Thursday, October 30, 2014

Sausage and Squash Casserole

Okay folks, got another one to share with you. I made this yesterday and am actually eating it for lunch right now as I write this post. :) Yes, it's that good.

I mixed up a double batch yesterday, one for me and one for my friend's parents. They have some dietary/health challenges, too, and it makes me happy to cook for people. So I hope they enjoy it as much as I do!

So there are two ways to start this casserole. You can use whole butternut squash (like I did), which is going to add almost one hour to your prep time, FYI. But if cooking is your therapy (like it is mine), the chopping and peeling are therapeutic. :) If not, your other option is to buy butternut squash already peeled and cubed. Cheater. Lol!

If you are using whole squash, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and put them in there whole for about 30 minutes. They should get soft. Let them cool, then peel them, cut them, scrape out the seeds, and chop them into 1-inch cubes.

Take your broth, water and sage and bring it to a simmer as you cook the pork.

For this casserole, I used a mild Italian pork sausage (sugar-free because of my allergies). I browned it over medium heat, then transferred it to another bowl while I used the fat to cook my onions, garlic and apples.

I added my rice to the onions and apples. If you are going full paleo with this, you can replace the rice with riced cauliflower.

Then I added in the meat, squash and broth, as well as the thyme, wine 

Once it cooks down a bit, put into your casserole dish.

I baked it for 35 minutes at 400 degrees, and it was fabulous! If you are not allergic to dairy, you could easily add some Parmesan cheese at the end and I bet that would be delicious!

Sausage and Squash Casserole

Ingredients for 1 13x9 pan:

1 Butternut Squash, peeled and cubed
3 Cups Chicken Broth
1 Cup Water
1 heaping Tbsp Dried Sage
Olive Oil (or Coconut Oil)
1 lb Pork Sausage, not in casing
1 Sweet Onion, diced
1 Honey Crisp Apple (or other sweet variety), peeled and chopped
3 Cloves Garlic, minced
1 Cup Rice, short grain and uncooked. *If you use brown rice, you will need to at least start the cooking process before adding it to the casserole.
1/4 Cup White Wine
1 1/2 tsp. Thyme
Salt and Pepper to taste

If using whole butternut squash, cook according to my suggestions above, then peel and cube and set aside. 

In a saucepan, bring broth, water and sage to a simmer. Let it simmer while the pork cooks. In a large skillet over medium heat, add olive oil and pork sausage. Brown sausage and set aside. In the sausage drippings, saute the onions for 2-3 minutes. Then add the garlic and apple. Saute another 2-3 minutes. Then add in the rice for another 2-3 minutes. Then add the broth mixture, squash and pork. Let cook for about 5 minutes, until you start to see the rice absorbing the liquid.

Transfer to a casserole dish. Cover with foil and bake in a 400 degree oven for 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes before serving.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Slow Cooker Barbacoa

Fall is here... and although I love the crisp air, the colors of the leaves changing, and all the fall food... I'm really not a fan of the grey and wet that covers the Pacific Northwest for the next 8 months. I mean, I can handle it for a few weeks... but 8 months? Come on. Ridiculous.

So in an attempt to ignore the grey, I decided to experiment in the kitchen again. And of course, I used my crockpot. Seriously folks... if you don't have one, get one. They are awesome. And they make life EASY. Just put your food in, and eat it eight hours later. Now granted, crockpot food doesn't always look beautiful in photos... but since I plan on eating it instead of framing photos of it, I get over that pretty quickly.

So I started with a 3 pound roast, and then I trimmed off the majority of the fat, and cut it into cubes. After it cooks for 8 hours, I shred it. I have found that the cubes shred pretty easily using two forks.

I chopped up a small red onion...

I used the fresh peppers from my CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) basket. If you want it spicier, make sure you use some fresh jalapenos, habanero peppers, or whatever your favorite varietal is. You could also add some chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. I would probably add maybe two peppers, and maybe two tablespoons of the sauce for some added heat. For those of you with sugar allergies (like me!), read the label on the chipotle peppers in adobo sauce carefully. It is possible to get some without sugar, but you have to search.

I added some apple cider vinegar as well. This is my favorite brand... good stuff!

