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Archive for October, 2010

Over the last week I’ve thought about why I’m doing this and perhaps more importantly why anyone else would care. My personal goal is to eat my way out of my pantry but in doing so I’m also saving money on my groceries, lessening the food that’s wasted or goes bad each week and menu planning. While most people don’t need to use their entire pantry we could all save a little money and waste a little less by menu planning based on what we’ve got in our pantry and in our fridge. Doing so means we can stock up on basics when they go on sale but use them when we are in the mood and we can prevent things from going bad hanging out in the vegetable drawer or the back of the fridge.

Our goal last week was to cut out mid week grocery trips. We are pretty bad about deciding mid week we “need” to make some dessert or recipe and end up spending nearly as much on these impromptu grocery trips as we do on our weekly ones. This isn’t good for our budgets, our meal plan or our waist lines! I’m happy to say that we were successful although we did end up ordering pizza one night because we didn’t like any of our menu options…

This week I decided to use:

  • Banana (Apparently after they went brown I or TH stuck a couple in the freezer and then forgot them…)
  • Puff Pastry (We have two opened packages of this in the freezer so this week we will finish one of them off)
  • Blueberries
  • Chicken Breasts
  • Orzo
  • Sour Cream (We have half the package leftover from a biscuit recipe we made last week and we are horrible about using it up)
  • Buttermilk (Leftover from a recipe the week before last, this tends to go bad in our fridge after using it for one recipe as well)
  • Frozen Salmon Filets
  • Half an onion (leftover from last week)
  • Fresh Asparagus (leftover from the bunch we purchased last week)

We made:

  • Herbed Chicken in Puff Pastry with roasted asparagus (These are like homemade hot pockets! We loved them and the leftovers were almost as good.)
  • Vegan Blueberry Waffles (We aren’t vegans so I’m not sure how these stack up to other vegan waffles but compared to traditional waffles they are pretty heavy. I doubt we will make these again.)
  • Sweet and Spicy Salmon with cheesy orzo
  • Oven Fried Chicken with sour cream mashed potatoes (I’m astounded by how much like fried chicken this tastes! Both of these are five star recipes we will make again and again. While both recipes are a little time consuming and the chicken requires overnight marinading they are well worth the additional effort.)
  • Lettuce Tacos (TH’s recipe) with lime rice and black beans (Tasty, nothing earth shattering but a good go to meal)

Grocery costs: $54.00

Leftovers:

Despite halving the recipe we still have leftover mashed potatoes. Personally I think leftover mashed potatoes are good so I’m sure we will eat these up in the next couple weeks.

What’s your favorite recipe from last week? What tips do you have for menu planning?

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I had to pack up my Single Girl Quilt for now, it just wasn’t coming together the way it should and I really need to pull out the seam ripper. I’m not feeling up to it so I packed it back up and decided to switch gears.

I already made my sister an apron for Christmas but a single apron, no matter how cool, is not enough of a gift in my mind. Since she’s trying to eat healthy and brings her lunch to work I thought a lunch bag was in order. The pattern is called the Simple Bag and it is from “Last-Minute Patchwork + Quilted Gifts.” It was designed to show off large scale modern prints and I have to say it does so beautifully. My sister loves large black and white graphic prints and I love how these two go together.

It’s a little larger than your average lunch bag but it is tall enough to hold a reusable water bottle and a book or a magazine to peruse when she has a break at work. Although not nearly as robust or large as Amy Butler’s Everyday Shopper between the home decorator weight inner and outer fabric this bag can handle lunch, a trip to the library or a small trip to the store with no trouble.

The whole project took less than an hour to complete and I really love the look of it. The example in the book uses contrasting upper and lower fabrics and I actually think the contrast would be more appealing then the single color scheme I chose. But I made this for my sister so I chose the fabric and design I know she will love best. This bag will also serve as the “wrapping” for her apron so I can put it under the Christmas tree without giving away the suprise inside :).

