Vegetarian Navy Bean Soup

As a vegetarian, I have a close and loving relationship with beans.  The best time of my life was taking a bicycle trip through Costa Rica and eating the same beans and rice at every meal for a month.  Ahhhh, frijoles……how I love you so.

As I’ve been working my way through my grandmother’s receipe box, I came upon a recipe for Navy Bean soup.  Remarkably, until now, I’ve never cooked navy beans.  I’m not even sure if I’d ever eaten them.  This is probably high treason for a vegetarian.  So, when I came upon this recipe in Grangi’s box, I immediately added it to the queue.  This recipe seems to have been given to Grangi by her sister, my wonderful and amazing great Aunt Lucy, who very recently passed away.  She was 99 years old.  One more reason to make this soup – another small way that I can remember her.

The recipe itself is fairly simple, really.  I did, however, need to figure out some other flavor besides bones.  So, I used Better than Bouillon vegetable base, which I find adds a lot of good flavor.  I also did not use the traditional soy sauce called for, as it isn’t my favorite.  Instead, I went with Tamari sauce.  I think it’s flavor is more complex and I thought it would pair nicely with the beans.  Here is what you’ll need:

Navy beans are not beans that you need to soak overnight, which is nice.  I am really a “fly by the seat of my pants” kind of girl.  For this recipe, you only need to be proactive about three hours in advance.  Yes, please!

For the first step, you add two quarts of water and the amount of Better Than Bouillon indicated on the lid/per amount of water to the beans in a large pot and simmer for two hours.  You’ll need to stir them occasionally during this time to ensure they aren’t sticking to the bottom and that you still have adequate water.  If you begin running low on water, just add some more.  I ended up needing to add about 2 more cups of water during the 2 hours to ensure the beans were still covered well.

When the beans are finished cooking and tender after the two hours are up, add the spices, Tamari, chopped onion, and salt (if needed) to the pot and simmer for another 20 minutes. At the end of the 2o minutes, the onion will be nice and tender.  Remove the bay leaf, and then using a food processor, process 2/3 of the beans to give the soup a creamy consistency.

Process 2/3 of the beans for a creamy consistency.

Then, all you have left to do is ladle it into bowls and garnish with some fresh chives.  The soup was delicious and had a nutty, hearty taste.  The recipe calls for garlic croutons, which I didn’t have time to make.  (Next time!)  Instead, I whipped up some quick cheddar cheese, garlic buisuits to go with it.  All in all this recipe was easy to execute, has simple ingredients that you’d have on hand, and scored rave reviews at our dinner party.  I will definitely be making it again!  Thanks Aunt Lucy!

Vegetarian Navy Bean Soup

Blintzes, the new Crêpe.

One of DH’s all-time favorite things I make for breakfast is the blintz.  Blintzes, which are basically crêpes that have been sautéed, are a second cousin to the crêpe and very French.  Have I mentioned that I love all most things French?  Therefore, they are also a favorite of mine.  DH usually eats his slathered in Nutella.  While I love Nutella, it’s a little too sweet for my breakfast liking.  So, I set out today to create something filling (get it?) that would satisfy us both.  Thus, my Lemon Blueberry Blintzes were born.  Here is what you’ll need:

Lemon Blueberry Blintz ingredients

I also discovered a new use for DH’s old money clip, which he hates because he says it ruins the magnetic strip on his credit cards.  Slip a recipe into a plastic sleeve (splatter protection) and slap it up on the fridge.  Better than a cookbook stand!

New use for an old money clip.

I made the blintz batter first so that it can rest in the fridge for a while.  I find that this makes for the best texture.

Blintz Batter recipe:

* 3 eggs

* 1/2 teaspoon salt

* 3/4 cup all purpose flour

* 1 and 1/3 cups milk (lowfat ok)

* 2 tablespoons melted butter, plus additional for cooking

Homemade Ricotta Cheese Recipe:

* 1 quart of milk (whole is better, but I used 1%)

* 1 small container (1 1/2 cups) of greek yogurt (I used Oikos)

* 2 tsp. of lemon juice

* 1 tsp. of salt

* cheese cloth

* strainer

Filling Recipe:

* 1 cup of homemade ricotta cheese

* 2 oz. of cream cheese

* 4 Tbs. of powdered sugar

* 1 lemon (all of the juice and zest)

* 1 egg

Preparation:

Again, I make the batter first so that it can sit in the fridge for a bit.  Combine (in this order!) the eggs, salt, flour, milk, and 2 tablespoons melted butter.  Make sure that when you add the melted butter you do so a little bit at a time, so as not to cook any of the egg.  Mix well.  If I had a good food processor, I’d mix in that.  Then, refrigerate the batter while you work on the filling.

