Friday, May 20, 2016

Best... Birthday... Ever.

Craftsy is turning 5!!!  Craftsy has been such a fun experience for me and I have loved every minute of my time with them!  They're having a big sale for their birthday...

Get 50% off most-loved Craftsy classes to celebrate their 5th Birthday!

Save today through my affiliate link HERE!

Friday, May 13, 2016

Plated -- a Home Delivered Meal Service

When Dan and I were visiting our friends John and Charlene in North Carolina a few weeks ago, they mentioned that their daughter was working with a company called Plated and had I heard of it. Well, I had! I recently read an article in one of the foodie magazines that compared Plated with a few other meal delivery services and I was, admittedly, curious about it. I'm an avid cook and this would be a new experience!

John & Charlene had been getting the Plated service for a while and liked it a lot; they offered me a couple of free meals to try can bet I took them up on that really quick! So I got on the website and chose three meals, each serving two people. What is nice about this is that you can change preferences as often as you want, from 2 meals to 3 and back again, for instance. You can skip weeks and you can add desserts! Yes!

They don't assume you own anything more than a couple of pots and pans, a knife, some olive oil, salt and pepper and water. Everything else is in the box!

The box arrived around 8pm on Friday; we'd already eaten dinner, so I took everything out of the compost-able recyclable packaging and stuck it in the refrigerator. According to the literature, it should stay fresh in the box for up to 24 hours and once refrigerated should last for the week. That gives you a little latitude as to when you choose to cook it. Everything is grouped together by the meal you are going to cook, so it's very easy to pull out just what you want when prep time comes.
We were really busy over the weekend, so I made the first meal on Sunday night, the Seafood Spaghetti with Spicy Tomato Sauce. There were crab claws, calamari and pollock, garlic, parsley, a Thai chile, fresh spaghetti, an anchovy filet, crushed red pepper, a can of crushed tomatoes and fresh grape tomatoes. It was delicious, but not as spicy as planned because I totally wussed out! I took a very tiny bite of that Thai chile, burned my mouth and only put in a little bit. I should have trusted them and just put it in! In spite of my mishap, it was very good and maybe my favorite of the three.
One thing that surprised me about the three meals is how generous the portions are; each of our meals could have served 3 easily (even though we ate it all anyway!) and probably 4 with the addition of a salad or another side dish. Also, each of the three dishes turned out looking just like the picture, which amazed me because presentation is so not my thing. I just want to get it on the plate and to the fork!!!

 I meant to take pictures during the preparation of the Seafood Spaghetti and the Chicken Marsala with Roasted Fingerling Potatoes, but I got into the whole cooking thing and never picked up my camera until the end. By the time I thought to take a picture Monday night when I made the chicken, this was all that was left!

Next I made the Seared Steak with White Asparagus and Red Potatoes.

These were the three packages labeled for that dish. The meat and the asparagus were by themselves, but there were other things in the third package....

...including butter, white wine, a great big shallot and fresh thyme and chives. There were 12 ounces each New York strip steak and red potatoes and 6 ounces of those big stalks of white asparagus.

Started the potatoes boiling,

Then put the asparagus in a skillet with the butter, white wine, a couple of tablespoons of water and a little salt and pepper.

While they steamed, I thinly sliced the shallots, stripped the thyme leaves from their little stems and chopped the chives.

This is one beautiful steak! I seared it for 4 minutes in a tablespoon of olive oil, then flipped it and added the shallots and thyme.

After 10 minutes, took the lid off the asparagus skillet and let the white wine and water evaporate away, then divided it between two dinner plates.

And this is what dinner looked like plated!