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TH’s and my favorite cooking blog is Smitten Kitchen. Usually we will go to their recipe archives if we’ve got something particular in mind but I also follow their blog through Google Reader and some recipes just demand to made. And really what better sweet treat recipe for fall than apple cider donuts?

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You can find the recipe here

We made these with vegetable shortening and I should warn you it takes A LOT of vegetable shortening (as in a couple of the giant Costco containers!). And though TH was a skeptic after tasting them he was won over to using shortening instead of vegetable oil for frying donuts.

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The recipe is easy to follow and the results are amazing!

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TH cut some of the donuts out of dough less then 1/2 inch thick and they tasted just fine but I would recommend sticking to the directions as it made cooking them easier because they cook at a consistent rate. A couple of the thicker donuts didn’t end up cooked all the way through (we still ate them of course…)

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My favorites were the donut holes. The taste isn’t any different it is just a personal preference. Thankfully the donuts were almost as good the day after we made them since there is no way two people could eat all of them the first day. Even after eating them for two days we had to throw in the towel and TH gave the rest to some of his classmates.

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I’m not sure how I’ve just found out about Quilt Home since their selection is right up my alley but I’m sure I’ll be purchasing from them quite a bit in the future.

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While the price per yard of traditional quilting weight cotton is a bit higher than I would like to pay where Quilt Home excels is their selection of non quilting weight fabrics. They have a fabulous selection of home decorator weight fabric, laminates, flannel, fleece, cordouroy and knits that I have not seen at any of my other go-to online fabric stores. While they don’t sell Kona Cottons they do sell a decent selection of shot cottons (my personal favorite solid fabric).

Selection:

Quilt Home aims to meet all your modern fabric buying needs so they stock all the most popular designers and all the most popular collections. In and of itself that isn’t hard to find, where they excel is all the supplementary collections that designers come out with in laminates, fleece, flannel etc. Many of these collections are hard to find especially this wide of a variety. I don’t know about you but I will rarely buy 1 yard or 1 print from an online store, I just don’t think the cost of shipping is worth it. To justify spending my money a shop needs to have a couple “must haves” and Quilt Home does that perfectly.

Price by the Yard:

1 yard of quilting weight cotton = $8.95
1 yard of home decorator weight cotton = $13.95
1 yard of flannel fabric = $9.95
1 yard of laminate fabric = $19.00

Like I said before the cost per yard of the quilting weight cotton is more than I usually pay but all of the yardage costs are competitive with most online fabric shops.

Shipping:

Right now they are offering free shipping for orders over $50 shipping within the U.S. It doesn’t look like this is a limited time special so perhaps it is a permanent perk.

You can find the rest of their shipping prices here.

Communication:

They have a newsletter with coupon codes (always a plus in my mind) but you can also get coupon codes off their homepage. They don’t have a blog but you can follow them on Twitter. I’m not sure what they post on Twitter since I don’t tweet.

I heard about Quilt Home on an online forum and I’m really glad I decided to hop over and check them out. Their selection of non quilting weight fabrics is really hard to beat!

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I’m a huge fan of this quilt, it is definitely going to go up on my wall once it’s sandwiched and quilted.

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I mentioned before that the quilt along isn’t picking up again until after Quilt Market so I went ahead and made my own back design. I knew I wanted something simple and graphic and I think this fits it perfectly.

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Apparently my cat is a fan too…

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I promised myself when I finished the Flying Geese Quilt that I would start working on my Single Girl Quilt again. I had cut most of the fabric pieces for the arches weeks ago but hadn’t touched it since. Friday I finished cutting the pieces for the arches and started to sew them together. Saturday I finished piecing the arches together and started cutting the inner and outer background pieces. Since I had to cut out 48 of each I alternated between cutting the background pieces out and starting to assemble the quarter ring blocks.