Normally, I would have just used Ricotta from the store.  But, I didn’t have any and was really too lazy to leave my PJ’s and quickly run to the grocery store.  Don’t judge.  You know how comfy PJ pants are.  So, I decided to make my own.  Of course, if you use store-bought ricotta the recipe goes very quickly.  In a large pot while gently stirring, I heated the quart of milk, the Greek yogurt, the lemon juice and the salt to a boil.  I let it boil for three minutes.

Making the ricotta

While it was cooling, I placed cheesecloth inside of a strainer over a large bowl.

Cheesecloth inside of strainer, over a large bowl

Then, I poured the cooled milk mixture into the cheesecloth in increments.

Pouring the ricotta mixture through cheesecloth.

I have decided you must have the patience of a saint to make cheese.  It takes FOREVER to let the whey drip from the cheesecloth into the bowl.  I’m not going to lie, I gave up and eventually gathered my cheesecloth into a small packet and squeezed. I was hungry!

1/2 of my ricotta cheese

Now that I had my cheese, I could make the rest of the filling.  In my mixing bowl, I combined the ricotta cheese, the cream cheese, the egg, and the powdered sugar and beat it until it was nice and creamy.  While it was mixing, I juiced the lemon and zested it.  Then, added the juice and zest to the mixer and incorporated it.  Then, I put the filling in the refrigerator and pulled the batter out.

Making the filling

Yummy, tangy lemon zest!

Finished filling

Place a skillet or omelet pan over medium heat.  If it’s not a nonstick pan, brush it lightly with butter.  (Or, do this anyway.  Butter makes everything better!)  Pour in a small amount of batter – just enough to cover the bottom of the pan well—and tilt the pan in all directions to coat evenly.  For the size of my pan, that equates to a scant 1/4 cup.  Cook over medium heat until the edges of the crêpe begin to pull away from the side of the pan (This will happen quickly.)  Then, channel your inner-Julia Child and flip it over!  The higher it gets, the more points!  Let it brown briefly on the other side and then turn the crêpe out onto a clean, dry towel.  Repeat until you’ve run out of batter.

Cooking the crêpes

Crêpes waiting for filling

Take the filling out of the fridge.  Then, place filling onto each crêpe and roll.

Fill those crêpes up!

Now, in order to transform your crêpes into blintzes, you must sauté them.  Add a little bit of butter back to your pan and then place into it the folded crêpes.

Cooking the blintzes

Using medium heat, sauté until golden brown on each side.  Then, plate them and cover them with some yummy blueberry syrup.  I used some that I had canned last summer.  If you don’t have this, I think that raspberry jam would also go really nicely with the subtle lemon flavor of the filling.

Lemon Blueberry Blintzes

Lemon Blueberry Blintzes

The true test came when DH tried them.  He gave them two thumbs up and said that he would happily forego the Nutella for a less-sugary, more substantial and delicious option.  What are your favorite breakfast foods/recipes?

My First Attempt at Naan

I love Naan. I may even go as far as saying it’s my favorite type of bread. For the longest time I’ve been buying the garlic naan from Trader Joe’s, but the other day I thought why don’t I try to make this? The first step involved buying a pizza stone, something I’ve wanted for awhile.  My good friend Meg moved into a new apartment a few years ago and told me she didn’t have a lot of wares. For some reason I thought calling housewares and kitchen wares ‘wares was hilarious. Every time I buy a new kitchen gadget I think about adding it to my “wares.”

But I digress. Back to making naan. It was really pretty easy and I learned an important lesson about making bread along the way. Most bread recipes have you dissolve the yeast in warm water until it gets frothy. The last few times I’ve attempted bread my water never really seemed to froth. So I did what anyone does, I googled why won’t my yeast froth? Don’t you love how google has an answer for everything? I’m waiting for the day when google will just rule our lives. Anyways, I found a site that listed all the things that can go wrong when making bread. At the top of the list was don’t add salt to your water and yeast mixture or it will kill the yeast. Who knew? I figured if a recipe called for yeast and salt it would be just fine. While my first attempt at naan was a bit doughy because of this mistake, it was still pretty darn tasty.

