Darcy Lewis Design

Adventures in "Good Enough" Design

Archive for the tag “Easy”

Cozy Fall Jacket

Good grief, time has really flown by!! I’m in law school full time, while also running my business full time, and that has left precious little for any other projects or even keeping in touch with the outside world!

However, in early October I went to the LA Textile Show and swooned over these incredible fabrics from Italy that blend faux fur and wool together in one fabric. I just had to have some!! Well, on Black Friday they finally came in, and I just had to make a cozy little jacket for our extended fall weather to celebrate!

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I used 1 panel of  this new Italian wool-and-fur fabric for the body ($42/panel), plus 1 yard of this quilted faux leather-and-wool fabric for the sleeves ($45/yard). The neckline is finished with 2 yards of the gray snakeskin piping and the black jersey seam binding.  The strip of fur along the selvedge is there naturally (I just had to neaten it up a bit – it’s not perfectly even).

I used Burda pattern 8332 as the base and eliminated the side seams and front darts, so the ONLY seams on this jacket are the shoulders and armscyes!!

Total time: 2-3 hours. Total material cost: $101. Finished look: worth at least $250!!

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Floaty Chiffon Top for Summer!

I adore a floaty chiffon top for summer.  I pair them with camis and toss over jeans or anything else, they can even be worn over a dress for a different look!  This was my original favorite:

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It was light, comfortable, elegant, and I could (and did!) wear it for weddings, parties, date night, or even just to run errands.  However, it was time to replace it.  I ended up selecting a black and white chiffon with a waving dot pattern that felt a bit art deco to me.  I wanted a design in keeping with that, and I loved the ombre effect and the kimono sleeve of the original….

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(This is me doing my dramatic rendition of “Alas, poor Yorick, I knew him well!” )

So I made symmetrical squared-off open kimono sleeves, the sides are laced together with ribbon and there are more ribbons sewn onto the shoulders (deep dark secret: the ribbons were added to the shoulders to hide my accident with indelible marker…).  On all corners (sleeves and body), I sewed little stacks of beads to weight the top and create a nice swingy movement.  All in all I’m pretty happy with it, though I got very little opportunity to wear it this summer ( ;(  )

What’s your favorite garment you keep remaking?

Nummy Pear and Cheese Tarts!

As usual, I forgot to take good photos, in fact, this was the only photo I managed before two entire tarts were devoured…. And you can’t even see the beautifully fanned out fruit slices I’d put on here…   Nonetheless, so yummy, I’m posting the recipe.

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I had a bunch of pears and some apples that were ripening faster than I could eat them, so I decided to make two tarts. They had very different flavor profiles, and opinion has been pretty evenly split on which one tasters prefer….  These are good warm and fresh, but possibly even better cold the next day…  Both very easy to throw together and I even made the second one (shown above) while people were waiting for their tea.

Fruit Tart with Blackberry Honey Goat Cheese

*  1 package puff pastry dough (there are 2 packages to a box) – room temperature
*  1 +-7oz package honey-flavored goat cheese (I like the Celebrity Int’l brand pack of 3 flavors from Costco) – softened
*  4 pears/apples/other – or some combination thereof.  I used 2 pears and 2 apples. – Halved, cored, and finely sliced – sprinkle with lemon juice to keep their color.
*  2 Tbl blackberry jelly or other fruity jam/jelly/preserves
*  1 tsp vanilla extract (optional – good to use if your goat cheese is plain)
*  1 tsp cinnamon
*  1 pinch nutmeg or cloves
*  1 tsp ginger

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
Cream together the goat cheese, jam, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger, until totally mixed, soft, and spreadable.
Take the puff pastry dough, and unfold it.  Butter a glass or metal baking pan (9″x12″ fits nicely) and place the dough in it to line. Should fully cover the bottom and go slightly up the sides.
Spread the goat cheese mix over the bottom of the dough, covering as evenly as possible.
Take the sliced fruit and fan it out attractively, and arrange over the cheese.
Top with a sprinkle of turbinado sugar or take 4 Tbl of jam and heat a little to melt (about 10-15 seconds in the microwave is usually good) then use a teaspoon to drizzle over the top of the prepped tart, or use a drizzle of honey.

