Archive for July, 2009

I have decided that Friday is going to be food day on the blog, where I will explore a new and exciting food…or an old and exciting one…or maybe even an old and boring one eaten a new way…  (Well, maybe not every Friday, once school starts again we’ll see if I can keep up with a regular post!)  You might think I spelled quirky wrong in my title, but it’s actually just a quirky way to introduce today’s food:  Quark Cheese!!!!  Now, if you are like me, you are sitting there saying, what on earth is Quark Cheese?  The same question was asked by myself only a few weeks ago when my market buddy and I entered the farmers market and were looking to purchase some yogurt.  The same farmer was also selling this Quark cheese.  Being the shy person I am, I probably would go through my whole life wondering, but luckily for me my market buddy has no such shyness and not only inquired about it but bought some too!  Well, that appealed to my adventurous side and so today when we were at the market I also purchased some.  I wasn’t sure what to expect – when I opened the container it kind of reminded me of what ricotta cheese looks like, but when you putDSC00911 a spoon in it, it’s a lot thicker.  We had fresh berries for dessert tonight, which I like to eat with some nice thick balkan yogurt and honey.  Alas, the farmer was out of balkan this week so I was out of luck.  So…better now than never, I tried it with a few spoonfuls of quark mixed with honey.  Well – I’m hooked!  It was a little like eating cheese cake with berries on it (only it’s good for you).  Too good to be true?  Maybe.  It meets all of my personal requirements for good food – there are only 3 ingredients, I can pronounce them all, it is made locally from organic ingredients, and as a bonus, I can even talk to the farmer!  (She says it is good spread on bagels like cream cheese, or used for dip mixes instead of sour cream).    Answers.com had a lot to say about Quark, you can check it out here.    You can also make your own quark at home – sounds pretty easy, I might give this a try some day!  The instructions are here.  So…if you give Quark a try, or you already love quark and have a great recipe for it, or if you make your own quark, let me know in the comments.  We can all be “quarky” together!

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As promised, here are the pics of the two shirts I made yesterday.  I am overall quite pleased with them!  For the first time ever I actually sewed on the buttons using the machine – I was amazed at how quick it was and kind of fun!  (Now why haven’t I tried doing that before?)  It was also my first time using organza as an interfacing for a sheer fabric.  It was a little trickier to work with than interfacing, but I do like the end result.  I think my clothing UFO pile will be done today and then on to the quilt pile!  Here’s  a sneak peak at some of the quilt projects waiting to be finished…


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Summer Shirts

Well, I’m working my way through my UFO pile. Today’s agenda – two sleeveless collared shirts. As I began putting them together I remembered one of the reasons that they were never finished – I strongly dislike sewing collars! I find them tedious and difficult and am wondering if there is an easier way? After finishing the first shirt I almost put the second back into the UFO pile for “later.” However, I persevered and now have two new shirts to wear. Phew! I don’t think I’ll be doing anything else with a collar for awhile… (but it feels good to get those projects finished!) It’s too dark for pictures tonight, I’ll post some tomorrow. Just one more clothing item left to sew and then I’ll be back to quilts! 🙂

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Lovely Leeks

I used to think that I hated leeks.  When I was a teenager and working at camp the cook would make this potato leek soup.  I’d never heard of a leek before, but they looked like giant pieces of onion, and at the time I did NOT like onions of any kind, especially when in big chunks!  Combine them with thick gooey potatoes and I ate cereal for dinner on the nights the soup was served.  Always a bit of an adventurous cook, when I started to cook for myself I tried a lot of different foods I avoided when I was younger and grew to like most of them, but every time I saw a leek I was reminded of those big chunks of soggy, stringy green stuff in the bowl of goo and wouldn’t go anywhere near them.   Then I met this wonderful man – he was sweet, funny, and building his own canoe (I was making my own paddle at the time – it was definitely a match made in heaven!) and I was hoping that he might be “the one.”  After about a month of dating he invited me to his place for a homemade dinner (A man who cooks?  Can he get any more perfect?).  I arrived at his place to wonderful smells in the kitchen and a beautifully set table and then he brought out the dinner he had taken time off work so he could put together.  What was the main course? (you can probably tell where this is going) Leeks, of course!  Huge pieces of leek, wrapped in filo pastry and baked in the oven, served with a homemade tomato sauce.  (You can imagine what is going through my head – how am I going to eat these things and not hurt his feelings?  Would it be rude to drench the whole plate in tomato sauce?  Can a feign a “girlish” appetite – something I have never had – and only eat a few?)  Well, it turned out that all the worrying was unfounded – the leeks were delicious!  Not just bearable, but really, really good!  I ate them all!   We made this dish several times during our courtship and they were good every time.    And then, when we were planning our wedding dinner, the chef decided on potato leek soup for the first course.  (Visions of that gloppy camp soup immediately came to my mind, I liked leeks now, but potato leek soup – ugh!   But I knew other people liked it, and who would notice if the bride didn’t eat her soup anyway?)  Well, surprise again, on the big day I ate my whole bowl of potato leek soup and could have probably eaten three bowls more – it was SO good!  And that has forever changed my feelings about leeks.  I now cook with them all the time in everything from soups (includingDSC00895potato leek, of course) to stir fries, and last night they were the star player in my pasta sauce.  It just goes to show that you should keep trying those foods that you “don’t like” and not give up on the foods that you have had bad experiences with.  It’ll open up your culinary world a little wider, which is as good for our bodies as it is for plates. 