I found the recipe I used here  and made a few modifications.

Naan

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of All Purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Pinch of baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
  • 3/4 cup lukewarm water

Also needed:

  • 1 teaspoon of butter
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1/4 cup All Purpose flour for rolling
  • Cilantro to add some color (optional)

Directions:

  1. Dissolve active dry yeast in lukewarm water and let it sit for 10 minutes or until the mixture becomes frothy.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix salt, sugar, flour and baking soda. Note: don’t add your dry ingredients directly into your yeast mixture here like I did. 
  3. Add the oil and yogurt mix, this will become crumbly dough.
  4. Add the water/yeast mixture and make into soft dough.Note: after dough rises it will become a little softer.
  5. Knead until the dough is smooth. Cover the dough and keep in a warm place for 3-4 hours. I’d recommend turning your oven on the lowest temperature and putting it in there. Anything over 100 degrees is probably too hot though.vThe dough should almost be double in volume.
  6.  Heat the oven to 500 degrees with pizza stone for at least thirty minutes so stone is hot.
  7. Next turn the oven to high broil.
  8. Knead the dough for about two to three minutes and divide the dough into six equal parts.
  9. Take each piece of dough, one at a time, and roll into 8-inch oval shape. Dust your surface lightly with dry flour to help with the rolling.
  10. Before putting the Naan in oven, lightly wet your hands and take the rolled Naan, and flipp them between your palms and place onto your baking/pizza stone into the oven.
  11. You can place about 2 Naan on the baking/pizza stone at a time. The Naan will take about 5 minutes to cook, depending upon your oven. You know it’s done when the Naan bubbles and browns nicely.
  12. Meanwhile, melt some butter and set aside. Crop some garlic and brown it in 1 tbsp. of olive oil. Once you take the naan out of the oven, brush it with butter and sprinkle with your garlic. To add some color I tore up some pieces of cilantro I had on hand.
  13. Wait 2 to 3 minutes before baking the next batch of naan. This gives the oven the chance to get heated again to the max.

The Blossom Bag and My Obsession With Sewn Handbags

I don’t know what it is, but I LOVE sewing handbags.  This is weird, because I’ve never been a purse or accessory girl.  I only own two purses myself and they certainly wouldn’t be considered “fashionable.”  It all started with me sewing some Amy Butler diaper bags.  They were the hardest thing I’d ever sewn to that point and they just turned out so cute.  I was hooked.  Now, I troll the internet looking for cute bag patterns (man oh man, there are lots of them!) and have begun hording home dec fabric.  It’s really not healthy.  But, my friends and family get to reap the benefits so no one is complaining.

The next up in a long queue of bag patterns is the Amy Butler Blossom Bag from her book “Style Stitches.  The pattern is a free download from the Sew Mama Sew website.  Isn’t it amazing?  Look at the detailing on the handles?  Doesn’t it just pull at your heartstrings?

Blossom Bag Pic from Sew Mama Sew

My mom’s birthday is coming up very quickly.  I thought this would be the perfect present for a trendy lady like herself.  I decided to use the same fabrics that I used for my sister’s bag.  I just love the combo.

The fabrics

The pattern is a .pdf.  (If you print it, make sure that your printing is to actual size.  To do this, ensure that “scale” box is not checked in your print screen.  Unfortunately, Amy did not include a test square to measure to double check.  Maybe next time, Amy?) After printing, began the laborious process of cutting out all of the pieces.

Blossom Bag Pattern pieces

Cutting out all of the pieces

Next, comes fusing the interfacing and/or stabilizer onto the pieces.   Mind numbingly boring, I tell you!  The pattern calls for Peltex 70 for the stabilizer, which isn’t fusible.  To ensure that it stays where it is supposed to, you fuse the interfacing over it and to the edges of the piece.

Fusing the interfacing with the Peltex inside.

Finished exterior piece with interfacing and Peltex.

When I made the Amy Butler diaper bag, I used fusible Peltex.  It might have been a smidge heavier that the Peltex 70, but I think that I prefer it.  Using unfusible stabilizer, the exterior piece and the Peltex are still able to move away from one another, which can cause wrinkling and an unfinished look.  If I make this bag again, I plan to use fusible Peltex and interfacing.  The fabric cutting and the fusing took the longest – several hours.  I’m glad that I decided to do those on a different day.  Whew!

