Monday 30 January 2023

Chelsea Rose Pop

 This is definitely another "Gladys Over" (glad it's over) quilt. 

When I originally made this quilt, I wanted something that I could finish quickly, so I chose a pattern that looked like it would work up fairly easily and used fabric from my stash.
The pattern was pretty cool because it gave you three different "sub-block" pieces to create and then 3 different layouts of how to assemble the pieces into a larger block. 
and Pop. I chose the Pop layout because I also liked the secondary design that appeared when the blocks were put together. 
This is the backing fabric. 
I had originally hoped to use it instead of the grey in the quilt top. But I didn't have as much of the grey as I did of the burgundy and wouldn't have had enough for the backing if I used the grey. 
Unfortunately, I did not follow my quilter's instinct to not use these fabrics together without some solid or tonal fabric as well. The large print, especially just does not work with the smaller pieces. And I ended up with a quilt top looking like floral vomit. 
It's so busy that it's hard to even discern the individual blocks, let alone the secondary design. I was really not happy with the results.
When I was considering the quilting, I had originally planned on using a rose pantograph as the fabric is rose themed. However, as I considered the quilt top, I decided to try ruler quilting to attempt to "tame" it and make the design more evident. So, instead of spending hours doing a pantograph, I ended up spending weeks doing ruler work. 

I spent so many hours on this quilt that I could see it when I closed my eyes at night, and I got heartily sick of it. But did it really make a significant enough difference to justify spending all that extra time on the quilting? 
I don't honestly think so. As this side by side collage shows, the finished quilt on the left does not look significantly different from the unquilted top on the right. Blech!
The moral of the story is: Follow your quilting instincts. At least it's finished, and the individual fabrics are pretty. 
Now, on to more fun and visually appealing projects.

Tuesday 17 January 2023

The Great Bread Making Adventure: Double Corn Bread


I've been thinking it's about time I got back to The World Encyclopedia of Bread and Bread Making. I was planning on making bagels, especially since I have a recipe for vegan cream cheese I want to try. But today, I was making chili for dinner and corn bread always goes with chili. And sure enough, in the "Americas" section of the book was a recipe for cornbread. Double corn bread, because not only is it made with cornmeal, but it also has sweet corn in it. 
Of course, I replaced the white flour with whole wheat and also happened to have whole grain cornmeal in my freezer. I used Earth Balance Buttery Sticks for the butter, and the verdict is still out on whether or not I actually like that stuff. The last time I used it and had to melt it, it spat all over in the microwave and made a mess. This time, when it continued to make those explosive sounds, I decided to melt it on the stovetop. It still pops, but not quite as badly. And I'm not entirely convinced that it works that well in place of butter. For the eggs, I didn't quite have enough ground flax seed, so used some ground chia seed as well. The recipe called for a can of corn, but I didn't have any, so used frozen. From the looks of the picture in the book, compared to mine, the one in the book appears to have a lot less corn than mine. You really can't even tell that they added any. And I did follow the recipe regarding quantity. Nevertheless, mine still turned out tasty. 
I also finished off one of those bagged kale salads with my lunch. 
I honestly have no idea why my cat thinks he needs to help me eat my salad. Maybe he's craving greens. Or salad dressing. But he thought he should taste my Italian pasta salad a few days ago - also store bought - and I couldn't convince him not to taste it, because I'm quite sure it had cayenne in it. Definitely too hot for my taste - and Mystery's - and I won't be buying that one again. 
Eventually, I will likely get back to Italian breads, but I think I'll still make the bagels first. 
Meanwhile, on the quilting front, I have designed a Valentine's themed table quilt. I might not post it right away as I may try submitting the design to a quilting magazine for publishing. I have submitted a couple already, but the first one was turned down. I'm still waiting to hear about the second one. And that may determine whether or not I submit a third. Or I might try a different publisher. I'm still plugging away on the ruler quilting on Chelsea Rose Pop.
I'm finding it quite boring and will be very happy when I've finished it. And I already have another quilt top finished and ready for quilting when this one is done. But more about that in another post. 

Monday 2 January 2023

Holiday Meals: Recipe and Cookbook Reviews

For my birthday this past year, my daughter gave me an Indigo gift card. It took me awhile to decide what to get with it, but finally on Cyber Monday, when the cookbooks were 30% off, I ordered these two. 