Bake until pastry looks done – about 30 minutes.  Note, many of the puff pastry brands don’t really turn golden brown, so don’t let them burn waiting for that elusive stage.  The pastry should have a touch of color and be flaky to the poke, not soft and giving.

 

Fruit Tart with Apricot and Sage Cheese (Darcy’s favorite)

*  1 package puff pastry dough (there are 2 packages to a box) – room temperature
*  4 Tbl coarse-cut orange marmelade
*  1 4oz package Montchevre Apricot and Sage Goat Cheese Crumbles (from Kroger) – softened (or add 1 package of plain goat cheese if you want extra cheesey!)
*  4 pears/apples/other – or some combination thereof.  I used 2 apples and 2 pears. – Halved, cored, and finely sliced – sprinkle with lemon juice to keep their color.
* 4 Tbl Chinese Quince Tea with Honey (see note below)

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
Take the puff pastry dough, and unfold it.  Butter a glass or metal baking pan (9″x12″ fits nicely) and place the dough in it to line. Should fully cover the bottom and go slightly up the sides.
Soften the marmalade slightly (about 10 seconds in the microwave should do) and spread it on the bottom of the dough, try to cover evenly.
Sprinkle the entire container of goat cheese over the bottom of the dough, covering as evenly as possible. (add the second container of plain cheese here if you want more cheesiness).
Take the sliced fruit and fan it out attractively, and arrange over the cheese.
Top with the Chinese Quince Tea, drizzled over the top.

Bake until pastry looks done – about 30 minutes.  Note, many of the puff pastry brands don’t really turn golden brown, so don’t let them burn waiting for that elusive stage.  The pastry should have a touch of color and be flaky to the poke, not soft and giving.

NOTE:  Chinese Quince Tea is available in Asian markets and is like a watery marmalade.  If you’re not familiar with the quince fruit, it’s like a very hard apple that is largely inedible in its raw form but widely used around the world (except in the US) in teas, jams, liquors, and more.  It has a delicious citron-y aroma, but very little flavor.  However, when processed, the taste is kind of a combination of apple and citron.  The Chinese Quince Tea with Honey I buy is ready to be mixed with plain hot water for an instant hot toddy, but is also excellent in all kinds of baking. Here is a photo of the particular version I use:quince tea with honey

As usual, if you make any of these, please tell us about it!

Delicious Apple Roses

UPDATED POST!!
I kept seeing these gorgeous, easy, pastries online and decided I must make them!  They are indeed easy, and make a dramatic statement that is sure to impress your guests!  I made several batches (I got carried away and bought too many apples), and did something different with each batch.  In the first batch, I added lots of spices and additions, but you couldn’t really taste it and the second batch – without spices or additions – was even better, so you can add a pinch of cinnamon, a dash of ginger, and a sprinkle of nutmeg… or just let the jam carry the flavor…

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Easy Apple Roses

Makes 12 Roses.

Ingredients:                                           

  • 1 box (2 sheets) of puff pastry, thawed
  • 2 reddish-pink apples (I used Pink Pearl)
  • lemon juice (about 1 lemon’s worth)
  • 4 tablespoons of preserves – your choice of flavor
  • spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, etc. to taste) (optional)
  • powdered sugar for decorating (optional)

Time: about 30 minutes prep time, plus 45-60 minutes baking time.

Directions:
1. Mix the lemon juice with some cool water (about equal amounts) – this will be used to keep your apples from browning as they are cut.  Core the apples and slice them paper thin.  Leave the peel on – that adds the defined colored edge to your roses.  As you slice them you can either dip them in the lemon water and then lay them in a bowl or you can layer them in a bowl first and periodically splash them with the lemon water (I’m lazy, did it that way, they didn’t discolor and it was very quick and easy).

2. Lay a large piece of parchment paper on your counter (I use butter knives to weight it down).  Unwrap the thawed puff pastry, there will be 2 sheets inside the wrap, each sheet is folded in thirds.  Take 1 sheet and place it on a dinner plate – still folded.  Microwave for about 15-20 seconds, just until it’s soft and easy to work with.  Lay it on the parchment paper and unfold it.