Next, I added the magnetic snaps.  The pattern doesn’t call for a reinforcement of the snap.  But, I highly recommend that you slap a piece of the peltex or a piece of fusible fleece back there.  It’s a high wear & tear area, better to have some reinforcement!

Reinforcement for the magnetic strap

Magnetic straps, done!

After adding the snaps, it is time to get started on those fantastic looking “faux buckle” details.  The are actually quite simple.  First, you I sewed on a rectangular-ish piece of fabric in such a say that it left a small tube at the top.

Bottom part of faux-buckle

Then, I made the straps by folding a long, rectangular piece of fabric in half and pressing a center crease.  Then, I opened the strap back up and folded each side to the center crease and pressed again.  Lastly, I folded the strap at the center crease again — inserted the Peltex for stability – and sewed the perimeter.

First, fold the strap piece in half and press.

Then, open up the strap that you just pressed and fold each side into the center crease and press again.

Before you stitch the strap, you add a piece of the peltex to add stability.

Finished straps!

After the straps were finished, I made the ties and tabs (in the same fashion as above – they are just smaller).

Making the ties

Here is where the fun part started and the bag started to come to life!  Next, I fed one tie through each of the tubes on the bag.

Ties inserted through tubes.

Then, I bent the ties to form the triangular shapes and sewed the ends of the ties into the ends of each strap.   Once the ties were secured to the straps, I covered each join with one of the tabs.  It was rather difficult to sew the tabs, as my machine doesn’t like really bulky sewing.  But, I took it slow and did a lot of turning the wheel by hand and managed to get through it.

Fabric buckles done!

Next, I sewed the two exterior sides to the bottom exterior panel.  Pretty straightforward.  Lastly, to finish the exterior, I pinned and sewed the two side panels to the bottom and front/back.  It was a bit tricky to get the side panel to sit perfectly in the u-shape that the bottom and front/back make.  But, going slowly and using a lot of pins, I think I got a pretty good fit.

Bag exterior

The last part of the exterior was finishing the flap.  I pinned the flap with interfacing to the flap without (right sides together) and stitched around the edge, leaving enough room in which to turn it inside out.  Whew!  Then, the exterior of the bag was finished.

Finished flap

Next, it was time to work on the lining.  The lining perimeter is pretty easy.  It is put together just like the sides of the bag.  Once it was finished, I turned it inside out and slipped it over the entire bag exterior and topstitched around the top edge, leaving enough room to turn it right-side out.

Sewing the lining to the exterior

Finished bag lining

Next, I sewed the flap to the bag by measuring 3/8″ down from the top of the back bag panel and making a line.  I lined the bottom, straight line of the flap up with this line and pinned it.  Then, I stitched three rows of stitches.  the first lined up with the topstitching of the edge of the flap.  The second, was 3/8″ from that and the last was 3/8″ from the middle.

The dividers were the last big part of the bag.  One of the dividers has a zipper and the other one does not.  I started with the one sans zipper, as I’m new to zippers.  Baby steps.  First, I placed one of the dividers with the interfacing and one without right sides together and stitched around the edge (leaving enough of an opening to turn it right side out).  I did the same thing with another set of divider pieces.  (NOTE:  I found my IKEA iron-on hem tape to be a lifesaver for making sure the openings that I had to leave to turn the pieces right side out stayed together and even until I stitched the two finished dividers together. )  Next, you sew the two finished dividers together.  This will close the two small openings that you had to leave to turn the dividers right side out.

For the zippered divider, I started by placing the zipper and the divider with the interfacing right sides together and stitching the zipper (1/8″ away from the coils), centered,  1/4″ from the top of the divider.  Then, I placed a divider panel without interfacing onto the zippered divider panel, right sides together and stitched around the edge, leaving enough space to turn, and pulling the zipper through.

1/2 of zippered divider panel

I did the same thing with the other side of the zipper – sewed it 1/4″ down onto the last, interfaced divider panel.  Then, I placed the last non-interfaced divider panel onto this one, right sides together (the other finished panel and the zipper will be between the two – AWKWARD!) and stitched (as best I could with the bulk in the middle) them together, leaving enough space to turn it right side out.  Once it was turned, I used my IKEA hem tape again and then stitched the sides and bottom of each panel together, with the zipper sandwiched in between.