I follow Dreena Burton on Instagram and Facebook and have tried a few of her recipes, so I figured her cookbooks would be good.
As I was flipping through Dreena's Kind Kitchen, I discovered that it has a Holiday Fare section that has some interesting recipes in it. With Christmas coming up, I decided to give some of them a try. 
I generally make the whole Christmas dinner myself. Because of this, I like to have as much made ahead as possible, just having to reheat on Christmas morning. That way, I'm free to enjoy my company without too much hubbub with dinner preparations. 
2022's Christmas dinner consisted of tossed salad (no recipe: spinach, grape tomatoes, red onions, black olives, pumpkin seeds and dried cranberries with vegan mayo), Roasted Squash and Sweet Potato Puree (Dreena's Kind Kitchen), Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes (Oh She Glows), Mary's Brown Gravy (Country Kitchen Collection), Shamburgers (Country Kitchen Collection), Old Fashioned Bread and Celery Stuffing (old family recipe), Guinnessless Sheet Cake (Dreena's Kind Kitchen) and Coconut Cream (Country Kitchen Collection). 
Originally, I was planning on using more recipes from Dreena's Kind Kitchen, but was a little too overwhelmed (very easy to happen when you have mental health struggles) and decided to stick with some old standbys. 
The stuffing was delicious as always.
Country Kitchen Collection is an old favourite cookbook. I find it rather amusing that one of the things that younger people complain about is no pictures in a cookbook. I think I can safely say that the majority of my cookbooks have no/few/black and white pictures/line drawings. And this is one of them. But I've still been happy with this cookbook and Shamburgers is a recipe I have used multiple times. Scrumptious without too much fuss. I had tried Mary's Brown Gravy before, but it's been years. It didn't disappoint. The Coconut Cream I used to top the cake was a new recipe to me, but it was quick and easy and quite tasty. Dreena's Kind Kitchen did offer a couple of topping options for the cake, but this one was simpler and didn't require any obscure ingredients (more on this later). 
I have made the Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes from this cookbook a couple of times before. Prior to that I would never have dreamed of the combination, but it is delicious and has become my standby for mashed potatoes. Tasty and more nutrition, a winning combination. 
The Roasted Squash and Sweet Potato Puree was delicious. The taste was reminiscent of pumpkin pie. However, I don't necessarily want to eat pumpkin pie for my main course. I actually enjoy the taste of squash and sweet potatoes without the addition of spices, except maybe a little sweetening. And what is the purpose of pureeing it? It's just an added and unnecessary step, in my opinion, unless I'm feeding someone with swallowing difficulties. And the Guinnessless Sheet Cake was good, but not great. And I think the spices could have been toned down in this as well. 
Unfortunately, the weather was not great Christmas day, and my family (daughter, grandson and ex-husband) did not make it. I hadn't heated the food up yet, so we planned to try again the next day. As it turned out, we eventually decided to try for New Year's Day, and I ate the leftovers all week, with plans to create a totally different menu for New Year's.
2023's New Year's Menu consisted of Lemon-Dijon Roasted Potatoes (Dreena's Kind Kitchen) topped with Golden Gravy (Dreena's Kind Kitchen), 
Smoky Kale Caesar Salad with Smoky Caesar Dressing and Bread End Croutons (Dreena's Kind Kitchen), Cran-Apple Compote (Dreena's Kind Kitchen), Rice and Pecan-Stuffed Squash (Vegan Holiday Kitchen), Holiday Dinner Torte (Dreena's Kind Kitchen), Carob Nut Balls (Vegetarian Cooking: a World of Difference), Dreena's Nanaimo Bars (Dreena's Kind Kitchen). 
First of all, I will say that the menu from this meal did not reheat as well as the menu from last week. I can also honestly say that, aside from dessert, the first meal was tastier than the second. 
I ended up making most of the recipes from Dreena's Kind Kitchen that I had originally hoped to make for Christmas dinner. The potatoes were good fresh from the oven when they were first roasted and really didn't require gravy. I did find that they were slightly lacking in flavour and likely would have benefited from more of the marinade. Or possibly a vegan chipotle cheese sauce. The gravy improved them after reheating. The difficulty of making both this recipe and the torte was that they required different cooking temperatures. That would have made it very challenging to cook them both on Christmas morning unless I had a second oven. And my Breville Smart Oven is too small for either of these dishes. I've been eating a vegetarian/vegan diet for a lot of years (decades) and I don't remember ever having to prepare an entree in the food processor. Yet that's what the instructions said to do with the torte ingredients. As my food processor is not very large, I had to do it in batches. It also said to cook it in a springform pan, which would not lend well to reheating. So, I cooked it in a pie plate. Oddly, the recipe called for a diced apple tossed in lemon juice. I know the lemon juice was to keep the apple from turning brown, but since it was being baked in a savoury dish, I was puzzled why the lemon juice was used. Personally, I just waited until I had processed the rest of the ingredients
 and then peeled, cored and diced the apple, but I did still toss it with lemon juice just in case it was somehow needed in the recipe. I covered my serving with gravy and didn't notice any fruity taste. But my daughter did not use gravy and did notice and didn't like it. I found the flavour fine, but not as delicious as the Shamburgers from last week. And adding the cranberries to the top was a bad idea as they mostly ended up black. As far as the gravy was concerned, I had downloaded the Golden Gravy recipe from the web and tried it on a previous occasion. It said that it only took about 5 minutes, but I was still struggling with it half an hour later, while my guests were waiting for dinner. Trying to make a roux using tahini is, in my opinion, a foolish endeavour, as tahini doesn't melt like butter or margarine. And adding one ingredient at a time prolonged the process unnecessarily. This time, I browned the flour - and I used hard whole wheat flour, not spelt, whole wheat pastry flour or millet flour. When the purpose of the flour is to thicken the gravy, you want the gluten to do the job. I dumped the browned flour into the blender, added the rest of the ingredients (except the bay leaf), whizzed it to combine, poured it into a pan, added the bay leaf and cooked it long enough to thicken. The gravy was fine and much less hassle than following the directions in the book. The compote was not exciting and I found it a little too tangy for my taste. 