I mixed in my spices (cumin, oregano, cilantro, bay leaves, cloves, salt and pepper).

I added the juice of one lime, 5 cloves of minced garlic, about a tablespoon of tomato paste, and some beef broth. Mixed it all together and turned the crockpot on low...

And got this eight hours later. I used two forks to shred the larger chunks of beef. I ate this over brown rice. Mike made it into a burrito. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Slow Cooker Barbacoa

3 lb roast
1 small red onion
3-4 peppers of your choice (more to taste if you want spicier)
5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 Tbsp Tomato Paste
2 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
3-4 Bay Leaves
1 Tbsp Cumin
1 Tbsp Cilantro
1 Tbsp Oregano
A dash of ground cloves
Salt and Pepper to taste
Juice of 1 lime
1/2 cup beef broth

Trim the fat off the roast and cube it. Put it in the crockpot with the diced onion, peppers, and garlic. Add the remaining ingredients. Stir, and turn the crockpot on low. Come back in 8 hours. Shred the larger chunks of beef. Enjoy! Really... it's that easy.

This recipe was shared on the Allergy Free Wednesday #139 through Tessa the Domestic Diva. For those of you out there looking for special diet recipes, or just good healthy food... make sure you check this out!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Irish Chain Baby Quilt

Happy Thursday, everyone! I hope you all have been enjoying this incredibly rare October weather like I have. I had a wonderful time last night going out with some friends. We had happy hour at Cafe Nell , sitting outside in the sun, and then on to Lucy for a shopping extravaganza! I am not a big fan of shopping. I do it, oh... never. But workout clothes are different, right? Right. Glad we settled that.

So on to the quilting... :)

I received a custom order from a tennis friend. She has her very first granddaughter and ordered a quilt to go with the colors of the baby's room. So she picked the colors, and asked for elephants if possible, but gave me free rein to do what I wanted with the rest of it.

I delivered it to her earlier this week, so I can share it with you all now!

I picked an Irish Chain pattern in a wall hanging size, and then beefed it up a tiny bit. :)

I used the elephant fabric for the larger blocks and quilted around it free-hand.

I did straight line quilting through the Irish Chain blocks, and finished the border with a diamond pattern.

The elephants are on the back, and they are so stinkin' cute!

And it's all finished off with a quilt tag...

So now, on to the next order: Seattle Seahawks Quilt!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Cold Hands, Warm Hearts

Hello everyone! Fall is coming... but not quite here in Vancouver yet! It's beautiful out, sunny and 80 degrees... crazy!

So in honor of the changing season, I wanted to share some more pattern testing I have done for Cora's Quilts. This pattern is called Cold Hands, Warm Hearts and is my first real work with applique on quilts. I really enjoyed it, learned a lot, and LOVED how it turned out.

The applique included mittens (cold hands) and hearts (warm hearts)... hence the name!

It also has the cutest trees!

It is designed as a table topper, but would be awesome as a tree skirt, too...  

I really liked the way the applique came out. The pattern uses a light fusible interfacing to make the applique easier. I liked this method so much, I'm using it on a custom quilt I'm working on now... (more on that later!).

 If you guys like the pattern, you can check it out on Connecting Threads. Shelley over at Cora's Quilts did the project for them...

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Around the World Blog Hop

Hello everyone, and happy Wednesday! I was invited by Shelley at Cora's Quilts to participate in this blog hop, and I am excited and happy to share! When you're invited, you tell a little about yourself, answer a few thought provoking questions and continue the blog hop by inviting 3 other bloggers who inspire you.  They will blog the following week about their creative process and keep the blog hop going! This blog hop has seen a lot of quilty folks, which I think is awesome because I quilt, too, but I will be changing it up a bit now that it is my turn. Yes, I quilt, but I also do a lot of crafting, cooking, photography, writing, sports, reading and revelling in the beauty of everyday life. So I am taking the opportunity to invite other bloggers who inspire me and branching out a bit. 

But first... a little about me. For those of you who do not know me, I am a project manager by day, and a schizophrenic creator for the rest of the time. I quilt, cross-stitch, sew, create recipes, blow up my kitchen, play with DIY home projects, and photograph anything that moves (and some things that don't). I enjoy tennis, reading, writing, eating (anything I am not allergic to... which isn't much), traveling, and feeding people. 