Finished zipper panel

The last step is to insert each divider panel (zippered towards the back) into the bag and tack them in place.  I measured 1 and 1/2 ” from each side seam and made a mark.  Then, lined up each divider panel with the mark and tacked them into place 1/2″ down and 1/2″ in.  I had ready on someone else’s blog that they had real trouble during this step because of the bulk of many layers of fabric.  The woman took the entire pressor foot off of her machine to do the job.  I tried this, but the fabric was so bulky that the top thread and bobbin thread weren’t even catching one another.  Enter, hand sewing.  And then, TA DA…..I hope my mom likes it.  She deserves about a million of these bags for all the crap she put up with from me when I was a teenager.  🙂

Finished bag!

Bag interior

Bag interior, close-up

 

The Pioneer Woman’s Asian Inspired Flank Steak

My two older sisters are both vegetarians, but I never made the switch. I like meat too much. I came across a pin for the Pioneer Woman’s Asian Inspired Flank Steak and knew I wanted to try making it. At my company’s holiday party this year we were given a bunch of coupons as a gift (you know it’s a tough year when you get coupons as your gift). There were two coupons for $10 worth of free meat or seafood which the head of sales presented saying “one day the company might do away with half day summer Fridays, but I swear if we ever get rid of the meat coupons, there is going to be an uprising.” A meat coupon? Really? I’d never heard of such a thing. Oh Minnesotans, you never cease to amaze me.  I guess if you are a vegetarian you are screwed.

I  finally used my first meat coupon the other day and bashfully said to the cashier, this one’s kind of weird as I handed it over. He ran it across the scanner and much to my surprise there was no issue. I couldn’t find flank steak so I bought a beautiful New York strip steak (which I will say only cost me $3 thanks to my $10 meat coupon). The finished product was pretty tasty.

The Pioneer Woman’s Asian Inspired Flank Steak (or in my case NY strip steak)

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup Soy Sauce
  • 1/2 cup Cooking Sherry
  • 3 Tablespoons Honey
  • 2 Tablespoons Sesame Oil
  • 2 Tablespoons (heaping) Minced Ginger
  • 3 cloves (to 5 Cloves) Minced Garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1 whole Flank Steak

Preparation Instructions

Combine all ingredients in a glass or ceramic dish.

Remove steak from package and give it a quick rinse. Coat both sides of the meat with marinade. Refrigerate for at least 3 to 6 hours.

Remove the steak from the marinade and place on a plate while you heat up the grill pan. Make sure to turn on your overhead exhaust fan as the cooking process can be quite smoky.

When the pan is extremely hot, place the steak on a slight angle as this makes for more appealing grill marks. Cook without touching for about 1 ½ to 2 minutes. Rotate the meat about 45 degrees, keeping it on the same side, and cook for another 1 ½ minutes.

Now flip it to the other side. Cook using the same method on the other side, cooking for 1 1/2 minutes, then rotating it and finishing the cooking process. I cook the flank streak to medium rare, which usually takes about 5 to 7 minutes total cooking time. Remove the meat to a cutting board and let it rest for a few minutes before slicing.

When you’re ready, thinly slice the meat against the grain. That means find the directional striations/lines in the meat grain and slice perpendicular to it.

Take the leftover marinade and run it through a strainer and then add 1/2 cup water and boil it for 10-15 mins to kill the bacteria. This will make a nice sauce to add to your finished steak.

steak marinating

sizzling on the grill pan

perfectly cooked medium rare

Blueberry Pie Pancakes

Whoever said you can’t eat dessert disguised as breakfast?  During the week my breakfasts are pretty boring, Honey Bunches of Oats or oatmeal with blueberries and raspberries. On the weekends I like to splurge a little and make pancakes, waffles or french toast. I came across a picture for blueberry pie pancakes during one of my many hours on Pinterest and decided I needed to try them.  The recipe comes from  a blog called Chocolate-Covered Katie: http://chocolatecoveredkatie.com/2011/06/09/blueberry-pie-pancakes/

Blueberry Pie Pancakes

(Serves 1)

  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • 1/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 T rolled oats
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2/3 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 T sugar
  • 1/3 cup skim milk
  •  1 T oil and reduce milk by that amount

Combine dry ingredients in a bowl, then add wet. Mix, but don’t overmix. Cook on an oiled (or sprayed) pan, on low-medium, flipping each pancake once.