Homemade Pasta with Creamed Leeks

The pasta:  3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour and 5 eggs.  Kneed together until smooth.  Refrigerate for an hour.  Divide the dough in 4 (each ball is enough to serve two people).  Roll out the ball very thin or use a pasta maker.  Cut into strips.  When sauce is ready, cook in boiling water for 5 minutes and drain.

The Sauce:  I just go by what looks good, but here are the approximate amounts for a sauce that serves 2 (easy to double to serve more).

Take 2 leeks, green ends removed, washed well, cut into quarters and then finely chopped.  Saute them in about 1 1/2 Tablespoons of melted butter for a few minutes and then turn the heat down to medium-low and let them bubble away in the butter until they become soft (if they are starting to turn brown, your heat is too high).  If the pan becomes dry during this, add a little olive oil or more butter.  (While this is happening, this is when you can be rolling and cutting your pasta and putting some water to boil)

Raise the temperature on the pan.  Add the zest of half of a lemon, salt and pepper to the leeks and stir.  Throw in a tablespoon of flour and stir with a whisk (this should be pasty, not dry.  If it’s dry, add a little more oil).  Slowly whisk in a cup of milk, and keep whisking until the mixture gets hot and thickens (this won’t take long depending on the heat of your pan).    If your sauce is too thick, add more milk,  if it’s too runny, whisk a little flour and water together and pour it into the sauce and continue to stir until it becomes thick enough.  Add some freshly ground nutmeg, and pepper and salt to taste.  (It’s important to taste while you cook – this sauce can be a little bland without the proper seasoning).  Serve over freshly cooked pasta.   (If you like garlic, you could add some to the leeks before you add the milk – we had a Caesar salad on the side last night  so I thought garlic in the sauce too would be overkill!)

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I know you can’t hear it, but I’m singing that to the tune of a Great Big Sea song which is currently stuck in my head.  “I want to be, plastic bag free, I want to be, in a place without plastic, I want to be plastic bag free, na na na na na ne na na na…”  Great Big Sea fans I hope you aren’t appalled -I just can’t help changing the words to a song I have stuck in my head, just ask my husband, or my university roommates (I still have the words to “Get a C” and a student’s version of “Leaving on a Jet Plane” written down somewhere….)  I know, I know, my lyrics aren’t exactly true,  being totally without plastics is neither possible or probable (half of the computer I am typing on now is made of plastic), but I at least want to use as little of it as I can.  There was a bachelor party at my house on Saturday night with, well , lots of men, so I locked myself in my sewing room for the evening and turned up the music (not that the party was wild or anything, but I didn’t want to intrude).  It did however, give me lots of uninterrupted sewing time which I need because I am trying to get through a lot of my unfinished projects (I admire people who don’t have piles of unfinished projects on their sewing room floors).  One of the first of those projects was making some produce bags for the grocery store (hence the song.)  They had to be lighter than the ones I made for the fridge (see this post), so they wouldn’t effect the weight of the produce that I put in them.  They are made out of tuDSC00892lle, which is really light, but they look a little weddingish and I am a little bit worried about how they will hold up over time (I’ll let you know!).  The ties are organic cotton in my favourite colour – there is just something about the colour green, especially that shade of green, that makes me smile!  🙂  One more step in reducing my environmental footprint, and one less thing to have to take to the recycling center.  In this case, it’s easy to be green!

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There’s No Place Like Home


DSC00886As promised, here are the photos of the rest of my living room home dec. projects. I do have to say that much of our house still screams “student” even though it has been 7 years (yikes!) since I grabbed my second degree and embarked on life in “the real world.”   This is especially true in our TV room where the TV sits on an old dresser (orange, I might add) and there is almost a full wall of milk crate shelving next to our hand-me-down furniture. However, bit by bit the living room is starting to come together (in the most frugal way, of course!). The chair was a freecycle find – free for the taking but it needed cushions. My mom and I looked after that one summer – the cushions are filled with several layers of cotton batting as I wanted to keep things as natural as possible.  Do to aDSC00889 general lack of seating in the room I really wanted to make floor pillows and in my search for a pattern came across Amy Butler’s Gumdrop Pillows – it was love at first sight!  I ordered the pattern on eBay and couldn’t wait for it to come in so I could get started!!   In the way of things in my world, it of course sat untouched in my sewing room for two years before I made my first one.  (In the words of the Indigo Girls “you have to laugh at yourself, you’d cry your eyes out if you didn’t”).    The blue one is made from a set of old curtains that used to hang in the living room, but that I never really liked.  The beige and red fabric I won on a “free fabric Friday” from www.sewmamasew.com(I love that place!  If I had a lot of money I would buy tonnes of fabric from them because they are so good to their customers DSC00890and put so much effort into their awesome blog!).  The Gum Drop pillows took a LOT of stuffing, so I used a little trick I found online and they are mostly stuffed with fabric scraps, surrounded by a layer of batting.  It didn’t cost me anything, was a good way to use up my piles of itty bitty scraps (I of course kept anything remotely usable for quilting) and added a nice weight to the pillows.  I then recovered our old couch cushions in the same fabrics, to match.  Maybe not top design, but it’s home, and I like it!