I like to include stories of Mike and the Cats (Turbo and Hobo) in my blog. Mike and I have been together fifteen years now, and we have survived a lot of DIY projects together, and some DIY explosions, the most recent being the experience of the exploding beer bottles. Turns out home-brewed beer with added fruit has a very definite shelf-life. Note to self... But now, on to the questions!

What Am I Working On?

Oh so many things. No, really. I have so many projects in the works right now. Some of them just need a little bit to finish, some of them need a lot... they are all in various stages of completion. So I guess we can just start at the top. 

I am working on a couple of beautiful quilts designed by Shelley over at Cora's Quilts. I am working on Diane:

I am working on finishing my Spring Sampler from her collection:

I am working on my eagle cross-stitch:

 It's a bit wrinkly, I know... but that will get sorted out as I finish stitching. I have a ways to go, as you can see... don't hold your breath. :)

I am also working on a custom order baby quilt that I need to finish binding, but you don't get to see it yet because the person who ordered it hasn't seen it yet! I promise, I will post pics when it is all done and delivered. 

I have a Christmas themed table runner I am hoping to get done in time for Valentine's Day next year. 

I am working on getting the pattern I created for my cousin's baby quilt ready to sell online.

I am always working on items for my Etsy shop. I sell quilts, cross-stitch items, and hand-sewn items like tote bags and tissue holders, too.

 I am also working on the idea of a cookbook. I post a lot of my recipes on my blog, but it might be kind of neat to put them in an e-book for downloads. With my food allergies, I eat a lot of Paleo or Anti-Inflammatory Protocol foods, and I find a lot of people looking for information and recipes for those "diets".

How Does My Work Differ from Others in its Genre?

Yeah, that's a good question. I don't really know if my work differs all that much across the different projects, but I am probably one of the more Attention Deficit Disorder bloggers, since I cover so many topics with my blog. I read somewhere that if I want to make my blog successful, I should focus on one thing. But that wouldn't be true to myself since I am pretty much incapable of focusing on one thing! I know that I have readers who are not interested in the sewing/stitching/quilting, and I know I have readers that could care less about the food, and I know that other readers are really just waiting to see more pictures of my cats. So I just try to feed it all. Some day I may split them into separate blogs, but for right now, it's really just a sharing of myself with you, and it comes in this super-disorganized forum because that's how I roll. 

Why Do I Write and Create What I Do?

What I write and what I create are all an expression of who I am, and how I'm feeling. Even when I am quilting or stitching someone else's pattern, it's my choice of colors, fabrics, thread, quilting design... all depending on what I am trying to express. It used to be that I would pick a pattern and spend hours searching for just the right fabric. Now I find that I see a fabric that speaks to me, and then it all just comes together in minutes. Literally minutes. And writing is often the same way... I have something I want to write about, and it will just flow. I rarely experience writer's block when I am sharing a topic or something that has importance to me. 

Lately I have found that I am branching out more in my projects. I used to stick with projects that I knew would be manageable, wouldn't take too much time, wouldn't scare me away... then I attempted a purse pattern. It took me three years. No kidding. I would start to work on it, panic because I didn't understand what I was doing, and then put it away again. When I finally sat down and did it (with some help from my awesome friend Chris Comfort explaining things to me!), I enjoyed it so much I made a second one for a friend. And now, I don't let the fear of not knowing stop me. I grew past that. I am interested to see where I grow next... :) I'm sure you will hear about it. I will put it right here on this blog when it happens.
The infamous purse. :)

How Does My Writing and Creating Process Work?

Oho... if I only knew. Honestly. Sometimes I will wake up in the middle of the night with an idea, or a thought. And I have found that I do some of my best thinking while in the shower in the morning. I designed the Christmas presents for my nephews in there. No joke. When I can clear my head and just close my eyes, there is a clarity to what I want to do (even if I had no previous idea I wanted to do it), and then it just flows.