3. Put the 4 Tbl of jam in a glass dish and microwave for 15 seconds to soften.  Use a butter knife and spread a little less than half over the pastry.  Don’t worry about getting it EVERYWHERE, just mostly cover the dough.

4. Microwave the bowl of sliced apples on high for about 1-2 minutes to soften them (see note below on the time).  You can also simmer them with water on the stovetop if you prefer for a few minutes (but why?! It’s much more work…).  Whether you microwave or simmer, they should be cooked just enough to bend without breaking – not actually get cooked.  If you bend one and it snaps, cook for another minute then test again.

5. Cut the dough along the two fold lines, then cut the resulting 3 rectangles in half making 6 narrow strips.  Take your bowl of apples and layer the slices along one half of the dough – the rounded outside edge of the apple should hang out over the edge – they will be your rose petals.  Sprinkle with spices if desired.  Lay the apples almost edge to edge -leave just enough space to pinch the dough closed.

6. Preheat the oven to 375º F (190 º C), and prepare a muffin pan – butter and flour it (or use spray) if it’s metal (I’ve tried it without spray… you want spray!), you don’t need to do anything if it’s silicone.  Fold the dough in half, encasing the cut edges of the apple. Pinch the ends shut. Gently roll the strip up – the apples will try to pop out and the jam will ooze out, but persevere!  You will find the trick to a smooth roll lies in being gentle and supporting the apples.  Immediately pop the completed rose into a cup in the muffin tin. Make the others the same way.

7. Bake for 40-60 minutes – until dough is baked all the way through and lightly browning.  You can tent the top with foil for the last 10 minutes if it’s getting over-browned.  Delicious served warm with French Vanilla ice cream or by itself.

NOTES:
I don’t like the Pepperidge Farm brand puff pastry – the dough has an odd aftertaste, but it’s almost impossible to find any other brand.  If you use something else you like better, please let me know!  The next step is to make my own, but did I mention I’m very lazy….??

This seems to bake better (for me at least) on the top shelf rather than on the middle shelf.  The batch made in the middle took FOREVER (over an hour) to bake and then ended up unevenly done.  The top shelf browned very nicely and ended up a little overdone because I left it for too long – expecting it to be closer to the first batch.  In retrospect, 45 minutes would have done it.

A word on flavors: The first batch I made I used strawberry and cassis cream jam (very mild flavor), added lots of cinnamon, a tiny pinch of brown sugar, a dash of ginger, and a fine sprinkle of nutmeg.  I also cut the dough into thirds instead of sixths.  The second batch, I used coarse-cut bitter marmalade, no spices or sugar, and cut the dough in sixths.  You couldn’t really taste the spices in the first batch (think I may need to experiment with this some more), and the second batch was MUCH better and easier – cutting the dough in sixths instead of thirds is vital, though the orange chunks were a little too large.  The third batch was with black raspberry jam – really nice fruity flavor, and I love how the dark juice from the jam tinted the roses! UPDATE: So far, the tasters agree that the orange and the black raspberry are both delicious, but the orange is edging the raspberry – tasters like the sharpness of the orange in contrast to the softer flavors of the pastry and the apple.

I had my husband cut about 6 apples at once, and have made 24 roses so far and easily have enough apple left for another 12 roses (EDIT – I did indeed make 36 roses).  I’ve been keeping the slices in the freezing cold garage in a covered dry bowl.  They are only now (almost a week after cutting) starting to brown slightly, so this has been a great recipe to stagger baking with!

Microwaving the apples!  On my first and second batches, I had a big bowl full of sliced apples, so I nuked them for 1.5-2 minutes and they were perfect.  By the time I was halfway through my third batch, the bowl was nearly empty, so when I put it in for 1.5 minutes they cooked much more than I wanted!  (It’s that I forgot, I’d added a little raw apple that was very fresh and thought it needed the longer cook time, but then the apple that was already soft-ish in the bowl cooked!).  I was very upset and you can see the difference in the before-baking photo – the raw, rosy, slightly-softened apples on the left, the overcooked, limp, yellowy ones on the right.  However, when they came out of the oven, they were identical and perfectly delicious.  Lesson to take away is that this is a pretty forgiving recipe and don’t worry if you screw up a little!