Sunday I pieced together 12 quarter ring blocks and 24 arches to their inner background piece. You would not believe how long it takes to pin each arch to the background pieces! I had some puckering which was frustrating but I pressed on (literally, I stopped sewing and switched to ironing). I love how the rings look as they come together and I adore the background fabric I found but I’m starting to wonder about the sizing. I decided to make the twin sized quilt which is three rings wide by four rings long with a small border on the top and bottom. But as I look at one partially pieced ring it just doesn’t look like it is going to be wide enough…. I thought about going back and cutting more pieces to make it queen sized but the thought of cutting out 128 more pieces for the arches is just too daunting.

My original goal was to have this whole top pieced this weekend but the pinning really slowed me down so now I’m shooting to have it assmebled by Friday.

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TH (The Husband) and I are slowly getting ready to move again. We have moved every 12- 16 months for the past four years so we are getting pretty good at it and I plan on adding more tips and tricks for moving as we go along. But challenge number one is getting rid of all the perishable food and most of the non perishable food we have in the pantry before we move. We aren’t moving until February but it’s going to take a couple months to use everything and not feel like we are having the same two or three meals over and over and over again. You may be curious why we need to eat everything if we are moving and there are a couple reasons. One, we are moving ourselves which means we have to pack, move, and unpack every single item we own- the less we have the easier and faster this process will be. Two, we are moving in with my parents (a topic for its own blog post) so we won’t need our own pantry items and they don’t have the room to fold our entire pantry into theirs.

So step one of this fun and tasty (because my goal is to make this both fun and tasty) adventure is to do a full assessment of what we have in our pantry, fridge, and freezer and start to meal plan around those items starting with the perishable items first. As part of this process we won’t be purchasing large quanities of any new items unless we think we will use it before we leave. The only two things I think might fit in this category are flour (TH makes most of our bread and sugar because I love baking) oh and maybe stock. Everything else will be purchased according to our meal plan. I’m excited to see how close we can come to an empty pantry :)

Last week I decided to get rid of:

- 3 oranges (no clue why we have these since we don’t eat them, I’m guessing they were for a menu item that never happened.)
- 2 frozen chicken breasts (leftover from other recipe)
- 1 lb frozen ribeye steak (TH purchased it on sale a couple weeks ago)
- chicken stock (we have two different boxes open in the fridge for some strange reason..)
- 2 half empty containers of salsa (I don’t know why we have these in our fridge….)
- 1 lb angel hair pasta (probably months and months old and hidden in back of a high shelf)
- pumpkin seeds (less than a week old but I’m not sure how long they are good for)

We made:

1) BBQ Steak in an orange marinade with Grilled Asparagus (My husband really like this but I only thought it was so so)
2) Spicy Spaghetti Squash (We are having this tonight but we have high hopes!)
3) Salsa Chicken with Black Beans (The salsa chicken was our favorite this week. It was easy to make, easy to clean up, and the leftovers are tasty)
4) Pumpkin Seed Pesto over Angel Hair Pasta (It was pretty tasty and we would definitely make it again)
5) Pumpkin Risotto (This made A LOT of risotto, way too much for two people. It was tasty but I would cut this in half and maybe down to one quarter the next time I make it.)

It was pretty easy this week, I’m sure it will get harder when I’m down to rice ( we have a GIANT bag), Worcester Sauce and canned tomato sauce.

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As part of my handmade Christmas gift giving I decided to make a “gift bag” for each recipient. I could easily make simple fabric bags for everyone’s gifts but they would probably end up in the back of a drawer or stored away somewhere. Since my intention is for everything I make and give to be something the recipients will use on a regular basis, I thought of making resuable grocery bags/market totes for each person using different patterns found in books and online.

Named the the “Everyday Shopper” (from Amy Butler’s new book “Style Stitches”) this bag seemed the perfect choice to serve as a reusable grocery bag and I suppose it can serve in this function. Since it is HUGE it will fit a lot of groceries, it just may be to heavy to carry very far!

