Thursday, April 14, 2011

Green Beans Delicious

This is one of my favorite side dishes, and it's so very easy to prepare! I hope you try it and enjoy it in your house.

Green Beans Delicious
2 strips bacon
1/2 red onion thinly sliced
15 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 pckg Trader Joe's Thin Green Beans (frozen)
2 T. dijon mustard
3 T. cider vinegar
tarragon, salt and pepper

Cook the bacon strips over medium heat until crispy. Remove and drain on a paper towel. Sautee the onion in the bacon drippings until wilted. While you wait crumble the bacon. Add the tomatoes and cook just until they begin to soften. Move the food aside and add the mustard to the pan, whisk in the cider vinegar, stir to combine all. Add the green beans, a good pinch of salt, some pepper and tarragon to taste. Cover and continue to cook until the beans are heated through, just a few minutes. Return the bacon to the pan, toss and serve.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

North Carolina Quilt Symposium

Yesterday I got my confirmation for the North Carolina Quilt Symposium. (Insert silly girl squeak here.)

I invited three friends to join me and two of them took me up on it. So Hillary and my sister-in-law Leslie plus a friend of of Leslie's will be coming along. The thought of getting Leslie and Hillary in the same room for some giggles really appeals to me. I can't tell you how glad I am to be doing this with them, although I was alone last year and got placed with some lovely ladies who graciously included me in all their fun. I hope I see them again this year.

Last year I registered very late for this event and I was lucky to get anything at all, this year I registered on the first day, so I hoped I would get my first picks, and I did!

Friday Morning: Pushing Creativity
Friday Afternoon: My Stars, My Stars, Sally Collins
Friday Evening: Looking Ahead with Margaret Miller

Saturday Morning: My Stars, My Stars, part two
Saturday Afternoon: Surface Design Madness, Susan Brubaker Knapp
Saturday Evening: Making Time for Quilts

Sunday Morning: Surface Design Madness, part two

Now I just have to hope I am strong enough and healthy enough to enjoy them!

June won't get here too soon!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Pasta with Leeks, Peas and Lemon Cream

I don't know if you've seen the March cover of Woman's Day magazine, and even if you did you might not have seen what I saw because they did multiple covers apparently. I'm glad I saw this pasta dish staring at me while I was in the check-out at Publix. It looked beautiful and it tastes great. I've changed the ingredient proportions a bit and got six servings, along with salad. If I had served some grilled fish or chicken along side we might have been eating this for half a week. (Nobody in my house would have complained about that!)

I think, in fact, if you're looking for something with more protein, some flaked salmon or chicken might be a perfect addition to this dish, just add it in with the pasta and peas to finish together and come up to heat.

I love this combination of lemon, nutmeg and tarragon. I'm going to be experimenting a lot with this combination this is amazing food for the spring weather. YUM!

Creamy Pasta with Leeks, Peas and Parmesan
With a salad this will make enough for two meals.

1 lb orchiette pasta (I used croxetti but I think tortellini or mini-raviolis might work well, too)
1 lb bag frozen peas
1 lemon zest removed in wide strips and then sliced fine on the diagonal
2 Tbsp. olive oil
8 leeks or 4 large leeks, cut in quarters lengthwise, rinsed out and then sliced in 1/2” pieces
1.25 c. heavy cream
1/4 t. nutmeg (freshly ground is best)
2 Tbsp. fresh tarragon, chopped fine, plus more for garnish
1/4 c. grated parmesan

Bring large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, prepare vegetables and set up a collander.

Sautee leeks in olive oil over medium heat, season with salt & pepper for 6-8 minutes.

Drop pasta in the water, check the packaging for suggested cooking time. You’ll want to remove the pasta about a minute before it’s finished and let it finish cooking in the sauce.

Add cream, lemon zest and nutmeg to the leeks. Bring to a boil and then simmer until thickened. Dip a measuring cup into the pasta water and transfer one cup’s worth into the pasta sauce (hang on I promise this works). Drain the pasta when it has about a minute left to go and then add it to the sauce along with the peas. Cook it all until the pasta is cooked and the sauce is the proper consistency. Give the dish one last toss with the grated cheese.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Round Barn Quilt

A couple of years ago I became aware of Susan Brubaker Knapp, and while reading her blog I became a fan. I admire the way she works equally well in traditional and art quilting. I was thrilled when I was able to arrange for her to be invited to the ECQG for some workshops. To say that she is a great teacher is an understatement. She really understands the processes that she teaches about and has a great way of enabling students to leave their fears at the door and just go for it. In addition to her teaching skills and artistic gifts, she's a lovely person. I've had the pleasure of meeting quite a few teachers over the years, many of them are "heroes" in the blog world. It was wonderful to meet Susan and find that she is just as wonderful to have lunch with as she is to read on her blog. I've enjoyed our internet friendship very much and I'm hoping to hear this week that I've been accepted into one of her workshops at the NCQS this June.

When she was at the ECQG last year she taught her "Round Barn" quilt which involved taking a photograph through the pattern making process and into thread painting. It was a fun project and the image is perfect because it was easy to work with not a ton of details and yet so much possibility for the confident quilter. I worked with solid red, white, and gray fabric, and a black on black for the window glass, mottled gray for the stonework and a patterned green for the grass.

I really enjoyed this class a lot. I'm confident with free motion quilting but had not ever worked quite as indepth as this class called for. Taking that red fabric from plain to the side of a barn wall was addictive. I actually had to convince myself to stop, kind of like knowing when to take a drawing away from a 5 year old and tell her it's finished just before she takes the purple crayon and scribbles all over it.

The stone wall was fun, too. All the stones were threadsketched in without guidance. It was like meditation to me, just moving it under the needle deciding where the stones would lie and how much thread was needed for each one. The only part I didn't love doing on this was the grass, I loved working the edges into the stone, but over the expanse of the green fabric it was a lot of work without a lot of "pay-off" as it couldn't really be seen well. If I did it again, I'd cut a few inches off the bottom of the quilt and have less grass.
I recently took it out of my unfinished work pile and got it finished. Susan has kindly given me permission to submit this piece to the ECQG Small Treasures Auction in September. It's the first time I've submitted something to the auction, thanks so much Susan for your encouragement and inspiration!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Monthly Accounting

It's been a good month from a quilting perspective. I haven't done everything I had hoped but I have made some significant progress. Looking at last month's "to be done" list, I'm pleased. Chocolate Covered Cherries is going to be fully quilted soon. I cut more fabric for my Hunters' Star quilt and I finished thread painting, quilting and facing the Round Barn quilt for the ECQG Small Treasures Auction.

Quilts that need quilting and binding:

Chocolate Covered Cherries

Quilts that need basting, quilting and finishing:

Sherwood Forest Romance

Briners' Picnic (Yes, I still haven't found the backing I had been planning to use for this quilt, I have found another that would work.)

WIPS that need piecing:

Hunter's Star (I now know how many more blocks I need to make and I've begun cutting fabric for them.)

Green and white chain quilt (I've done no work on this. I haven't pieced except for one day this month, it's been all about the quilting with me.)

I'd like to start another small project, possibly something to enter in the ECQG show, but I'm committed to finishing Chocolate Covered Cherries first. I'm loving the work I'm seeing at LuAnn's blog. I'd like to see what I could do in that same style.