In My Life, I've Loved Them All

Playing in the Kitchen: My Favorite Bruschetta

If you’re lucky, summertime means fresh tomatoes from the garden!  If you don’t have a garden/green thumb, maybe you have family or neighbors who do.  Your local Farmers Market is probably bursting at the seams with tomatoes, too.

I’m a little finicky and don’t really like biting into a tomato like and apple… I like to peel and remove the inside seeds/gook first.  But after that… oh the possibilities!  Chunks of fresh tomato are great for sauces, soups, and pico de gallo.  But the snack that truely turned me into a fresh-tomato fan: Bruschetta!

 

Tomato Bruchetta made with Sweet Aussie Basil

I love making this because
1. It’s delicious
2. I already own the other ingredients needed
3. I love toast too
4.  You make it in advance, and just pull it out of the fridge when needed.  Grab-And-Go!
5. It’s “fancy” enough to serve to guests, and particularly great for parties because of reason #4

Each time I’ve made this, I’ve used a different type of basil.  Mainly because it was the basil my family had growing at that particular moment.  Sweet Italian is the basil most people think of when cooking (thanks to Food TV).  But I’ve had just as much success with Sweet Aussie Basil (developed in Austin, TX) and Cinnamon Basil (don’t let the name deter you; it works great!).

There are no hard and fast rules for bruschetta, but here’s the recipe I’ve has the greatest success with.  It tastes good on little toasts (recipe at the end of this post).  But if you don’t have a baguette handy, it’s delicious on Triscut Crackers or grilled chicken!

 

Tomato Basil Bruschetta

2 cups of chopped tomatoes (how many tomatoes is that?!)
1/4 cup shredded fresh basil leaves
1/2 tsp chopped garlic
Pinch of sugar
1-2 teaspoons of Balsamic (or red wine) vinegar
Koser Salt
Black Pepper

Combine above ingredients in a re-sealable container.  If not eating right away, put the mixture in the refrigerator. I make some in the morning, and pull it out of the fridge for dinner time, and it looks/tastes just fine. Making a batch 2-3 days ahead is just fine too (mare time to marinate & flavors will combine)

Crostini (Little Toasts)
1 baguette (Long skinny loaf of french bread)
olive oil
Kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Cut the bread at an angle into slices about ½-inch-thick. You don’t have to be exact, just make sure the slices are roughly the same size.
Brush both sides of the bread with olive oil.
Spread out on a baking sheet and sprinkle each slice with salt. (Salt on toast- something I picked up from the chefs at work)
Bake for about 10 minutes, until lightly toasted.
Congratulations, you have essentially just made a really big crouton.


 

A Stash Busting Quilt Story

This Quilt top is quite incredible.

Because it was made completely from fabric I ALREADY OWNED.

Yes, over 30 fabrics from my stash, including a randomly large amount of light purple.

I  really wanted to make a “practice” quilt.  Especially after several friends and co-workers asked me sew a t-shirt quilt for them.  I still feel like I’m at an advanced beginner level when it come to quilts.  And the only way to get better at something is to practice, practice, PRACTICE!

Flower Quilt Top
For me, it is just as impressive that this quilt top went from an idea in my head to a finished top in under a month.  (My T shirt Quilt blocks remained un-assembled for a YEAR-ish… but in my defense I was desperately searching for just the right shade of blue for the border).

June 23, 2013:

  • Thinks “I have some free time alone, why don’t I re-organize my fabric stash.”  Organized just by color isn’t good enough?

  • Lifts 2 huge boxes and several shopping bags of fabric (<—- workout for the day)

  • Hours later, sits amongst piles sorted by sizes ranging from 3 yards to little squares the size of a matchbook, wondering why I though this would be a good idea.  Granted, I was watching a movie at the same time.

  • Knew that, if I could find enough scraps big enough, I could make a quilt like I saw in Quilters World magazine (like this one), though it might wind up looking very chaotic.

  • Noticed pile-o-big-scraps had a lot of floral prints.

  • Leaves piles of fabric on the (sheet covered) floor and goes to sleep.  Hopes dog doesn’t pee on them in the night.

June 24, 2013:

  • Pick out all of the floral pieces.  Measure them against 4.5”x8.5” template made out of a cranker box to see if they’d work.

  • Cut rectangles out of florals, creating yet another pile of big scraps.

  • Re-count floral rectangles way to many times to make sure there are 35 total.

  • Pack small scraps into plastic boxes.  Bag larger pieces and strips.  Leave on the ground because I got distracted doing something else.

Work for 8 days straight.  I rarely get anything done during the work week.

July 3, 2013:

  • Wash, dry, iron purple fabric.

  • Celebrate 4th of July with the neighborhood.  Snow cones, watermelon and fireworks!

  • Cut purple fabric into 8.5” strips.

  • Realize the last strip cut was 7.5”  Curse silently to self.

  • Do mental math and careful cutting to get correct number of pieces from remaining strips.

July 4, 2013:

  • HAPPY BIRTHDAY AMERICA

  • Sew purple pieces to floral pieces.