All three meals were delicious; I asked Dan tonight which was his favorite and he said he thought all three were excellent and didn't really have a favorite. If I had to rank them, I think I like the chicken best, seafood next best and the steak would be third, although that asparagus was pretty awesome. But that's only if I HAD to, all three of them really rocked. I'm skipping next week's delivery because I'll be in Oklahoma City and Idaho, but have already picked two meals for the following week. Meal selections change weekly and there are a six or seven to choose from, including vegetarian options, that are considered the "standard", which is $48 for two meals + $6 shipping or $72 for three meals with free shipping. And, as I stated, each meal will serve 3 or 4, at least at our house. There are also additional meals to choose from, such as the seafood spaghetti for which there is a slight upcharge.
The good news is that the food is very high quality and you can definitely tell that there is a chef behind each dish. The problem is that this could really spoil me for "normal" cooking -- I was reading a recipe today that had about twenty ingredients in it and found myself thinking "I wonder if I can get this from Plated!" It would be a whole lot easier! So I guess I was hooked from the first bite!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

What I'm Working on Now...

Couldn’t wait to start using some of the beautiful Mettler thread in my sewing room, so started a couple of new projects that I had fabric for (mostly):

First up is a black and white quilt -- I had a jelly roll composed of 20 black strips and 20 white strips that came in a recent Quilty Box as well as a black & white print jelly roll called B and W by Kim Schaefer for Andover Fabrics.  I sewed four patches from the black and white solids and made 5-1/2 bars from the dark and light prints.   All the components are made for a Strips and 4 Patch Quilt that I saw in a Missouri Star Quilt Company video on YouTube.  So that’s all ready to lay out, shuffle around and finish piecing.

For my piecing thread, I used 60 wt. Mettler Silk Finish 100% cotton in color #3000, an off-white.  I love piecing with 60 weight thread!  Because it is so fine, seams press flatter and because there is less thread in the seam, my seam allowances are much more accurate than when I use a standard sewing weight thread.

I also watched a video on a disappearing pinwheel block made with layer cakes, but when I tried to find it again I could only find a completely different block with the same name made out of jelly rolls – not what I wanted at all!  So I started going through my issues of BLOCK magazine from Missouri Star and found it in the very first issue that I ever bought.  It’s called Disappearing Pinwheel and I really like both the block and the border.

First, I made the pinwheels from two layer cakes sewn together around all the edges.  I used Poppy Celebration by Cynthia Coulter for Wilmington for the print layer cake; the solid is Kona cotton solids in Snow.  Then you cut the squares into triangles, press, and piece a pinwheel with them.

Then you cut the pinwheel block up, turn all the pieces around and sew them back together into this block!  This is really fun!

I’ve set up an assembly line system where I’ve got three or four blocks in various stages.  I sew all the parts, stack them up and take them to the ironing board.  Then I’ll press, do any cutting necessary, pile them back up on a small cutting mat and take it all to the machine.  It’s going pretty quick this way!  I’m piecing this one with the same thread manufacturer, type and weight.  Only the color is different; it’s #1531, more of a cream color.

I’ve made 11 blocks over the last couple of days in odd moments between email, packing for my next trip and other work stuff, so they go really fast!



Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Not the Prettiest Thing...

The silicone sheet that presses onto the tray of your machine is not the most attractive thing I’ve ever seen, but it is one of the most useful.  Marketed under various names, including Supreme Slider, Silicone Slider and Free Motion Glider, these sheets have a tacky side which easily adheres to the bed of your machine.  Most of them just have a small hole that is to be positioned right over the needle slot, but I’ve seen one brand that has a big enough opening that the feed dogs are exposed.  I personally have enlarged the hole on my slider to expose the feed dogs because I can then leave it on the machine all the time, not bothering to take it off for straight stitching and back on for free motion.

Why I love this:  I think that it gives you that additional ease of movement for any kind of sewing, not just free motion.  If you like to work with flannel, fleece, Minkee or any of the cuddle type fabrics, they tend to build up static and are a bear to work with.  The slider makes it much easier and I don’t know how anyone sews with that type of fabric without one.

This is not an inexpensive tool, but well worth the $ invested!

Pic copied from Sew Steady.  (Thanks!!)

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