Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Baked Orange Cranberry Sauce

Every year I count down the days until fresh cranberries are available so that I can make cranberry sauce from scratch. I used to like the canned stuff, but I've loved homemade since I first made Allrecipes Pear Honey Cranberry Sauce in 2005. I love all things cranberry and have an entire folder with recipes and bookmarks devoted to cranberries in sauce, cakes, scones, beverages, and cookies.

I decided to try one of the baked recipes this year, and I might even like the baked version better than cooked. The sauce is more chunky, tender, and mellow. Orange really enhances the tart berries, and adding a touch of cinnamon and vanilla to the sauce makes it a true comfort food.

Baked Orange Cranberry Sauce
Yields about 1-1/2 cups

1 - 12-ounce package fresh cranberries, washed and drained
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice, reserve orange peel and pulp
1 teaspoon vanilla

After squeezing orange juice, quarter the peel/pulp and place in 1-quart baking dish with cranberries. Pour orange juice over all. Mix sugars with cinnamon and sprinkle over top. Cover with foil and bake at 325° for 45 minutes. Remove from oven, take out orange peels, and stir in vanilla. Refrigerate leftovers.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Jingle Bell Rock Quilt Back

One more step is done on my Jingle Bell Rock quilt. I finished the back this morning.

I picked up an idea for the back from Crazy Mom Quilts Mini Trees Quilt with simple strips of color representing a Christmas tree. I drew out the design on graph paper, performed a bit of math, and got busy cutting from some of the leftover pieces of fabric plus some extra wide white yardage I purchased at Hobby Lobby.

I think it will be a nice quiet contrast to the riot of colors on the front of the quilt.

Now I must find a floor space large enough to sandwich the quilt and close the door to keep Katy the kitty out. Every time I sandwich a quilt on the floor, she thinks there's a new game in town!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Texas Pralines II

My husband loves loves pralines. He regularly made them in our early married life but has been out of the habit for many years.

His go-to candy cookbook is Farm Journal Homemade Candy cookbook, published in 1970. We have tried two recipes for pralines from that book, and I thought the Texas Pralines recipe was a bit too creamy when I made them in January, but he wanted to give it a try.

I'm sure New Orleans folks would take exception to the name "Texas Pralines", but the description on the recipe indicates a yield of 12 "big, Texas-style" pralines. My husband makes them smaller and gets about 18-24 pieces. He used heavy cream in place of the half-and-half but otherwise followed the recipe exactly.

And he truly is the Master of Pralines. These are buttery and creamy, but firmer than mine were - probably the best he has ever made!

Texas Pralines
from Farm Journal Homemade Candy Cookbook

3 cups brown sugar
1 cup half-and-half (we only had heavy cream)
3 tablespoons light or dark corn syrup (we used light)
1/3 cup salted butter (if you don't use salted butter, add a pinch of salt)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup toasted pecans, chopped

Combine sugar, half-and-half, corn syrup, and butter in heavy saucepan. Stir to combine; bring to boil over medium-high heat then reduce to medium-low, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching. Cook to soft ball stage - 238 degrees. Remove from heat and cool to lukewarm - 110 degrees - without stirring.

Add vanilla and pecans; beat until mixture changes color and begins to thicken.

Quickly drop by large spoonfuls onto parchment paper. If mixture gets too thick, stir in a teaspoon or so of water until mixture is spreadable again. You can alternately pour into a buttered 9-inch baking pan and cut into pieces when cool.

Makes 12 large or 18-24 small pralines.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Jingle Bell Rock Quilt

My husband and I started dated on December 17, 1962. We were both 14, and our date was a school bus trip to go roller skating. The first song we skated to was Jingle Bell Rock by Bobby Helms, so that has become "our" Christmas song.

When I saw this Jingle Bell Rock pattern, designed by Kimberly Jolly for Robert Kaufman, I had to make it! Little holiday birds on bright green from Ann Kelle's Jingle collection was my inspiration, and I pulled from my stash to mirror the boldness of the colors. I thought the blue diagonal stripe, Curiosities by Nancy Halvorsen, would make a nice contrast to the bright colors and white sashing.