The salad was not as exciting as the title sounded. I chose to wilt the kale by pouring boiling water over it first, though the directions said to add dressing and salt to it and leave it to sit before adding the Romaine. Mature kale is pretty tough and I didn't think that just adding salt and dressing would do the trick. I'm beginning to think that humans were not meant to eat kale. It really isn't delcious and even after removing the stems and poring boiling water over it, it still was kind of like chewing on plastic. Which impacted how delicious the salad wasn't. The dressing was good and the croutons were good, but the kale was not. 
The Nanaimo bars were fabulous, but much too sweet. You can find the recipe online here, but it only calls for 3/4 cup of sugar. In the book, it calls for 3/4-1 cup, and it said that the sugar helps to firm it up. I figured I'd better err on the side of caution and used the full amount. Much, much too sweet. I think I could likely get away with half a cup. I used carob, by the way, which is naturally sweet, not cocoa or chocolate, so that was a factor as well. The main ingredient in the middle layer is coconut butter. I live in a small town in rural Alberta - where to find coconut butter? I didn't have time to order online or drive into the nearest city. Fortunately (???), I found instructions for making my own online. It says it should take ten minutes. Well, I didn't run my food processor continuously because I was also working on other recipes and the processor was really vibrating and I was afraid it would rock itself onto the floor. Or burn itself out. However, I would say that it took about 30 minutes of processing time not 10, and even after adding some coconut oil to try to expedite the process, I was still not happy with the results. So I dumped the goopy, grainy mess into a plastic container and stuck it in the fridge and figured we would just have the carob balls for dessert, which I had already made. The following morning, which was New Year's Day, for some perverse reason, I decided I was going to try again with the Nanaimo bars, substituting cashew butter for coconut butter. But when I went to the fridge, the goopy mess had solidified and, after warming it a little in the microwave, I was able to use it in the recipe. 
I picked this cookbook up at a thrift store and hadn't used it at all yet, but I figured the stuffed squash would kill two birds with one recipe: a stuffing and a squash dish. Unfortunately, when I went to Walmart, all they had left for squash was over-ripe and very orange pepper or acorn squash. I'm not sure if that was the problem or the fact that I didn't cook them long enough after stuffing, but parts of the squash were still hard and inedible. The stuffing was delicious, however, and I will try this recipe again when I can get better quality squash and maybe alter cooking times. 
This older cookbook has been in my library for years, but I've seldom used it. That's what happens when you're a cookbook hoarder. Nevertheless, I did remember a carob ball recipe from this book and I made those for dessert. Very good and nowhere near as sweet as the Nanaimo bars. By the way, they are not pure vegan because they are made with honey. 
Now, I'm going to get back to my discussion of Dreena's Kind Kitchen. Most of the recipes I've tried so far are relatively tasty. But I have found some of them are more labourious than they need to be. The gravy and the puree, for example, as I mentioned previously. And even the torte probably doesn't need to be processed in a food processor. 
If you go to the Cookbook Criteria tab at the top of this page, you'll see that number 4 is "limited use of obscure, exotic and specialty ingredients". That's my second issue with this cookbook. I already mentioned my problem with finding coconut butter, but I didn't mention that the recipe also called for "natural icing sugar". Yes, it does give the option of grinding coconut sugar in a blender, but still... (I used organic, unbleached cane sugar). The two topping recipes suggested for the sheet cake both called for pure vanilla bean powder. One of the things I believe about being vegan/whole food plant-based is that it shouldn't cost a fortune. Try looking up how much vanilla bean powder costs (if you can even find it). Another issue is the regular use of fresh herbs. I have nothing against using fresh herbs except that they're not always readily available, they can be expensive and they go bad quickly unless you use them soon after purchase. Then there's aquafaba and coconut milk. If I have a recipe that calls for aquafaba that doesn't also call for chickpeas, where does the aquafaba come from. Yes, I can store it in my freezer as some anonymous beige liquid in individual cubes... And it's really frustrating to open a can of not cheap coconut milk to only use a couple of tablespoons. Then I have to look for more recipes calling for coconut milk before it goes bad. I really believe that whole food, plant-based/vegan cooking should be simple or people are not likely to do it. That includes the shopping, the processing, the time and the cost involved. I have to be honest that some of my older, no pictures cookbooks are more user friendly than this one. I'm on the fence as to whether or not I regret buying this cookbook. I probably should have bought a quilting book from my wishlist instead.
By the way, I'm not prepared to do a review on Oh She Glows or Vegan Holiday Kitchen yet as I don't feel I have tested enough recipes.  


