Super Bowl Sunday Breakfast: Spinach Quiche and Cheesecake

6 Feb

Happy Super Bowl Sunday! A green and gold spinach quiche seemed especially appropriate for the main dish of today’s brunch:

Quiche Directions: Sautee the chopped onions in a large pan; add spinach and flavor to taste – I used salt, pepper, and a Mediterranean spice blend. Allow to cook on medium-low heat until onions and spinach are soft and amazing-smelling. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, briskly whisk six eggs, then add cheese, onions, and spinach. Pour into a pie dish. Bake at 350 for 35 minutes; cool before serving.

We also had cheesecake with blackberry jam and berries. On Saturday evening I made mini cheesecakes for Sunday’s Super Bowl party (we don’t have a television and consequently used the promise of sweets and baked artichoke dip to bribe a game day invitation out of some television-owning friends) and had enough leftover crust and batter to fit into a small loaf pan, which made two perfectly-sized dessert squares for a sweet breakfast treat. Vegetarian “sausage” patties completed the meal. I have been trying to follow the high-protein, egg-rich Brewer Diet as recommended by our Bradley Method childbirth coach – this meal certainly met requirements. And, it was delicious.

Vintage Vivian: Bib Sewing Tutorial

5 Feb

Simplicity 3043

On Thursday afternoon I decided to pull out a few of my most recent vintage pattern acquisitions and see what I could make of them. Of the three envelopes I chose, the first was strictly toddler patterns (making the size-season guesstimation a little bit risky), and the second contained lots of fancy things involving pin tucks (I have neither the material collection nor the patience to mess with tiny garments that appear to be part of intricate baptismal sets), but the third envelope, Simplicity 3043 from 1949, appeared to be just about right in terms of complication and cuteness. Sort of. Upon closer inspection, the simple patterns for baby shirts and swaddling bags seemed almost too simple, and in definite need of fancier fabrics than what I had on hand. So, I decided to sew a bib. I’m not sure what about it is especially vintage, other than the fact that it’s cut from an old pattern, because different decades don’t exactly have distinct bib shapes. Oh, well. It’s cute even if it doesn’t scream retro awesome and I’m sure it will come in handy.

If you want to make one too, you’ll need at least 10″ each of two varieties of fabric, and around 1/2 a pack of double fold bias tape that’s either 1/4″ or 1/2″ wide*. Here is the pattern – just print it out; it’s full-sized and doesn’t require any adjusting, although the very top and bottom edges are cut off (but not enough to make any difference).

Short version of directions: Sew a length of bias tape all the way around the outer edge of the bib, then repeat for the inner (neck) section, using long piece of tape so that you have a couple of ties. Or, just sew the tape all the way around the bib and use a snap for closure. (I haven’t tried the snap version, but I have full confidence in the ability of snaps – especially the no-sew variety – to triumph in just about any issue involving closing stuff.)

More in-depth directions:

Step 1: Cut two pieces of fabric (a front and a back) on fold. I used leftover flannel for the back and an old Amy Butler cotton for the front. I’ve also used old towels for bib backing with nice results.

Step 1: Cut fabric

Step 1.5 (optional): Baste with 1/4″ seam allowance around entire bib edge. I skipped this step because my fabrics weren’t sliding around on each other and because I’m lazy all about expediency.

Step 2: Pin bias tape around outer edge of bib and sew on fold closest to bib edge.

Pin bias tape around outer edge of bib

Step 3: Fold newly-sewn bias tape over raw edges and stitch in place. I like to sew from the front side, just inside the bias tape. You can also “stitch in the ditch” if you want your sewing to be less obvious.

Stitch over bias tape to secure folded tape

Step 4: Your next length of bias tape should be somewhat longer than the remaining raw edge of the fabric as you’ll need it to serve as a tie, too. Find the center of your length of bias tape and begin pinning in the center of the neck of the bib. Sew only the part of the bias tape that is pinned to the fabric. If you’re having trouble positioning the tape at the corners, check out this awesome tutorial from Smashed Peas and Carrots.

Pin bias tape around neck hole with excess for ties

Step 5: Cut notches around the curve, flip your bias tape over the raw edge, pin, and – beginning at the very end of your bias tape, sew again.

Finished bib! Hooray, bib!

Voila – you should have a cute little bib! *If you’ve used 1/2″ bias tape, it may be a little bit sticky-outy around the neck. If this bothers you, use the 1/4″ version for a more subtle effect:

Bib with 1/4" bias tape

The Dough Never Rises: (Mis)Adventures in Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls

30 Jan

Last Friday, having assumed possession of a wide-mouth pickle jar before it was sent away to be recycled, I set about making some sourdough starter. Making sourdough bread is supposed to be a relatively simple process – something that our predecessors did hundreds and even thousands of years ago, long before we relied on recipe books, measuring cups, and internets to make a simple loaf of bread. And simple it was: mix a cup of warm water and a cup of all-purpose flour, set somewhere warm and inviting, wait 24 hours. Then, dump out half of the mixture and replace it with half a cup of warm water and half a cup of flour. Wait 24 hours. Repeat. By the end of the week, my sourdough starter was, as promised, frothy and, well, sour-smelling – ready to go, just in time for Sunday breakfast. I found a sourdough cinnamon roll recipe that required beginning on Friday evening and got to work in the nick of time. By Saturday afternoon, my dough was to have doubled in size. Instead, it looked pretty much as it had on Saturday morning:

There are no before-and-after comparison photos. That’s because there was no difference in dough volume. None. But, I wasn’t too worried. The same thing happened the other week with a pizza crust that rose admirably once it was in the oven. So, I went to make the rolls. The dough was nowhere near stiff enough, and the rolls didn’t hold their shape, instead choosing to resemble a distant relative of Jabba the Hutt.