This week I'll sew on the borders and start piecing the back. I haven't decided yet whether or not to bind it. I can't wait to see how it turns out!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Felt Stockings and Other Things

A dear friend who helped me prepare dinners this past fall for our church's Wednesday Night Dinners asked me if I would help her with a Christmas project in which she participates. Each year volunteers sew hundreds of Christmas stockings to be filled with goodies and delivered to homeless vets. She already had the felt pieces cut out - all I had to do was decorate them and sew them up.

My confidence in my sewing led me to ask her for two dozen, and I have to confess that I ended up asking another friend to take a dozen of them to complete! These little stockings were more of a challenge than I anticipated! I have little imagination when it comes to decorating, so I turned to Pinterest to find samples of felt stockings. Decorations couldn't just be glued on - everything had to be sewn on just to make sure the stockings remain intact from the time they are filled until they are delivered. Some of the decorations were too small to attach with a sewing machine, so I did a lot of hand sewing. And I had to search for a tutorial to see how to sew the stockings together to hide the seams of the cuff at the top. It was like it was my first time sewing.

In spite of my difficulties, it was a joy and an honor to do these stockings. How sad that the words "homeless" and "vets" are even in the same sentence; nevertheless there is apparently a disproportionately large percentage of homeless people who are veterans. As I worked on the stockings I prayed and thought about who would receive them and that they would be blessed in some way.

My cat Katy was involved in her very special way.

In other news Randy and I celebrated 45 years of marriage and traveled to Dallas to visit our daughter and son-in-law. Our anniversary is the day before our baby girl's birthday, so we often get together for our two events. We ate at Gordon Biersch and had a wonderful evening. I gave her the Secrets and Dreams Journal to use for her iPad or as a journal - she was delighted - yay!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Fabric Buffet Windfall

Fabric Buffet is an online fabric store I discovered a few months ago while searching for Sweetwater's Math Class quilt kit. They had the lowest price I could find, plus I got to use a coupon for signing up for their newsletter. I've placed several orders with them, and the prices and customer service can't be beat. To celebrate their 7th year in business they sponsored a giveaway, and I was one of the lucky winners! I received my anniversary box last month and was so delighted to find these goodies.

I received 8 gorgeous fat quarters of Moda's Contempo in Berrylicious in colors of strawberry, berrylicious, and cocoa and 16 fat quarters of Stratford Park, a beautiful neutral collection by Deborah Edwards for Northcott.

I can't capture in a photo how pretty and elegant this neutral collection is and how nice all this fabric is!

Also included were two books - English Paper Piecing II by Vicki Bellino and Sew Practical, published by Martingale, two packages of iron-on transfers, a This & That pattern by Sherri Falls for a cute gathered composition book cover, and two items I forgot in the photo - a magnetic needle case and spool of Aurifil thread.

Thank you for the haul, Fabric Buffet!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Patchwork Loves Embroidery SAL - Secrets and Dreams Journal

Life has been very busy lately, so I am two weeks behind in completing this project from Gale Pan's Patchwork Loves Embroidery. I took some liberties with Gale's embroidery pattern, as I wanted the design to be less crowded. The beauty of Gale's book is the abundance of designs from which to choose!

With inspiration and encouragement from the other ladies of the SAL, I am becoming more confident with my hand stitching and felt this was my best project to date. I really enjoyed picking out fabrics and thread and even ordered new embroidery needles from Jeana Kimball's Foxglove Cottage. My old needles were purchased from a hobby store, and they were catching and pulling the fabric. After reading a post by Pretty By Hand's Kristyn about her needle preferences, I ordered samples of different types of needles from Jeana's store and have had much smoother sewing!

Since I have deadlines approaching on other quilting projects, I was going to make this my last SAL project. However I still want to make the needle folder as well as pincushions, so I will make the time.

Be sure to visit Martina's blog for links to other SAL projects.