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When you put your roses in the pan you will notice a little column of dough in the center of the rose.  It’s difficult to avoid, but if you have an especially thin and soft piece of apple, lay it on top of the closed dough just before rolling the strip up (see photo below), then you’ll have a curl of apple in the center instead.  Otherwise, you can put a little dab of jam in that center – still attractive and delicious!  Note the difference:  The rose on the left has the apple on top of the dough before curling, the one on the right does not:

Here is the apple on top just prior to rolling:

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First batch: Melted butter to brush them closed, dough cut in thirds instead of sixths, lots of spices….imag6290

This is how you layer your apples in your dough and then fold the dough closed. (This is the first batch, so your dough won’t be that wide and your apples will not be so snugly enclosed, but you get the idea…)apple-slices

My much prettier third batch – much nicer without the abundance of dough.  Note the jam leaked on the front row and burned a little.  This happens sometimes.  This is (one of) the big differences between how I bake and Pinterest (where this never happens and everything looks beautiful and perfectly staged!)….imag6319

My first batch – too much pastry (dough cut in thirds), no pan spray (they didn’t really stick except where the jam burned, but I did find the spray made a difference in getting them out easily!), with strawberry and cassis jam, and without center apple pieces:
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My second batch – a little overdone and with no pan spray, with marmalade, and without center apple pieces:
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My third batch – perfectly done and with pan spray, with black raspberry jam, and with center apple pieces:
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See what I mean that this recipe is practically fool-proof?!  No matter what I did, they looked and tasted great!

Would love to hear from you if you make this or have any advice or feedback!

New Year Fruit Cake

Hope you all had a wonderful winter holiday and new year!

After 6 years, my Armenian husband and I (Jewish) finally negotiated what we want for holidays and family traditions, and in the sudden peace and happiness that descended on me when this issue (which has been tremendously thorny to me) was settled, I was reminded of my own family’s traditional fruit cake made for the winter holidays, it was a rare treat – a dark, flavorful, rum-soaked, rich delight that I adored.

I’ve never understood why fruitcake is so often the butt of jokes, when it can be so delicious!  The origins of the cake hark back to Roman times, though since they thought rotten fish sauce was the ultimate condiment for everything, I’m thrilled the recipe has evolved a bit…

The Smithsonian wrote up a little thing about the history of the fruitcake HERE .

This is a perfect winter holiday recipe – surprisingly simple (I had remembered it as a complicated, laborious, difficult process, but it wasn’t!!!), warming and delicious, and laden with rich candied fruits, nuts, and exotic spices like nutmeg and cinnamon that all symbolize prosperity for the new year!  Despite all the alcohol soaking it, it’s not very boozy and is safe for kids to eat.

Darcy’s Candied Fruitcake – The Original Version:

1 Cup (C.) chopped dates
1 C./8oz candied pineapple OR citron
1 C./8oz candied cherries
1 C. chopped dried apricots
½ C. dried cranberries
1 pound/16 oz pecan pieces

Mix the chopped fruits with 2/3 C. spiced dark rum and 8 Tbsp. orange juice concentrate, and let soak for several hours.

Sift together:
4 C. flour
2 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt

Beat 8 eggs till frothy

Cream 2 sticks of softened butter with ¼ cup white sugar and 1 ¼ cup packed brown sugar

Add the eggs, and:
4 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp ginger
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp allspice

Preheat oven to 275 degrees.

Mix the eggs and spices with the creamed butter, and slowly add the flour mixture.  Stir until well-blended (do not over-mix) – batter may have a more ‘foamy’ or spongey texture than other cake batters.  Add the fruit and rum mix and stir until well combined.

Pour into a loaf pan lined with a strip of parchment paper (see photos) – it will rise a bit as it bakes!

Bake until a toothpick or knife poked into the middle comes out cleanly – about 2-3 hours.  Invert onto a rack to cool.

After the cake is cool, slowly pour another 2 cups of the spiced dark rum over the cake, pausing often to let it absorb (I did this as 2 sessions, 1 cup of rum each.  A little would puddle on the plate, but would be rapidly absorbed – I was done and the plate was dry within 30-60 minutes.)