  • Realize some floral pieces are 1/4” too short.  Dig though piles to find coordinating scrap to attach to end.  No one will ever know

  • Completes 35 blocks.  Knows one should measure each block and trim them to the size of the smallest block.

  • Does not measure the blocks.  Decides to wing it.

Goes back to work for 1 day.  Seriously.  A 1 day work week!

July 6, 2013:

Reference for assembling Quilt Top

  • Puts floor fabric bags in large plastic totes.

  • After rest of the family goes to sleep, decides to lay out squares and decide placement.

  • Too lazy to change the channel on the TV.  A cat “whisperer” show is on Animal Planet.  I am not a cat person.

  • Lay blocks 5×7.  Photograph.  Analyze color placement and rearranges.

  • Repeat 5 times.

  • Start attaching some blocks together.

  • Gets tired, and sick of watching miss-behaving cats.  Stacks blocks and goes to bed.

July 7, 2013

  • Lay out quilt again.  Continue assembling blocks.

  • Remembers why you’re supposed to trim all blocks to the same size.  Some 1/4”  seam are more like 1/8” seems.

  • But I must go on.

  • Stitch, Reverse, Stitch again over the smaller seems.  For strength.  I hope.

  • Again, too lazy to change the TV channel.  Watches end of Terminator 3, Resident Evil (3?), and the beginning of a Star Trek TNG movie.  Thanks SiFi Network.

  • FINISHES quilt top!  Relieved wonky seams will be trapped inside the quilt sandwich.  NO ONE WILL KNOW!

And that is my quilt top adventure!  Ever quilt is a learning experience.  This one definitely taught me the importance of accurate measuring, both when cutting fabric and when comparing blocks.

This is also a sentimental quilt for me.  Most of the fabrics in my collection were given to me by my late Grandma.  She had a lot of scraps donated to her over the years.  I am so happy to finally be putting them to good use.

 

Stupidly Easy Corn-on-the-Cob

Corn on the Cob on sale, 6 for $1! Just in time for 4th of July barbeque merriment.
And ever since I saw this YouTube clip for cooking the cobs in the microwave (husks and all), I knew I just had to try it out. Could cooking and shucking an ear of corn really be THAT easy?
The answer:
YES!
Not big pot of water to boil (and heat up the kitchen). No 30 min on the grill or in the oven. And virtually no silks!
I microwaved 3 at a time. For some reason my brother had a lot easier time just shaking the cobs out of the husk than I did. But it was not frustrating at all! They will pull out of the husks fairly easy.

Recap:
Microwave on High for 8 minutes.
Cut off the stem end (about 1”)
Hold by top of the husks and shake
The cob falls right out (or with a little pulling help)
Brush with melted butter and season to taste.

My family couldn’t be happier with this new corn trick!

Beer and Fireworks and Grilling, oh my!

rocketpig2


Happy Fourth of July!


Truth:  This is one of my favorite holidays, mainly because it is ABOUT celebrating!

It isn’t a holiday that has been taken over by celebrating (i.e. Cinco de Mayo in America) or a holiday where celebrating can be seen as inappropriate (i.e. candy and eggs on Easter and presents on Christmas aren’t the true reasons for the holiday).

July 4th is a day were Americans can rightly be proud of their country and everything it stands for.  I hope everyone fortunate enough to reside in America can take a step back and genuinely appreciate the freedom we have.  Let the 4th be a reminder that, even though we struggle and fight day to day to defend our beliefs, we live in a nation where we CAN stand up.  And protest.  And question.  And unite.  And follow dreams.

Today let us celebrate the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave!

4thofjuly quote

The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more. You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not. (The Book of Abigail and John: Selected Letters of the Adams Family, 1762-1784, Harvard University Press, 1975, 142).

Statue of Liberty Re-Opens on the 4th of July!

Statue of Liberty


On July 4th (TOMORROW) the Statue of Liberty and Liberty Island will reopen to the public
for the first time since Hurricane Sandy made landfall on October 29, 2012.

statue of liberty sandy photo: Statue of Liberty in SANDY SANDYstatueLiberty.jpg

Confession: I lived in New Jersey and worked in Manhattan for almost 2 years after college… but the only time I actually “visited” was with a Model United Nations field trip in High School.

The Statue of Liberty is such an iconic and beautiful American Landmark. I was so excited to see that it will be open to just in time to celebrate Independence Day!

Coincidence? Probably. I can just imagine the poor workers busy in the hot sun getting everything ready in time. Oh my.

Unfortunately, Ellis Island requires more extensive repairs and will remain closed until further notice.

Here is a little Statue of Liberty TRIVIA for you:
Did you know several agencies have been caretakers for the Statue?

The U.S. Lighthouse Board cared for the statue as the first electric lighthouse or “navigational aid” 1886 – 1902, followed by the War Department 1902 – 1933 and since 1933 she has been cared for by employees of the National Park Service.
:D

Confession #2: The above image is actually from the movie “The Day After Tomorrow.” But Sandy did cause some significant damage.



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