Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A couple of finished projects to share

I know things have been awfully quiet in my corner lately, but I have been heads-down on a couple of projects that I have finished and can't wait to share! The first is a small tote that I made to carry my cross-stitch projects. It is important to keep them as clean and flat as possible while you are working on them so the fabric doesn't stain or pull and the stitches remain as even as possible. Since I have a couple of long-term cross-stitch projects underway, I decided a tote was necessity. So I made one.

I love the way the colors in the fabric coordinate!

I used some scraps of home decor fabric in coordinating colors. Aren't they pretty? I have a lot more fabric so I will be making more and posting them to my Etsy shop. Custom orders accepted, too, so shoot me an email if you have a request!

Now I bet you are just dying to know what I've been carrying around in that bag, aren't you? Well, I had a custom request for a birth sampler (cross stitch), and I just finished it, so I figured I would share. I apologize for needing to black out certain sections, but since this is a public blog, better safe than sorry on the personally identifiable information! This is another one that is not going to be sold in the shop, but I do take custom orders!

This finished design is 11x14 and still needs to be framed and matted, but I just love the way it turned out!

What a way to wrap up the month, with a couple of finished projects. So... on to the next project. I will share more when I get them done!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Family Reunion in Fort Collins - and a quilt shop or two!

My mother and I just returned from a short trip to Ft. Collins, Colorado where we enjoyed a family reunion (or two), a coffee shop (or two) and a quilt shop (or two). It was a wonderful trip full of family, fun, and fabric, so I thought I would share a little of it with you.

Mom and I found a super-cute little fabric shop in Old Town Ft. Collins, right off Mountain Ave. Mama Said Sew offers fabric, notions, sewing classes, a blog I like to follow, and super-great staff! We stopped in a bought a couple of fat quarters, took a picture for posterity, and they threw in a really cute charm pack featuring the new Baby Jane line.

Posterity photo! I do love their sign, though.
Fat quarters from Mama Said Sew. Anybody else find it odd that these are my Mom's favorite colors?

The Baby Jane charm pack... loving these fabrics, and thinking there is a patchwork pillow in my future.
 The second fabric store we found was right off South College, and it is an institution in Ft. Collins, although they have recently moved a few blocks down College to a new location. This store is The Fig Leaf and I found so many fun things there... including this ombre fabric that I think would go really well with the fat quarters from Mama Said Sew. More of my Mom's favorite colors. So weird.

Gorgeous ombre fabric that I just might need to order.
 The Fig Leaf also had the Lil Twister and Midi Twister tools that I have been searching for. These seem to be popular tools, since my local stores have been sold out for the last two months. So now I have them, and there will be much twisting to come!

They also had a phenomenal selection of fat quarters and remnants, and I just had too much fun there. The hard part was limiting the purchases since I only had the one carry-on!

The Fig Leaf fat quarters
The Fig Leaf remnants
And then on to the Family Reunion! My cousin Gary and his wife Candace were kind enough to host, so for three days their beautiful property was over-run by the family. We had about 44 people show up, and it was a great time! I consider it a successful family reunion... no cops were called, no one lost limbs or more than a pint of blood, and we even got a rainbow!

Gary and Candace
Me and my Mom

The rainbow!

The beautiful venue - this is Gary's property.

Love this... and I need to credit Sonja with these fantastic photos!

The cousins... with Aunt Betty (our matriarch) in the middle!

 Thanks for sharing my trip with me... I hope you had as much fun as I did!

P.S. I left the wicked vicious mosquitoes in Colorado for a new unsuspecting victim, so watch yourselves!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Chicken Piccata (My Way)

I have been wanting to make Chicken Piccata (My Way) for quite some time now. I mean, what's not to like? Chicken, lemon, garlic, capers, wine... yup... all good. So we had chicken piccata for lunch today. And it was good. I am sharing my version with you. It is loosely adapted from the Lemon Chicken Piccata found on All Recipes.

This recipe cooks pretty quickly once it goes in the pan, so I recommend having everything prepped and ready to go before you start.

I started with getting the garlic chopped, lemon squeezed, liquids measured, and my chicken butterflied and pounded thin. I also started some penne pasta because that is what I wanted with my chicken piccata.

Chopping garlic with my favorite knife. I realize this is probably overkill, but it is really a kick-butt knife!
 I squeezed one whole lemon into a small bowl, and I took the time to pick out all the seeds, because it just isn't any fun biting into one of them while you are eating.
Okay, seriously... how good does that lemon look?
 I used two chicken breasts and sliced them in half so I ended up with four chicken breast halves. Then I covered them in saran wrap and used a mallet to brutally beat them into submission. The thinner, the better, really. This serves a couple of purposes. First, it greatly reduces the amount of time to cook. Second, it greatly reduces the risk of under-cooking the chicken, or over-cooking the chicken. Once it is browned on each side, it's done!

My poor brutalized chicken. It looks sad, doesn't it?
I melted equal parts butter and oil in a pan and browned the chicken on each side. This takes about 2-3 minutes per side.

Side one...

...Side two!
 Then I added the garlic and let it brown for about a minute, just until it gets really fragrant. Then in goes the wine to deglaze the pan. This is your chance to get up all the delicious little browned bits that really make the recipe even better. Once the pan is deglazed, in goes the lemon, broth, and capers. A little salt and pepper, and let it reduce.

Once the sauce is reduced down to about half, stir in the last Tbsp of butter and you are ready to eat!

Delicious, I tell you.