The Quick Version:

I stumbled on this when I was in a big hurry to make this AND desperate to clean out my cupboards (good combination for me that has birthed many delicious recipes!).  Honestly, I now like this version better!

Use candied diced citron, candied cherries, candied pineapple – anything that is candied in those ridiculous neon colors (seriously, bright green cherries?!) goes in – preferably it comes already chopped, but I was so lazy I just tossed the cherries in whole.  It worked!  Because everything else was in nice pieces, and the cake was cut into slices, no one noticed the big cherries and it just made a nice variety of textures.  Add the dried cranberries and anything else dried and fruity that you have laying around (I had about 5 dates, and some trail mix fruit bits, and I didn’t have EXACTLY 16oz of pecans.  I could do either 12oz or 18oz because of the bag size, so I went with 18oz.).  Follow the rest of the recipe as written, except for the sugar: I used ONLY the brown sugar in the original quantity, and just omitted the white sugar entirely.  I think it was sweet enough as it was and had a very nice, moist, flavorful taste that was not chemically or rummy nor was it too heavy or too spicy or too sweet.  The little kids who ate a slice didn’t seem to notice the alcohol so I think the cake is heavy enough to counter any alcohol effects.

A NOTE ON PANS:
When I made this last time, I decided I wanted enough for several holiday parties we had coming up, so I doubled the recipe and poured half into my fancy bundt pan, and half into a large loaf pan (which normally equals one cake), but everything seemed so full and I still had batter left over (HOW?!) so I started pouring what was left into mini loaf pans.  This turned out to be a very good call since I’d forgotten the batter rose while baking, and the oven was nearly flooded!  I filled 6 mini loaf pans besides!!  Of the finished products, I left the mini loafs soaking in about 2 cups of rum for a week, and served the 2 larger cakes immediately.   The large loaf pan cake ended up being the best – it kept its moisture well and was very good.  All the others seemed a little drier and not quite as flavorful and balanced, even immediately on cutting.  Since this was also the easiest size and shape to make… I’m happy!

Note the parchment strips in the mini loaf pans, baked on the mini cakes… makes removal from the pan very easy and mostly very clean (a couple of the minis lost a corner), and the paper easily peels off the cake without damage.

Sugared Cranberries

I wrote about the various eggnog cakes with sugared cranberries last year, but the berries have been incredibly popular (and festive!) that I’ve taken to plopping them on top of just about everything!  Since everyone keeps asking for the recipe, I thought I’d present it again.  Remember, this works not only for things like cranberries (which are so incredibly delicious prepared this way that I call them ‘crackberries’), but many other berries and edible flowers (like pansies and violets) as well!

The cranberries will only keep about a week, so I make a lot and SMOTHER a cake with them, which will be fine because your guests will scoop extra onto their plates!

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Ingredients:
2 cups fresh cranberries (places like Costco are generally much cheaper than the grocery store)
2+ cups sugar, divided
1 cup water
Directions:
1. Make simple syrup by bringing 1 cup sugar and water to a simmer in a saucepan. Simmer until sugar is completely dissolved, stirring often.
2. Pour simple syrup into a heatproof bowl and allow to cool for about 10 minutes.
3. Add cranberries and stir to coat.
4. Refrigerate cranberries in syrup overnight, stir periodically.
5. Using a slotted spoon, remove cranberries from syrup and let sit for a few minutes to dry a little (you want them moist and tacky, but not soggy).  Put about 1/2 cup of sugar in a large flat-bottomed bowl, and roll the cranberries in it – a few at a time – until they look frosted.  You may need to periodically scrape out the damp sugar in the bowl and replace it with fresh sugar, because it will get damp and clumpy and uncooperative. (I like to put the clumpy sugar in a tupperware container and save it for my tea/coffee or use it for the cake or whatever.  I hate throwing out perfectly good food.)
6. Set cranberries aside to dry a little more.
Here they are, jazzing up a cake.  I love baking the cakes in a bundt pan if I’m going to be using the berries, because then you have a really nice hole in the middle to stuff with berries!