I thought maybe they’d rise overnight, like the recipe suggested. They did not. I baked them anyway, thinking of the pizza dough’s last-minute, Hail Mary rising. They still did not rise, and after twice the recommended baking time, the dough was as cooked through as it was going to get. Mr. Right bravely suggested that they might still be edible; he also kindly made scrambled eggs. And, Sunday breakfast turned out well in spite of the sluggish dough. The rolls were in fact okay, although they were nowhere near the light fluffy goodness promised in the recipe. Oh, well –  there were already plenty of picture-perfect sourdough cinnamon roll blog entries available, anyway.

Original Inspiration For My Sleep Sack Sewing Binge

28 Jan

Friday is for finishing, and indeed, I finished another sleep sack for Vivian.

Lining and Label

The pink and green paisley patterned flannel is actually what got me started on the idea to sew sleep sacks in the first place – I found it at Joann Fabrics a while ago and was so smitten with the delicate yet bold design that I had to make something with it, and the only something I could think of that called for any sort of flannel was Anna Maria Horner’s sleep sack design.

An early Valentine's Day present...

Now that I’ve used the pattern a few times, the sewing goes along pretty quickly. In an effort to be even speedier I used my machine to sew the bias tape down – and, while it’s not terrible, I think the stitching looks too obvious. Next time I’ll stick to hand-sewing it for a nice, professional look. While this is the last sleep sack I’m planning on making for Vivian, I have two friends who are expecting, so I’m looking forward to making more of them in the future.

Sweet flower detail

Notice the tomato plant in the middle photo? It’s been growing in our breakfast nook for well over a year now – and, it’s finally starting to flower, too!

Big Plans For Little Baby: Refinishing a High Chair

27 Jan

Early Tuesday morning I discovered a darling wooden high chair on Craigslist. By Tuesday afternoon it was all mine:

It was difficult to stay focused on school work all Wednesday as I dreamed of what I could do with it. So many possibilities!

I had a few more, er, vivid fabric prints in mind, but Mr. Right gets veto power, and his design taste tends toward the more sensible. With a little bit of laminated Amy Butler fabric (“Passion Lily Fern” from “Soul Blossoms” collection via Fabric.com), a borrowed sander, and a can or two of high gloss spray paint, I’m hoping to turn my retro cool high chair into something fun, funky, and modern.

I have yet to finish stitching the border on Vivian’s quilt. Oh, and there’s another sleep sack on the way. And the Clara dress. At the rate I’m going with planned projects, it’ll be a miracle if I finish everything before she arrives.

Sunday Breakfast: Creme Brulee Overnight French Toast

24 Jan

While we almost always eat dinner together, we’re usually pretty casual about it – we’ll sit on the couch and chat with our plates in our laps or park in front of the computer to watch an episode of Antiques Roadshow on PBS. But sometimes, if we’re feeling especially formal, we actually bring our plates to the dinner table, where pleasant conversation is paired with whatever happens to be on NPR. It feels special to set aside whatever we’re doing and focus on having a meal together, and it’s a tradition that I definitely want to continue with Vivian. One of my goals this year is to start having a “fancy” weekend breakfast, a time to look forward to spending together at the end of every week.

This Sunday’s breakfast included a favorite from the most delightful Bed and Breakfast ever imagined – the A.G. Thomson House in Duluth, Minnesota. We’ve had the good fortune to stay there twice now, and if the incredible hospitality, immaculate decoration, and perfect location weren’t enough, the innkeepers also make the. best. breakfasts. ever. We’re talking three-course meals here. And, the recipes are available should you want to attempt to recreate the wonder at home. Sunday’s Creme Brulee French Toast, while not as amazing as the original (I used maple extract instead of Grand Marnier) made for a great start to the day. And a wonderful day it was – with Green Bay going to the Superbowl! It’s been difficult today to come down from the excitement of the weekend and go back to the daily housework/homework routine – but with another family breakfast and lots of down time to look forward to, I think we’ll manage.

Sleep Sack Success!

17 Jan

I finished up the first of the sleep sacks on Tuesday afternoon. Sewing up the final seam caused considerably more effort and frustration than it should have, as I was stubborn in my desire to use my serger. For the record, my serger (and possibly yours, too) does not like multiple layers of fabric: Two bent needles and an inch shorter than specified in pattern later, I gave up, went back to my Elna, and was done within a matter of minutes. And, I’m pretty pleased with the results. The pattern is insanely easy once you get the hang of it – I think that if you machine sew the entire thing, cutting out the pieces may actually take longer than the sewing itself. (Then again, cutting fabric is easily my least favorite part of sewing and takes me ages.)

I have one more sleep sack planned for Vivian, and will probably make a few more for friends who are due right after I am. I also need to get back to the quilting. I’ve had a difficult time deciding on a border pattern that I like, and this little dilemma has made it easy for set the quilt aside in favor of the sleep sacks, which offer near-instant gratification. I have classes again beginning tomorrow and probably won’t get a chance to work on anything else until Friday, which is good – plenty of time for day-dreaming and planning in between lectures. Plenty of time for calculus, too. Sigh.