2022 Crafting Year in Review

Instead of posting individual pictures of each craft project this year, I used Google Photos to make collages. Each collage can contain up to 6 photos, and I ended up with 6 collages, for a total of 37 projects, one of which didn't make it into the collages. While they don't necessarily show the entire project, I will link to the post about that project so that you can see a full photo if you like, as well as further deatails on each project. First, the quilts. 

Pictured in this collage are Forever in My Heart, Buckwheat and Birds, Finish the Race, Red Hot Chili Peppers, High Tea and Double Star
In this collage are Bake Someone Happy, Waves of Blue, Sew Fast, Colour My Classroom, Grandpa's Tools and Butterflies and Blooms
While all of the projects in this collage are quilting projects, all are not quilts. They are Crazy Cats (wallhanging), Star of Bethlehem, Wild Kingdom, Wild Kingdom wallhanging, Children of |Israel and Merry Christmas Star Tree Skirt.
Somehow, I missed this one in the collages, and it was the last quilt of the year, Boxes and Bows. I made 16 quilts in 2022, which total does not include wallhangings, tree skirt and placemats. 
This collage includes all crocheted projects: Lost in Time, Goddess Shawl, Summer Morning, water bottle carrier, soap bag and Wrapped in Sunshine
This collage contains Mug Rugs, Royal Fan, Take Four Placements, The Study of Geometry, Hourglass placemat (no post) and a quilted cushion cover
Finally, we have the Welsh Quilting pillow covers, Sophie's Universe, Christmas hand towels, Christmas Tree napkins and a shawl that I just called 40 because that's the number in the Russian/Greek/Ukrainian? description.
While I might have made some progress on some of my UFOs/WIPs this year, I also added to the pile.
I only completed one more block in the Bernina Old Block Sampler, started a quilt which I will call From Vegreville with Love, made some Kaleidoscope table runners that still need to be bound, did sample blocks from a couple of quilts so one of my sisters could decide which one she wants and started the Flower Power quilt only to decide it wasn't going to work for my purpose.
I never got a chance to make further progress on the quilt for the "Help, How Do I Quilt It?" course, but made some progress on the Asian-inspired quilt, started a new knitted afghan, Shannon, and a rather complex applique quilt, Skylark, decided to add placemats to coordinate with the kaleidoscope table runners (also needing to be bound) and started a lemon themed table runner, now waiting for quilting and binding. 
I played at microquilting on the Tea Party wallhanging, which still needs to be bound, made some serious progress on My True Love Gave to Me Reprise and started Chelsea Rose Pop, but didn't get very far before I had to get some cooking and decorating done for Christmas.
In addition to crafts, I decided to start baking my way through this book, 
veganizing the recipes and using whole grains as much as possible. 
So far, I have tried Olive Bread, Pugliese, Panini All'Olio and Barley Bannock
And that's it. Now I'd better sign off as quilting, baking, laundry and a yelling cat await me.