Amazing Armenian Stuffed Pumpkin

When my Armenian husband and I were first dating, he made this much-beloved traditional stuffed pumpkin filled with rice, dried fruits, nuts, and spices, (called “Ghapama” – which means ‘cooked in a covered pot’) and brought it to an Armenian party…. which caused all the mothers to swoon with delight and pull him aside to tell him about their daughters.  This dish basically has legend status, there is even a popular song about this dish! (“Hey jan ghapama, hamov hodov ghapama” – which means ‘Dear Ghapama, tasty, fragrant ghapama’.)  The song claims that when ghapama is made, over 100 guests will come – judging by the response every time we bring it, I can totally understand that!!

I just made this for a holiday party, and was asked for the recipe, so am posting it here for everyone.  Please note that I didn’t measure things, so quantities are approximate at best.  Also note that there is no ‘standard’ recipe for this dish – it’s a pumpkin stuffed with rice, fruit, and nuts – beyond that, the details depend on the individual cook.  So feel free to substitute any fruits, nuts, and spices you personally like (can even use an acorn squash instead of a pumpkin)!  This is my personal twist on the traditional version – with more of a Middle-Eastern/Fall Harvest flavor.  This is such an easy recipe, but makes a dramatic and delicious presentation for any fall/holiday party!

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Darcy’s Version of Ghapama!

Ingredients:
1 medium regular pumpkin, or 2 smaller pie pumpkins
2 cups basmati rice
4 Tbsp. (1/2 stick) butter, melted
½ cup each: chopped dates, pomegranate-flavored dried cranberries (Craisins), mixed raisins
½ cup glazed pecans – pieces or coarse-chopped
1 cup walnuts – pieces or coarse-chopped
1-2 Tbsp. each: brown sugar, molasses, pomegranate molasses, date molasses
½ cup maple syrup
½ cup candied orange peels in syrup (both the syrup and the peels) (I love the Italian ‘Toschi’ brand!!)
½ – 3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. ginger powder
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of salt
¼ cup hot water

Directions:

1. Wash and dry the pumpkin(s). Cut off the top in a circle  – it will be the lid.
2. Scrape out all the guts.  Rinse and save the seeds for roasting if you want
3. In a saucepan, bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Add rice, stir, cover the pot and reduce heat to low. Cook rice for about 15 minutes. Rice should NOT be completely cooked. Drain any excess liquid.
4. In a large mixing bowl, combine the partially cooked rice, fruit, nuts, spices, and sweeteners.
5. Loosely stuff the rice mix into the pumpkin; pour the ¼ cup hot water over the top of the filling.
6. Line a baking pan with heavy duty aluminium foil.  Put the pumpkin in the pan, put the top of the pumpkin back on and bake at 350°F for about 2 hours or until soft. Insert a toothpick into the pumpkin to determine tenderness.

You can either plate this as a whole pumpkin and let guests scoop everything out (you eat the soft pumpkin flesh with the rice) or you can cut the pumpkin into starburst-like wedges when you serve.

* A final note: The more ‘exotic’ ingredients can usually be found at your local Middle-Eastern market.

 

 

The Knit Challenge

Before I tell you about the knit challenge, I have to share this story with you.  Today I went to one of my sewing groups, and a member I barely knew and had no real previous interaction with handed me the sweetest card she’s tried to mail me – congratulating me on my Fulbright.  It was so incredibly adorably sweet!!!  Talk about Giving Warmth!!
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On to the knit story… that same sewing group just had a knit challenge.  A couple of months ago, members were instructed to bring a piece of knit fabric – either one piece that was 2 yards long or 2 pieces that were each one yard long.  They were anonymously redistributed and members had until today to make something. Though I was happy with the fabric I got, I couldn’t find any design I liked, and so the day before it was due (of course), I bit the bullet and picked a pattern I thought might work…. (Mind you, I was the co-presenter and one of the more expert knit sewists in the group, so I had a certain standard expected of me… GULP!).

Here’s the fabric I received, it’s from JoAnn Fabrics, their Nicole Miller line.  A nice weight, soft hand, I’m guessing a cotton blend.

