

*Drain your pasta in a colander for no more then ten seconds. You want it on the wet side. 
Dump it in the pan of sauce and toss.

* Season with more salt and pepper if needed (we rarely need it) and generously top with fresh grated parmesan.

Serve with crusty bread, right out of the pan, and encourage people to sop up the juices and burnt bits right out of the pan with their bread.

P.S. Here is an old picture from a batch last summer that wasn't so overcooked. Looks delicious!

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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Pets Wearing Hats etc.

My youngest is a very creative child and I truly never know what he's going to do next. When our dog came home from the vet after being put under general anesthetic to have his teeth cleaned he as so dopey he barely moved. Brayden thought this was the perfect time to make the dog a hat. LOL

Poor Bubby, he was so sedated.

Not wanting Echo (the gecko) to feel left out, he made a matching hat for her too.

That kid steals my heart everyday. Here he is wearing his new Sevenly shirt. This one supports End7 which is giving people anti-parasite pills to save their lives. Here's a quote:

"All it takes is a packet of pills that costs 50¢ to treat and protect one child against all 7 diseases. You can give this necessary medical treatment to 14 children today, keeping them disease free for an entire year!"

The sticker on his iPod says, "World Change is how I roll". 

So true of this boy.

In amusing news, I sewed my art quilt to my sewing machine. Yeah... did you catch that? I sewed to TO MY SEWING MACHINE! Seriously? Who does that? Uhm... me.

Other good things in my life...



Beans and Rice

And a very blue bird

Monday, April 23, 2012

Jewelry Making: Trying Something New

When I went to Spark last fall, one of the classes needed jewelry tools and when I got home, I was itching to use them again. My long term goal is to be able to make my own beaded charms and metal creations for mixed media quilting... but that's a dozen skills away from reality. 

So I've been buying little bibs and bobs as they draw my attention and decided to try something simple - the loop. In the end, I made a bracelet and earrings to match a favorite dress.

You should have seen all the blood! I'd try to bend the wire left, it springs right and stabs me. Not pretty. Even typing hurts a little due to four fingers and two thumbs full of cuts and stabs. 

But it's worth it though. I loved wearing my new jewelry and have a tremendous respect for people who make a hobby of wire work - scary stuff, not for the faint of heart.