Epic Kitchen Weekend Extravaganza

Pant, pant, puff, puff. I'm here to tell you that my tail is dragging. Just before I sat down here, I spent some time icing my aching feet (which feels surprisingly good). We finally got some sunshine here in the Pacific Northwest...just in time for me to crank up the oven to 500°F.

I started today by tracing out Block #11 for the Bee-utiful Quilt-A-Long,

and I did a little stitching on that. I'm hoping to finish it up tomorrow. Not a lot of stitching on this one. It didn't get much of my attention this morning, however, because I was anxious to get started on the cherry pie. Cherry pitting waits for no one.

The temperature was supposed to be warmer today, and I wanted to work with that crust while it was still relatively cool. The crust was made yesterday and then chilled in the fridge overnight. I'm kind of coming to the conclusion that the crusts behave better when they've had a night to think things over. This one went together nicely.

Usually, I do a lattice top for a cherry pie, but I was tired. Instead, I did those little cherry clusters you see there on the side. Yeah...I figured you'd want me to tell you what they're supposed to be. The leaves are a little too big, and I couldn't roll those stems very delicately, and they kind of look like a part of the male anatomy. Once you see it, you can't unsee it, so I apologize for bringing it up, er, pointing it out. (Demonstrating what too much time in the kitchen can do for one's sense of humor.) Nevertheless, our tummies won't know the difference, and that is going to taste mighty fine with a scoop of vanilla ice cream this evening.

Once I had that in the oven, I went to work on the Calico Sweet Pickle Relish that's been brining in the refrigerator overnight. It was keeping the pie crust company. This morning I dumped it out, rinsed it off, and gave it a good long time to drain. Meanwhile, I started brining the second batch of zucchini relish. It only takes an hour before it's ready for cooking.

It's been a long time since I made the Calico Sweet Pickle Relish. The recipe is one I cut out of our local paper, The Oregonian, before time began. I know it's before time began because it isn't on the internet. It's made with cucumbers. When I could grow a successful garden, I always had an overabundance of cucumbers. For some reason, I've had no success whatsoever growing them since. This summer, I'm getting more cucumbers from our CSA share than we can eat, and so here we go again.

It's not so different from the zucchini relish, but perhaps a little less sweet, and with more flavor from the celery seeds. It's yummy. My yield was 3 pints...a good amount. Here's the recipe I'm using.

Calico Sweet-Pickle Relish

Cynthia Fishborn and Cheryl Long

3 1/2 cups finely chopped cucumbers (about 6 medium cucumbers)
2 medium onions -- peeled and finely chopped
1 large green bell pepper -- seeded and finely chopped
2 medium red bell peppers -- seeded and finely chopped
1/4 cup pickling salt
1/2 cup cold water
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup white or cider vinegar (at least 5 percent acidity)
1 teaspoon mustard seed
1 teaspoon celery seed
1/4 teaspoon turmeric

Combine cucumbers, onions, green and red peppers in large container and sprinkle with pickling salt. Add water; stir to mix well.  Place lid or plastic wrap over container and refrigerate overnight.

Drain off salted water.  Rinse in fresh water and drain well.  In a large microwave-safe mixing bowl, combine sugar, vinegar, mustard seed, celery seed and turmeric, stirring to mix well.

Microwave on high (100 percent power) for 5 to 6 minutes, or until mixture comes to a boil, stirring twice.  Add the drained, chopped vegetables to the vinegar mixture, stirring well to combine. Microwave on high for 6 to 7 minutes, or until mixture comes to a boil, stirring twice.  For immediate use:  Let cool, pack into glass or rigid plastic containers with tight fitting lids and refrigerate up to 6 to 8 weeks.

For long-term storage:  Wash 4 pint jars.  Keep hot until needed.  Prepare lids as manufacturer directs.

Ladle hot relish into 1 hot jar at a time, leaving 1/4-inch headspace.  Wipe jar rim with a clean, damp cloth.  Attach lid.  Fill and close remaining jars.  Process in a boiling-water canner for 10 minutes (15 minutes at 1,001 to 6,000 feet; 20 minutes above 6,000 feet).

* * * * *

While that was processing, I got to work draining and cooking the second batch of zucchini relish. My yield on that today was five pints to go along with the four pints I cooked up yesterday. That should last a while, and I'll have some to give away as well.

So with all that cooking this weekend, I'm not relishing (ha!) the idea of returning to the kitchen to make dinner. Mike and I are going out for dinner.