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My weight keeps fluctuating right now, so I prefer drapey tunics.  I chose McCall’s 7437, view B (the one the model is wearing), from my stash:

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I decided to actually make the pattern as shown (for me this is shockingly irregular, I did the same thing last week with the gray fleece cocoon kimono trimmed in pink plaid – I must be getting sick or something! I never make patterns!) – though without the fringe.  I thought the fabric print was too busy to make the whole garment out of it (plus, I’ve never been able to make a whole garment out of just one fabric…), so I paired it with a magenta slinky knit from my stash.  I wasn’t happy with the poor design for the hemming, so I redid it and just bound the bottom hem and back neck in the black jersey seam-binding from my shop (find it HERE).  I didn’t like how it hung without sleeves, but once the sleeves were in, it was kind of cute.  I wanted to break up the color block a little more, so I choose to make the sleeves in solid black – I used the jersey crepe from the shop (HERE), and since I’d banded the shirt body with the black jersey trim, I decided to finish off the magenta colorway and band the sleeves with it.  All in all, I’m fairly happy with how it came out, though obviously the shoulders need to be raised.

What do you think?  Have you sewn with knits before?  Want to try our challenge 😉  ?

Cocoon Kimono

I’m not sure what to call this jacket – it has kimono sleeves and a cocoon bolero shape, and Burda calls it a cardigan, though it doesn’t fit my notion of a cardigan (which to me is more shaped, though that isn’t the definition).

Anyways, I wanted an easy project that would go together smoothly (it’s been a rough week!), so I just grabbed Burda pattern 8027:

I chose fleece for the weight, ease, and no fraying – and I realized that because of my former custom sewing business, I have tons of fleece – in patterns and designs I wouldn’t wear!!  Anyone want to swap or buy a bunch of children’s fleeces in exchange for adult designs?!

ANYHOO… I barely had enough gray for the body, and some plaid for the border – which I cut on the bias.  In some places, I was actually short a hair, but it worked out ok.  The problem with fleece is that it stretches, so when I needed to ease the band around the jacket body in, it did fit nicely, but now it puckers very slightly in places.  Not enough for a non-sewist to notice, but enough that I will probably go back and sew some kind of trim right over the line where the plaid band meets the gray body.  I think it looks ok, it fits fine, and for once I don’t immediately hate it 😉  Oh, I may also put a single clasp on the front at the bust line. I skimped on fabric and made a size 18 with about 2 yards of fabric (1 of each), and made the whole thing – start to finish – in one evening.  Because of the curving shape, I did not even try to get the plaid to come out perfectly at the center back, and I think it’s ok.

What do you think?  Have you ever made this jacket?

QUICHE!

It’s that time of year again… The start of my baking/cooking season, when I have to suddenly make tons of delicious food for an array of holiday parties we’re invited to.  This week, my husband asked me to make food for his whole law school class (it’s his turn to bring dinner.  Aren’t they cute?!)  I needed something that would feed everybody and travel well.  He requested my quiche lorraine (and the cranberry eggnog cake I made last year for his LSAT party) and ordered 6 of them.  I decided to switch it up a little and bring 3 different quiches (2 of each), rather than 6 the same.  So we had:

quiche lorraine with bacon and onions, and a mix of jarlsburg, butterkasse, and welsh chedder cheeses

Florentine quiches with farmer, riccotta, and feta cheese creamed with fresh basil and topped with roasted red pepper and halved kalamata olives

and Indian spiced quiches with red and russet potatoes, peas, spinach, and Beecher’s Marco Polo black and green peppercorn cheese flavored with traditional Indian spices

(REALLY sorry!!!  All my photos are missing – phone seems to have self-deleted…)

Everyone LOVED the quiches, the teacher liked it so much she took all the leftovers home, and bonus compliments, the chef student cleaned his plate and the Indian student told me I’d nailed the Indian spices and it tasted like home!  The best thing about quiche is that it is shockingly easy to make, nearly fool-proof, and since no one makes it, everyone will think you’re a cooking goddess!!!  (That’s almost as good as being a chef!)

The quiche lorraine is based on a recipe from an ancient cookbook my mother handed down to me – no idea what the cookbook is, the cover and identifying information was gone before I was born.  The Florentine quiche is based on this recipe I found at Chowhound, and the Indian spiced quiche is based on this recipe I found at Dinners, Dishes, and Desserts.  (Imagine my happiness when I decided to make an Indian spiced quiche, went looking, and found someone had already tried that exact thing!)