The pattern calls for 3/4 yards of one fabric and 1 5/8 yards of another but I wanted to use the 1/2 yards of a couple Heather Ross Far Far Away 2 prints that I already had on hand. In order to make it work I used four different fabrics- 3 prints from FFA 2 and a yard and a half of a deep purple micro cord that I purchased at JoAnn Fabrics.

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Each pattern in Style Stitches is rated by level of difficulty, the shopper is rated easy and I would definitely agree. The bulk of the time required for the project is in the cutting and fusing of the interfacing. Once you get to the actual sewing it is a breeze, the project is after all just a bunch of rectangles sewn together!

The Everyday Shopper is well designed and constructed to handle the weight of a regular grocery trip but I personally feel it is just too big for a trip to the farmer’s market. I “test drove” this bag at a local craft fair, after carrying it for three hours filled with two sweatshirts, two wallets, two water bottes, a container of lotion, and a bag of cinnamon roasted almonds (yum!) my arm started to go a little numb. After an hour I was ready to leave it behind. The temptation, because of it’s size, is to fill it with stuff but if you do that your shoulder will start to hurt from the weight. On the other hand, if you use it for a trip to the grocery store you only have to carry it from the store to your car, and your car to your house. In that case the bag can hold (without strain) a ton of stuff and you only have to carry that weight for a short period of time. That isn’t a particular flaw with this design since any large shoulder bag would cause the same problem.

There are countless patterns for similiar bags where the Everyday Shopper stands out is it’s reversible design, sturdiness and shear size. Personally I would prefer it to be smaller but I cannot complain about its construction and I do really appreciate the reversible feature. I made this bag for a friend who has a ton of clothes and bags, she is always telling me she “needs” options. Since I used the same main fabric on both sides the overall look isn’t that different but she loves purple so that was a no brainer. She also loves Sleeping Beauty but may not always want to advertise that fact so the flowers are a nice alternative. While I think she will love this bag I doubt I will make it again because of it’s size.

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I have a slight obsession with license plates and I’m not really sure why. But I want one of these in the worst way (well not enough to pay thousand of dollars for one)

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For awhile I was collecting license plates to make one of these but I lost interest when I realized I would have to start paying more then a couple dollars per plate. Many of the ones I found online cost $10-$20 and when you are trying to make a map of the US that adds up pretty quickly.

Of course it would also be neat to do this-

Mike Wilkins - Preamble

But I won’t be able to find those plates so that’s out… I have enough plates for this

Iowa Mailbox

but we live in an apartment so maybe I’ll make one of these

Recycled

There is even a tutorial here :)

But what I’ve really alway wanted was a purse like one of these!

State License Plate Purse & CD Case

And if I really wanted to go overboard I could do something like this-

"House on Plates"

and a close up

All numbered up...

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I put my presser foot to the floor this week and finally got this quilt top done! Even though I sketched it out and planned the dimensions I can’t believe how big it is. It’s almost twin sized and will be a roomy nap quilt. I considered going “all the way” and making it twin sized but I doubt my brother would use it as a comforter anyway.

I planning on doing a tan/brown solid on the back and a yet to be determined print for the binding. All of that will go on hold for awhile until I can make it down to my Dad’s where I have a wood floor large enough to make the quilt sandwich on. I’ve tried doing this on my carpeted floor but I get crazy puckering on the back so I would rather just wait.

In the meantime I think I’m going to assemble the quilt top and back for my Tokyo Subway Quilt. Originally I was going to wait for Oh Fransson but she showed a preview of her plans for the back and while I think it’s cool it’s not my style, besides she won’t be publishing directions until mid-November and I need to get the top and back done before then. That way I can take the Tokyo Quilt, Flying Geese Quilt, and Modern Cross quilt down to my Dad’s and turn them all into sandwiches at the same time. Then I’ll just need to quilt them all before Christmas…

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