Chicken Piccata

2 Chicken Breasts, butterflied and pounded thin
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Tbsp Butter
2 Cloves Garlic, chopped
1 Lemon, juiced
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 Tbsp Capers
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbsp Butter

Heat the oil and butter in a pan on medium heat. Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper and add to the pan. Brown the chicken on each side, about 3 minutes per side. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about one minute. Then add the wine and deglaze the pan. Then add the lemon juice, chicken broth and capers. Reduce the sauce by half. This takes about 5 minutes. Once the sauce is reduced, stir in the last bit of butter and any additional salt and pepper you desire, and you are ready to eat!

This is good served with pasta or rice.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Salsa Chicken Casserole and a Bonus Recipe!

Happy Tuesday everyone! In yesterday's post I promised a couple of recipes this week. We are starting with Salsa Chicken Casserole, and I decided to add in a Marinated Veggie Salad recipe that I seem to be making a lot these days. It travels well, so it's great for pot-lucks or picnics, but it does require some advance planning, since I recommend marinating it for about 24 hours before eating.

The Marinated Veggie salad is quick and simple to put together, so the only real time you need to plan for is the marinating overnight. When I make it, I used canned veggies for the green beans, peas, and corn, but you can just as easily use the frozen or fresh variety, so long as they are cooked first.
Marinated Veggie Salad

Marinated Veggie Salad

1 can peas
1 can green beans
1 can corn
1/2 onion, diced
4 oz diced pimento
3 stalks of celery, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1/2 cup sugar (I go light on this - doesn't need as much sweetness, especially if you use sweet corn and a sweet onion, like I do)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup white wine vinegar (I generally add a few extra splashes, because I like this flavor!)
Black pepper to taste (I use about 1/4 tsp)

Drain all veggies and mix together in a large bowl.
Over medium heat, bring olive oil, sugar, vinegar and black pepper to a boil. Once boiling, remove from heat and let cool. When cooled, pour over veggies. Mix well and refrigerate until ready to serve.

For the Salsa Chicken Casserole, there are lots of different ways to customize this and make it yours. I used a combination of white and brown rice this time. I am in the process of transitioning us to a brown rice household, but I just couldn't bring myself to throw away the last cup of white rice, so I mixed the two. This recipe easily works with either.

A combo of white and brown rice in my rice cooker. Have I mentioned that I love my rice cooker?
 Mix the salsa with the diced onion in a large bowl. The flavor of this casserole can really vary depending on what type of salsa you use. I recommend using a good medium salsa if you like a little heat. You can also use one with a smokey flavor for some extra "oomph". Stir in the cream of mushroom and cream of chicken soups. I use the low-fat, low-sodium varieties. Trust me, once you've added the cheese, you won't miss the salt and the fat!

Salsa and Onion

The salsa and onion with the cream of mushroom and cream of chicken soups mixed in.

This is a "some assembly required" casserole, but it isn't too complicated. I used my 9x13 pyrex, but if you have a deeper pan, like a lasagne pan, that works well, too, because this can really fill a 9x13.

Ready for "some assembly required"
 Start the assembly with a layer of rice. I make this in two layers, so half of the rice goes packed into the bottom of the casserole dish. Then a layer of half the chicken on top. As a note, I use poached chicken breast for this casserole. The chicken needs to be cooked prior to the casserole going together, and I prefer poaching because it is a very healthy and low-fat way to cook the chicken, and it retains a lot of the moisture. Nobody likes dry chicken. :)

Rice and layered in the bottom of the casserole dish.
 After the layer of chicken, cover with a layer of the salsa/soup mixture. I try and make sure it gets spread all the way to the sides of the pan. This keeps the chicken and rice on the sides from getting crunchy when it bakes.

Salsa, onion, and soup mixture is layered on top of the chicken.
 Then top with half the cheese. Then repeat. As you can see from the picture below, the pan does get pretty full. If you are concerned about spillage (although this has not been a problem for me so far, and I have made this about 5 times), you can put the casserole pan on top of a cookie sheet to bake.

Top with cheese, and repeat layering a second time, ending with the cheese.
 Bake about 40 minutes in a 350 degree oven, until the casserole is bubbly and covered in ooey-gooey melted cheese.
Bake to bubbly goodness...
 Then eat it. But be careful... that ooey-gooey melted cheese is ridiculously hot!

And eat!

Salsa Chicken Casserole

4 chicken breasts, cooked and diced or shredded
~2 cups of uncooked rice, cooked
1 1/2 cups salsa
1 onion, diced
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of chicken soup
2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
2 cups monterey jack cheese, shredded

Cook the rice according to package directions (I use a rice cooker).

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix the salsa, onion, and soups into a large bowl. Set aside.

Once the rice is done, layer half the rice in the bottom of a lightly greased 9x13 pan. Cover the rice with half of the chicken. Then a layer using half of the salsa mixture. Top with half of the cheese. Repeat for a second layer using the other half of the ingredients.

Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes, or until the casserole is bubbly.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Swiss Miss Stitches

I apologize for being so quiet lately, but I have some exciting (for me!) news to share, and some plans for some new posts coming soon. I have some Salsa Chicken Casserole to share this week, as well as some Chicken Piccata, I have a new quilt I am working on which should be done shortly, and I have the red and white quilt out for long-arm finishing (since it is too big for my little machine). I am looking forward to sharing all of that with you.

But my exciting (for me!) news for today, is that I have finally opened my Etsy Shop. My shop is Swiss Miss Stitches and can be found at This shop will be where I sell my quilts, my cross stitch, bags/totes/purses, and all the other fun stuff I craft that I am always showing off on here!

I only have two items for sale right now, but I am very excited about these two items! Not only am I super-happy about how they turned out, but I get to cross two items off my UFO list, too! Each towel is listed for $15.00 online.

Poinsettia Huck Towel
Poinsettia Huck Towel

Fall Leaves and Pumpkin Huck Towel
Fall Leaves and Pumpkin Huck Towel detail