Tomorrow I'll tackle Mt. Laundry, and then I'll have the day for sewing. This week I'm focusing on blocks, and it'll be good to get onto some shorter term projects than I've been working on so far this month. There are still quite a few things on my list of goals for the month of July, but I'm still hopeful I can cross them all off my list.


A Feast for the Eyes

It was a busy day today. I don't think I sat down for more than about 30 minutes. The rest of the day was go, go, go, but in a good way. Erik and Mae and I hatched a plan last week to head off to the Portland Farmer's Market this morning. Before I left, I turned the third corner on the Seating for Two quilt.

Also, I finished stitching Block #10 for the Bee-utiful Quilt-A-Long. This one is called "Bee Kind".

And then, we headed off for the Portland Farmer's Market for the first time this year. First stop was Verde Cocina, where we ordered up our favorite breakfast. They were making fresh kale tortillas this morning.

And they had this beautiful chicken roasting away.

But I was Jonesing bad for my favorite huevos rancheros. Yum.

After that, we made the rounds. For sale was every blooming thing you can imagine.

And I haven't even talked about the vegetables yet. There were pecks of peppers.

Elegant eggplant.

Tons of tasty tomatoes.

Amazing Artichokes.

Colorful cauliflower.

Heavenly honey in pretty much any size jar  and any flavor you could want.

Wild onion blossoms.

Lovely lavender.

Ostentatious onions...yeah, "ostentatious" doesn't really fit, but it starts with an "O".

Sublime summer squash.

Cheery pie cherries (the object of my desire).

This being Portlandia, there was this guy, playing "You Are My Sunshine" on his musical saw.

When all was said and done, I came home with some Brandywine tomatoes, chanterelle mushrooms, sashito peppers, and some beautiful pie cherries. When I got home, I didn't even sit down. I got straight to work making a pie crust. That will sit overnight, and I'll work on those beautiful cherries tomorrow. After that, I made some pickled beets. My yield was 7 pints...not bad for a morning's effort.

Those had to process for 30 minutes. While I was waiting, I finished up the binding on the Seating for Two quilt. And that makes this a finish! Yay!

Here's how it looks from the back.

I tried first to take a picture in natural light...a rare opportunity in the rainy Pacific Northwest. In the end, I took it inside to photograph. Smitty and I agreed.

The sun is too bright, Mom. This isn't good for fabric, skin, or fur.

He did enjoy hanging out with his shadow self, however.

When the beets were finished, I made some Zucchini Garden Pepper Relish. My yield was four pints for this, but I have enough to make another batch tomorrow.

By then, it was time to make dinner. I used up some of the random vegetables from this week's CSA share, including the green beans, some of the potatoes, some of the garlic, and some of the gallons upon gallons of veggie stock I've made over the past two seasons. This is Giada DeLaurentiis' Hearty Meatball Stew. I make it just like Giada does, but I add three tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce when I add the broth. It adds some needed flavor.

And now I'm sitting here writing my "letter to friends" to all of you! I worried that I wouldn't get here today. Like I said, it's been a busy day.

Tomorrow will be busy too. I'm going to make another batch of zucchini relish, and I'm also going to finish off the Calico Sweet Pickle Relish. I haven't made that for quite a long time. It's not unlike the zucchini relish, but it's made with cucumbers, and it's just a little different. So there's that, and I'll also need to pit some cherries and get the pie in the oven.

The only other thing I'm hoping to accomplish tomorrow is to get Block #11 made up for the Bee-utiful Quilt-A-Long. So far, I'm keeping up.



It's been all hand-stitching here at the Three Cats Ranch for the last couple of days. The morning sunrise was beautiful yesterday,

and I was lucky enough to have my newest lap cat joining me while I continued on stitching Block #10 for the Bee-utiful Quilt-A-Long.

Miss Sadie is having to be socialized to be a lap cat, but she's making progress. She doesn't seem to realize that she's welcome to jump up at almost any time. Usually, I have to lift her up.

Once she's there, she has to be discouraged from scratching and biting. She's not trying to be aggressive when she does that. She's just a very playful little kitten who doesn't understand that human skin doesn't hold up well to teeth and claws. She's learning. Also, you'll be happy to know that Litter Box Cleaner Man has announced that her runny poo is starting to look more normal. She's never acted sick, but it's hard to think she could be feeling tip-top with parasites and diarrhea going on. We're getting her fixed up, slowly but surely.