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Fabric Art

It has been two years since I taught piano lessons, and my degrees and diplomas were still hanging on the wall in our living room.  They looked fine when that room was a piano studio, but now that it has been converted back to a living space, it seems a little pretentious to have them hanging there, and makes the space feel like a waiting room or psychologists office or something.  So, I used a little Annie Marie Horner creativity and created my own wall art!  It was actually quite simple and I used fabrics from a few other living room projects I am finishing up this week (photos tomorrow, maybe?).  I think I need to rearrange the nails (I just used them where they were for the diploma frames) but for today, I’m calling this project done!  If you want to make your own wall art you can check out the video here:   http://www.marthastewart.com/article/painted-fabric-silhouettes?autonomy_kw=annamarie horner&rsc=header_2  (Just a tip, you need to stretch the fabric a little more than she hints at in the video, otherwise you get wrinkles when you start putting on the podge.)DSC00881


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Making Pasta

DSC00864First you start with some yummy pasta dough.  Pasta is just made out of flour and eggs – super simple!  This one is made from whole wheat flour and has spinach added to make it more interesting.    After the dough has rested in the fridge for a bit, pull out the pasta maker.  (This sat in my cupboard for years before I had the guts to try and make pasta, it seemed like too much work.  It really isn’t any more work than making a pie, and worth it for the flavour!)  Run the pasta through the pasta machine through all the settings.  This was my first time using a whole wheat dough and I found it took a little playing around and quite a bit of semolina flour to get the right consistency.  Cut into strips and cook in salted water for about 5 minutes.  Yum!  OR….


Make into tortellini.  Mine are filled with a yummy ricotta and herb mixture based on one of Jamie Oliver’s recipes.  I made these for dinner with a simple tomato sauce (1/2 can diced tomatoes, 1 minced garlic clove, basil and salt to taste, simmered for 5 – 10 minutes).


From the one recipe I had enough tortellini for 6 people (I froze what we didn’t eat uncooked), a handful to be added to soup, and a whole bunch of linguini which is currently drying in my kitchen ready to be stored.  There is nothing like pasta making to make you feel like a true chef! 🙂

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Produce Bags







It has been a very long time since I have used the plastic produce bags provided by the grocery store.  With only two of us to feed, it is rare that I buy more than a handful of any type of produce and never felt the bags were necessary for that small amount of produce.  However, this does cause problems in the refrigerator as I find my drawers littered with bits of leaves, herbs and seeds, and one of my drawers has a permanent stain from storing red peppers.  It seems silly to save a bag at the store only to use one when I get home, and I am not a fan of storing food in plastic anyway (my cupboards are a sea of glass jars!), so I decided to make some produce bags.  The idea is not my own, I found some at a very expensive environmental store a couple of years ago and thought “I could make some of those!”  I could, but I didn’t, until I saw this cute veggie fabric at a quilt store and couldn’t pass it up!  I made two sizes – large for lettuce, swiss chard and bok choy, and small for herbs and peppers.  I think my veggies like their new homes! 🙂

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Summer Sun Dress

DSC00845OK, so you know how I feel about good deals.  This fabric was also on the clearance wall, and this time even the saleswomen agreed with me that it would make a good skirt….so I turned it into a dress! 🙂  I actually really wanted to make another skirt from the Sew What book, but wanted to have a fitted waist with a zipper.  Well, in all the zippers I have in my stash, there was not one black zipper.  So…it was either wait until I could get to the fabric store or make something else.  This pattern came from a magazine I ordered from Finland which I couldn’t wait to arrive, and then I never made anything out of it.  Well, until now!  It’s just a basic sundress and it actually went together pretty quickly except for making a hem on the arm holes, I really need to get someone to show me how to do that – I ended up clipping the curves to make a neat hem but I’m not sure if that’s going to wear well in the longrun.  Anyway, I was really excited to get it done so quickly and then I tried it on, and woohoo!  I had created a paper bag dress!  One of those shapeless wonders that make YOU look like you have no shape!  So, thinking that the paper bag princess look probably wasn’t the best thing for me, I began to ponder darts and shrinking side seams (making this uncomplicated dress into something that might get tossed into the UFO pile for awhile) and then I remembered some of the very expensive dresses I tried on when I was shopping in the city – they all had these sashes tied around them, so I grabbed some white ribbon and bingo – problem solved!  (And who said you can’t sew your own clothes on a budget?)    Now I just need some fun event to wear it to! 🙂

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