Blueberry Pie Pancakes with OJ and tea complete with frothed milk 🙂

The pancakes were a little dense and cake like, but I thought they were really good. I liked the addition of oats as it made me feel  a little healthier despite slathering them in maple syrup.

DIY Jewelry Storage

I’ve always said I love jewelry and accessories because they never make me feel fat. Over the years I’ve amassed quite a collection of jewelry and it was getting to the point where I didn’t wear half of what I owned because I’d either forgotten about something or because getting ready involved digging through several storage boxes. When I moved into my new apartment I decided something had to be done. I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on storage and I’d seen some cool posts on Pinterest that showed a few unique DIY options.

For my necklaces I went to Target and bought three square cork boards that were pretty cheap and some hooks from the hardware section. Then I went to Michael’s and bought some turquoise and bright orange scrapbook paper by the sheet. Assembling the boards was a piece of cake. I just cut out the paper, taped it to the cork board and then evenly spaced the hooks across the top and I had pretty way to display all my necklaces!

Square cork board from Target

Hooks to hang necklaces

The finished product

Next up was how to display all my dangly earrings. I’d seen some neat old picture frames on Pinterest, so I was on a mission to find some ornate antique frames on Ebay. I found two that were the same size and then spray painted them turquoise. Finding mesh lining to put on the inside of the frame proved to be a challenge. The screening and chicken wire at Lowe’s was all in massive quantities. As I wondered around the store I found some gutter guard that looked like it would do the trick. I lucked out because it was just the right width. Since it was black I decided to spray paint it silver. Next, I used the 3M adhesive tape to tape the netting to the inside of the frame and tada some beautiful earring displays.

My finished earring display

I hung them staggered in my closet

Now getting ready in the morning is a cinch. And I also wear everything a lot more often because now I can see what I have! All and all I probably spent less than $50 on all the materials, which I think it pretty good given the finished products.

Springing Forward into Fashion with a new Spring Scarf!

This Spring, I’ve been seeing a lot of stripes.  This makes me very happy.  I love stripes.  Last summer, when in France, I stocked up on striped things.  It was very easy to do because, as a people, the French love stripes.  You can find any textile item with stripes in France.  Striped shirt?  Mais, oui!  Striped pants?  Pas de probleme!  Striped underwear?  Absolutement.  Nice really corners the stripes market in France.  Beautiful, no?

Nice is very stripey.

The other textile item that the French won’t leave home without is the scarf.  While there, me and my friend Jill decided that before leaving we should probably purchase a scarf………..for, oh, every day of the week.  I think the French might have considered putting an embargo on scarves while we were there, we bought so many!  Yet, I have no buyers remorse.  On the contrary, I wish that I had bought one more scarf.  I wish that I had solidified my love of stripes and scarves and found one that perfectly married the two.  Alas, I didn’t.  To make it worse, I keep seeing photos like these all over pinterest:

Striped scarf from Athleta.com

J Crew scarve

Unfortunately you have to be rolling in the drachmas or married to a manna-daddy to afford these scarves.  As a teacher of public education, I am neither.   In these instances, I try DIY.  Thankfully, our Jo-Ann Fabric store is moving.  And instead of doing what “real” stores do and move the merchandise, they are liquidating all of their old inventory.  We are in the last month now, and things are HEAVILY discounted.  For instance, I have a “friend” who went this weekend and purchased many, many yards of fabric, ~20 patterns, lots of serger and regular thread, zippers, bias, etc.   It would have normally cost her $600.  She got it for a mere $100!   How do I know all of these particulars you ask?  Ok….that person was me.  It was amazing!!  The woman behind the counter told me that a woman had bought enough patterns the day before to normally total $1800.  In the end, she paid $30.  Thirty dollars!!!  Unbelievable.

But, I digress.  One of the lovely fabrics I found (deeply discounted) was a nice pink and white striped jersey.  So, I snapped it up and it came home to become my scarf.

Pink striped jersey

Because I wanted the stripes to run horizontally, I was going to need to make a center seam.  So, I took a yard and cut it down the folded side.  Then, I used some iron on hem tape from IKEA and tacked the two panels one on top of the other and serged them.  The hem tape was really helpful to ensure that I lined the stripes up properly before I serged any seam.