While she and I were chatting, I spent some time stitching. The bunny was finished the day before, but yesterday I added the floral wreath on the right side there.

The beautiful sunrise from yesterday heralded a cloud cover moving into our area and we actually had a few showers this morning. Sue and I managed to get in our walk without getting rained on, although it was muggy and heavy with humidity. Would it surprise you to know that I took pictures of every blooming thing? These wildflowers for example:

Look at how pretty these snowberries are, laden with dew.

When I got home from walking, I stitched the left side of Block #10.

The last of it fits in my hoop now, and I'll finish that tomorrow morning.

Also, I've turned two corners on Seating for Two. I'm about 25% of the way around the binding, but 50% of the corners are finished!

Tomorrow morning I'm heading off to the Portland Farmer's Market with Erik and Mae. Erik has been working on Saturdays, and so we haven't been to the farmer's market yet this year. He's on vacation this week, and so we all jumped at the chance to go together. I'll be on the hunt for pie cherries this time around. I don't really need much in the way of vegetables, what with the overabundance from the CSA share.

I've tried a couple of new recipes this week. This one was super easy. This is a Roasted Shrimp and Broccoli with Peanut Sauce. If you click on that link, you'll see that this was broiled in the original recipe. I'm not a fan of broiling and so I roasted mine in a 475° oven. I started with 10 minutes for the broccoli, then added the shrimp and roasted it for another 10 minutes, and voila! A one pan meal. I served it with a cucumber salad, but it would have been fine just like this.

Our CSA shares tend to be heavy with bitter lettuce. Our farmers seem to prefer it, and it's been hard for us to make it palatable unless we mix it with sweet lettuce and a lot of dressing. Then I got wind of this recipe for Toro Bravo's Radicchio Salad with Manchego Vinaigrette.

The lettuce is given a 15-minute soak in an ice water bath, and that cut the bitterness significantly. Then the vinaigrette was made from two kinds of vinegar infused with red onion. The recipe had me strain the vinegar from the onions, which I did, but then I added the onions back into the salad with the manchego, and this was delicious. I still have another head of radicchio and some leftover manchego, and I'll be making this again soon.

I served that along with this Pasta with Collard Greens and Onion.

As I've said before, I actually love the collard greens, but Mike has been a little slow to warm up to them. Even he liked this dish enough to want seconds. How bad can it be, right? The collards are first blanched for two minutes, and then the same water is used to cook the pasta. While the pasta boils, the collards and onions are fried and steamed in a frying pan, which means the collards are well cooked down by the time you add the pasta and serve it up. We liked both of these dishes, and I'll be making them again.

So that's the latest on the war with the vegetables, but the battle will continue this weekend. I have a lot of canning in store for myself. I'll be making zucchini relish, calico pickle relish (that uses cucumbers), and some pickled beets. Assuming I find some pie cherries, I'll be baking a cherry pie too. As you can see, it's going to be a kitchen weekend, and I'm looking forward to it.

What's on tap for your weekend?


Binding On

Seating for Two is finished, except for hand-sewing the binding. Yesterday's quilting was limited to the remaining "shell" borders, and I was so happy that the sunrise/sunset motif I worked out fit perfectly. The bottom border was wider, and so I was able to fit the both the sunrise and the sunset there.

I realize that it's hard to see the stitching in that image. I'm hoping that this pencil drawing of the motif will make it easier to pick out.

Here's another image and it shows the swirl hook quilting in the blue sections as well.

 When I take it next to the living room windows, I get a little better contrast.

The side border was narrower, and so I fit only one row of suns there. Do you think it's the sunrise or the sunset? Kind of depends on where you're standing, doesn't it? Since the original photograph was taken on the west coast, I'm gonna say it's the sunset.

When those were finished, the quilting was finished, and it was ready for binding.

Here's how it looks from the back.

And now the binding is sewn on by machine and clipped for hand-sewing. I used the same blue from the top of the quilt for the binding.

That's where I'll pick it up this morning. It's so exciting to have this very nearly finished! It measures 38 x 47, and so I don't expect the hand sewing to take very long.

Today I'm getting my monthly pedicure, and then heading off to the grocery store, and so aside from some hand-sewing this morning, I don't know if I'll get anything else done in the sewing room today. If there's time, I want to make a block for the July Block Lotto, and I'd like to work on the next lesson for the free motion quilting sampler. This week's lesson is called "Tucking in the Baby". I'll say more about that when I've done my practice piece.