Sometimes it is because I have experienced something I want to remember, like a trip to Europe might inspire a quilt. Or a meal at a restaurant might inspire a new recipe. Or a book I have read might inspire a craft project. I find beauty in just about everything in life, and it often inspires me to try and create new things. I definitely wouldn't say I have any one particular muse, but I have found that a nice bottle of red wine never hurts, either. :)

And speaking of where I get my inspiration... I would like to introduce you to three bloggers who have inspired me in different ways over the years. I read probably around a hundred blogs on a consistent basis... everything from quilting to recipes, to dying fabric, to farming (no, I don't farm... yet), knitting (no, I don't knit... yet), travel blogs, blogs on how to minimize my carbon footprint, canning (yes, I do can)... just about everything. 

The first blogger that I would like to call out in the blog hop and introduce to you is Janelle Serio with Through the Knitting Lens. She is not just my dental hygenist (no joke!), she is an amazing designer, creator, mother, wife, and friend. Her blog lets you look through the knitting lens and into her world, and you will find yourself a better person for it. 

The second blogger that I think you need to meet is Rudd McGarity with Life Part FOUR. Rudd tells his story of finding inspiration and joy in life with his daughter, his girlfriend, the shop he owns and operates, his sports, and his friends. He talks of personal discovery and growth, and he tells it like it is.

The third blogger that I want to introduce is Amy Venezia with Amy V-talk. Amy's perspective on life, her inspiration, her creations (I hope she shares Nola Creations with you when it's her turn!), and her ability to share life's lessons in a simple, succinct, yet beautiful manner is truly inspiring. Make sure you check out her post on Jessie's Girl that just came up. Not just because it was a good song (which is now stuck in my head), but because it is an important point that I think so many people never see. Some things are just too close for us to see until it's too late. I appreciate Amy's style of writing, the topics she chooses, and how she shares her personal experiences: good, bad, and beautiful.

I am looking forward to seeing their posts next week. Thank you all for letting me share a little about me in this blog hop!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Paleo-friendly Caramel Chocolate Chunk Cookies

You just keep reading that title and you are pretty sure there is no way, right? Because how do you get caramel and chocolate chunk cookies without sugar? Or flour? Well, I have my ways. And aren't you lucky... I'm going to share them. :)

Before we go any further, I just want to let you know that not only did I love the way these turned out, Mike ate them and liked them, too! So if you are looking at the pictures and thinking 'ew', just trust me here. The end result is worth it.

So first things first... you need to soak your dates in water. Pit them, and soak them in water for at least thirty minutes. They look a little icky... just go with it.

While your dates are soaking, put your cashew butter, baking powder and vanilla extract in a food processor (yup... not a mixer, a food processor), and pulse for a few seconds.

It will come out looking creamy and delicious.

When your dates are done soaking, put them in a blender with some sea salt and about 2 Tbsp of water. I have found that it helps to chop the dates up a bit first, since they can get stuck in the blender blades. Blend until it resembles a caramel consistency. You will probably need to use a spatula to scrape down the sides and clear the blades a couple of times in the process.

 Add the caramel-like date mixture to your food processor.

Pulse a few times until it is blended in.

Add your chocolate chips. I use the Enjoy Life Mega Chunks. They are dairy free, soy free, nut free...etc. And they taste like real chocolate. None of the carob stuff for me!

Pulse in the chocolate chips until you have cookie dough.

Place on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for about 9-11 minutes, depending on your oven and how thick your cookie balls are. Just as an FYI... I will be flattening mine out a bit next time so they will only need the 9 minute time.

Then enjoy!

5-6 Medjool dates, pitted and soaked
1 Cup Cashew Butter
2 Tbsp Water
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1/4 tsp Baking Powder
1/4 tsp Sea Salt
1/2 Cup Chocolate Chips

Soak the dates in water for at least 30 minutes. Then drain the water and put in a blender with the 2 tablespoons of water and the sea salt. Blend until it forms a mixture the consistency of caramel.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Pulse the cashew butter, baking powder and vanilla extract in a food processor until smooth. Add the date mixture and pulse until well combined. Add the chocolate chips and pulse some more.

Use a spoon to put the cookies on a silpat or parchment paper lined cookie tray. Bake for 9-11 minutes, depending on the size of your cookies. Wait until the cookies have cooled completely before you try and take them off the tray. They will be a bit crumbly.

Store in an airtight container. Remember, there are no preservatives in these cookies, so they will only last a few days. So eat fast. :)