Using hem tape to line up the stripes.

Now, you don’t have to have a serger to sew knits (although I think mine does a better job than my sewing machine).  If you use your sewing machine, you want to make sure that you use your “knit stitch” (this will usually look akin to your zigzag stitch).  It’s also helpful to have a “knit” sewing machine needle.

Once I had my two panels sewn together, the fabric was long enough to be a good, long scarf.  Then, I turned it right sides together and served down the long, open end, fully across one end and 2/3 of the way across the second end.  Then, I turned it right side out and hand stitched the small opening left in the final end.  Voila!  My very frenchy spring scarf!  This is super easy and very (instantly) gratifying.  I highly recommend making one and then living in it (like me) this spring.

My frenchy, striped spring scarf

Graham Cinnamon Scones with Homemade Blueberry Butter

I had been looking forward to this weekend for so long.  Not only was the weather supposed to be beautiful, but two of our favorite people invited us for brunch,  Mike & Susan.  It had been so long since we’d seen them.  Hooray for coming out of winter hibernation mode.   So….what to make?  After looking through Grangi’s recipe box, I decided on Cinnamon graham scones.  Here is what you’ll need:

Ingredients for cinnamon graham scones

And, here is the recipe:

Graham Cinnamon Scone recipe

Now, the recipe calls for graham cereal, but I decided to use graham crackers.  (It’s what I had on hand).  This meant, that I needed to use my mortar and pestle to grind up some graham crackers.

Graham crackers to graham flour

Next, you need to combine all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl.

Mix the dry ingredients

After you have mixed the dry ingredients, add the eggs, butter and milk and then mix the dough until it forms a ball.

Scone dough

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and divide it into three equal parts.

Rolling out the scone dough

Now here is where I deviated a bit from the recipe.  It tells you to first put the dough onto a lightly greased baking sheet and then roll it into a six inch circle.  One, I found that my cute little french rolling pin would not fit easily into my baking sheet.  And two, I wouldn’t be able to cut my scones into proper shapes if they were already stuck to the butter on the sheet.  So, I just rolled everything out on my cutting board.  Problem solved.

Rolling and cutting scones into triangles.

After transferring the scones to the baking sheet, I brushed them with egg and sprinkled them with turbinado sugar.

Scones pre-baking

These little babies cook up so quick, it’s almost like instant gratification.  10 minutes later, I add some homemade blueberry butter and…………..cue deliciousness.

Graham cinnamon scones with homemade blueberry butter

This weekend was fun, but very busy.  So, while I worked diligently on the projects in my queue (Amy Butler Blossom Bag, Colette Sorbetto blouse, etc.), I didn’t get any of them completely finished.  I’m going to hold off posting anything on them until I can show you a finished project.  That should be later this week.  Until then, happy crafting and enjoy the spring weather!

 

Take Me Back to Austin…So I Can Eat!

Almost three years ago I made the biggest decision of my life to date…I moved across the country to Austin, Texas for grad school. Having grown up in Virginia and following in my two older sisters shoes and going to Virginia Tech for undergrad, I was itching to do something totally different. I applied to five schools, four on the East Coast and threw in The University of Texas at Austin as my wildcard school since it was a great program and I’d heard so many good things about Austin. I never really thought I’d actually consider going there. However, when I went out to visit the city, the school, and the people captivated my heart. My final decision was between UVA(sorry Dad) and UT and while my head told me Virginia made more sense because it was close to my family, my heart and my gut told me to take the plunge and move 1,600 miles away.

City view from Town Lake

My two years in Austin were my favorite two years so far. While business school was the most stressful thing I’ve ever been through, my life was also filled with adventure, new friends, awesome live music, beautiful weather, and amazing Austin food! If you’ve never been to Austin, I suggest you plan a visit in your near future. It’s a unique, beautiful city and there is always something fun going on.  If you do go, below is my Must Eat in Austin list. Enjoy!