I always use either a store-bought graham cracker crust or a store-bought shortbread crust.  Why?  Because they are easy, travel well (come with their own lid!), disposable pie plate, and the flavor goes beautifully with both sweet and savory quiches.  Yes, I can make my own dough, but why add an hour to the operation for no reason?  These days I only make my own pie dough for real fruit pies.

I find quiches are always better made the day before and refrigerated overnight and served cold.  It gives the flavors more time to settle and blend, and the cold pie is then both filling and refreshing.

ON TO THE RECIPES:  These are the recipes with my changes incorporated.

Quiche Lorraine (makes 1 9″ pie):

1 graham cracker crust
1 1/2 cups cheese – this time I used equal amounts of butterkasse, jarlsburg, and welsh chedder
1/2 pound lean smoky or Canadian bacon – OPTIONAL -simply omit for vegetarian version
2 large onions, diced
3 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
dash cayenne pepper
generous dash nutmeg

Fry or bake bacon until crisp, remove from fat and put on papertowl-lined plate to drain. Dice.

Saute onion over medium-high heat until gently browned.

Preheat oven to 375.

Coarsely grate or finely slice cheeses. Layer in graham cracker crust, alternating cheese, onions, and bacon.

Beat eggs gently, add milk, cream, cayenne and nutmeg, combine, pour gently into crust over the fillings.

Bake about 35-60 min until golden brown and egg is set.

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Indian Spiced Quiche (makes 1 9″ pie):

1 medium russet potato, peeled and diced
1 large red potato, peeled and diced
1 15oz can sweet peas
1/2 cup steamed fresh spinach (steamed until just limp and dark green)
1 small onion, chopped
3 eggs
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup Beecher’s Marco Polo peppercorn cheese
1 1/2 tsp curry powder
1 1/2 tsp coriander powder
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 1/2 tsp Chinese 5-Spice powder
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp salt
1 graham cracker crust

Fill a sauce pan with diced potatoes, and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over med-high heat. Boil until fork tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.

In a skillet over medium heat toast spices for 2 minutes. Stirring frequently. Add onion, cook until onions are gently browned. Toss in the cooked potatoes, peas, and wilted spinach, stir to coat with the spices.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large bowl beat eggs, milk, and cream together. Mix in the finely sliced or coarse-grated cheese. Add the potato mixture, and stir to combine. Pour egg mixture into prepared pie plate. Bake for 35 minutes, or until eggs are set.

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Quiche Florentine (makes 1 9″ pie):

4oz whole-milk ricotta cheese
4oz Farmer’s Cheese (a crumbly white firm brick cheese)
1 cup + 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese (I prefer the Bulgarian feta – skip the grocery store overpriced junk, and find your local Arab market for fresh, delicious, reasonably priced feta options)
3 eggs
2 teaspoons packed, coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 cup kalamata olives, pitted and sliced in half lengthwise
1 medium red bell pepper, roasted (directions below recipe)(or substitute purchased roasted red peppers – the Arab market should have some good ones)
1 graham cracker crust

Add the 3 cheeses (reserving the 1/4 cup of feta for the topping), the basil, and the thyme to the bowl of a food processer with a blade attachment and process until the mix is smooth and combined – about 1 minute. I found I had to pulse the processor and keep stopping to scrap down the sides.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a separate medium bowl, beat the eggs until scrambled. Add the cheese mix. Mix thoroughly. Pour into the graham cracker crust. Arrange the roasted red pepper strips in a pretty design on the top, add the olives to the design, sprinkle the top with crumbled feta.

Bake until the feta on top turn golden brown and the eggs are set – about 40 minutes.

 

To roast the pepper(s):

Heat the broiler to high, and place the pepper on foil-lined shallow pan on a rack near the top of the oven.
Roast, turning occasionally, until the peppers blister and blacken on all sides – about 20 min.

Remove from oven and place in a medium heatproof bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let sit until cool enough to handle and skins peel off easily – about 30 min.

Remove and discard the skins, seeds, and membranes of the peppers. Slice into 1/2″ strips and set aside. You can drizzle with olive oil and dash of salt and pepper to season if desired.

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I’d love to hear from you if you try any of these recipes or have your own favorite quiche recipe to share!

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