1. When you are in Austin, you have to have breakfast tacos or migas. It’s a must. What are migas you ask? It’s a traditional Tex-Mex breakfast dish that consists of scrambled eggs mixed with strips of corn tortillas, onions, chiles, tomatoes and cheese.   Migas are typically served with refried beans and corn or flour tortillas. My personal favorite spot for migas is the South Congress Cafe(http://www.southcongresscafe.com/). Not only do you get migas deliciousness, but they have a really tasty Gouda potato pancake they serve with with it. And their flour tortillas are the best I think I’ve ever had. While you are in the area, walk up and down Congress Ave and stop in the many colorful boutiques and shops.

Migas from South Congress Cafe, image borrowed from http://www.ginnysaustin.com/south-congress-cafe/

For breakfast tacos I suggest Taco Deli (http://tacodeli.com/). A lot of coffee shops around town have Taco Deli breakfast tacos, but don’t get them here. Go to the source. I recommend the Jess Special, which is migas with fresh avocado and the Otto, which is refried black beans with cheese, bacon and avocado. There’s no better way to start a Saturday than with some Taco Deli tacos and then a walk around Town Lake on the hike and bike trail.

Taco Deli breakfast tacos, image from Melody Fury's flickr page

2. When you are in Texas you also have to have some Texas BBQ. For this I’d recommend either driving to Driftwood for The Salt Lick (about 20-30 mins outside of Austin, http://www.saltlickbbq.com/) or checking out Franklin Barbecue (http://franklinbarbecue.com/).  The key with Franklin’s is that they only serve lunch and once they run out they are done. This causes people to line up before they open to ensure that they’ll get the scrumtulesant goodness. The two must haves with Texas barbecue are brisket and white sandwich bread used to sop up all the sauce.

At the Salt Lick you’ve got to get the brisket and ribs. Their potato salad is also really good because it’s not mayonnaise based. It’s got a really nice acidic taste to it instead. I think my favorite part might be sopping up their baked beans and barbecue sauce with their white bread though.

Salt Lick Barbecue

At Franklin I’d also highly recommend the brisket. The bark on the outside of the meat is rich and smokey. And try to save room for dessert even though this is nearly impossible with the portion sizes. They have a bourbon banana cream pie that is really amazing. The only thing missing was a heaping pile of whipped cream on top.

Lunch at Franklin Barbecue...brisket and all the fixins'

3. In Austin you really can’t go wrong with a food truck. There are so many imaginative trucks that serve up delicious fare for cheap prices. Three of my favorites are Torchy’s Tacos (http://torchystacos.com/), Gordoughs (http://www.gourdoughs.com/) and Kebabalicious (http://www.austinkebab.com/).

Torchy’s Tacos has a few actual establishments around town, but their trailer park location is probably my favorite. On a warm night you can sit outside under old trees that are strung up with lights. On a chilly night you can sit around a fire pit and enjoy some tacos too. Another added bonus of the trailer park is that there’s another food truck next door called Holy Cacao that specializes in cake balls. Their Brass Balls chocolate peanut butter cake ball is the perfect sweet treat after stuffing yourself with Torchys. There are a lot of Tex-Mex places in Austin, but I think Torchy’s has the best tacos hands down. Here I’d highly recommend the Fried Avocado taco, yes I said it fried avocado. Whoever thought of this was a genius. It’s a perfect mix of creamy avocado, refried beans, cheese, pico and this special green poblano sauce they make.  The other taco you should try is the Baja Shrimp that has lightly fried shrimp, cabbage slaw, pickled onions and jalapenos,  queso fresco and their chipotle sauce.  I think the pickled onions make the taco.

Gordoughs serves up gourmet donuts that seem bigger than your face. I’m pretty sure if I let myself go here every time I wanted to I would have had to roll out of Austin. While I don’t think you can go wrong here, I’d recommend the Granny’s Pie donut which has pecans, bananas, cream cheese frosting, caramel sauce and brown sugar. It probably also has over the recommended amount of calories for an entire day, but it’s worth every bite!

Granny's Pie donut in all its glory

Kebabalicious was my favorite late night stop. I don’t want to admit how many times I stopped for some falafel on my way home from the bars. Their is just something about Kebabalicious. The falafel is soft, but crispy on the outside. They use a delicious hummus and all their veggies are really fresh. You just need to go.

Kebabalicious, image from http://republicofaustin.com/

Are you salivating all over your computer yet? This is just a handful of my favorite places, my list could go on an on. The bottom line is you won’t leave Austin hungry! While I was sad to leave this wonderful city after I graduated, I’m always excited to go back and visit and stuff myself.