Friday, March 9, 2018

French Cooking Class - Lamb

Today's lunch was all about lamb. Lamb and turning vegetables.

We made a lamb stew with spring vegetables as well as a chicken version for those who didn't want to eat lamb.


We also made braised lamb shank stew served over couscous and popovers and a salad.

The lamb was really good and rich and the price of lamb is pretty high. This would definitely be a meat you would want to serve to impress others but it's probably not going to be in most households on a daily basis.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

French Cooking Class - Cajun

This week our instructor decided to have us cook cajun. I've tried to cook cajun exactly once when I tried to make a gumbo. It didn't work out all that well and if you don't know what it's supposed to taste like then how will you know if you made it right? So I was really glad when we got to make a gumbo, jambalaya, an etouffee and a cajun meatloaf with a hot sauce to put over it.

We were so stuffed the time the gumbo and meatloaf was done it was unreal and we still had to make our bananas foster.

I didn't get a picture of everything together because our dishes were done at different times. I was really happy with all the dishes but I would probably tone down the cayenne pepper. The etouffee was really hot and they used 1 teaspoon of cayenne instead of the 2 the recipe called for so I was grateful but I would've used 1/2 a teaspoon. I don't mind some heat in my food but I want to be able to feel my tongue after eating too..

The bananas foster was really easy to make and served over ice cream which acted like a welcome anti-acid for my poor stomach lining.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Paradise in Bloom Quilt - Part 3

Now that everything is cut out (we hope!) it's time to get those units put together. If you've never done paper piecing, I would urge you to at least try it at least once. Maybe start with a small wall hanging type project first. If you have sewing experience you probably won't like dealing with all the paper. I don't either but I like paper piecing. I don't want to do nothing but paper piecing mind you but I like it. If you are new to sewing, give paper piecing a try. It's a great way to learn the 1/4" seam and sewing on printed lines is awesome. No thinking, just sew on the line.

You will need some things before you start. You will need an add a 1/4" ruler. Yes, there is such a thing. This is NOT a regular ruler. This ruler comes in varying lengths but I have a smaller 5" and a 12" long rulers. I also use a 3x5" index card to place along my fold lines to fold the paper back. The card just acts as a guide. You may also use a glue stick. I first learned using the glue stick but now I find I don't really need it. I do use it if the paper shape is awkward and I can't hold the fabric section in place easily with my hand. Then I use the glue to hold the fabric piece to the paper.

So here's how you paper piece.

This is unit A of my quilt. There are background pieces (lighter sections) and accent pieces (darker areas). On it you see that each section is numbered (Sec 1, Sec 2 etc) and there are dark lines and dotted lines. You fold the paper and sew on the dark lines. You don't do anything with the dotted lines.

Each dark line is numbered 1, 2, 3 etc. This is the order you do the sections in. Another words, don't do Line 1 first then sewn on Line 3.

Another thing to remember is that you are looking and sewing on the back of the pieced section. The front is the pretty side which means that is where the right side of your fabric goes. 

So to get started, we need to put the paper on the first section piece of fabric. The right side of the fabric goes down and the paper gets put on top of it. This is where you can put a little blob of glue to help hold the paper to the fabric. Just remember that the fabric piece must cover the section completely and that includes the 1/4" seam allowance.

Next, you want to trim away the excess fabric. So place your 3x5" index card along Line 1, and fold the paper back.

Place the add a 1/4" ruler along the edge. The index card will fit in the little groove making it easy, and trim away the excess fabric.

Next, you take the fabric for Sec 2 and line up the edge with the fabric edge from Sec 1. The bright orange fabric is my Sec 2 fabric. Now, line up your needle and sew on Line 1.

Open up the fabric and iron.

Now, repeat the steps. So line up your index card along Line 2 and pull back the paper.


Use your add a 1/4" ruler and line it up along the paper and trim away the excess fabric.

Line up your Sec 3 fabric and sew on Line 2, which I didn't get a picture of....

Once you've got the order down, that it.  Place fabric, trim, line up next fabric, sew on line, press open and trim.

Your sew lines will no doubt cross at some point like mine did ,which makes folding the paper back part a little awkward. So if that happens, just gently tear the paper back to where the lines cross that way you can fold the paper back freely.

Here's my finished Unit A for the Paradise in Bloom quilt.

Just remember to read all the instructions of your pattern first and then read them again. When you start your pattern, lay out all the pieces in front of you and just go slowly when you first start out and you should be okay.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

French Cooking Class - Duck

I admit. I've never eaten duck before or at least I don't think I have. We certainly never had duck at our table growing up and you certainly can't find it it at the local grocery store. The only thing I've ever heard about duck is that it is very fatty.

Well, that part is definitely right. In our duck class, we learned about prepping duck and how to cook it. We started our confit of duck legs a few weeks ago and we finished the legs by searing them.  After we seared them they were falling off the bone and I think everyone liked them the best. We also made duck a la orange, duck with flour pancakes and an asian sauce along with our duck fat roasted smashed potatoes seasoned with garlic rosemary, pureed parsnips with apple and pear and an asian inspired salad.

Here's our confit duck legs after staying in the refrigerator for 4 weeks. The legs were roasted about 6 hours so they're already cooked. We seared them on each side, mostly just to heat them back up.

They were really tender and falling off the bone.

We also seared two duck breasts for the duck a la orange. You can see how dark the meat it is.

The duck meat is definitely very rich even the breast meat unlike a chicken. There didn't seem to be much difference in the meat between the breast and legs.

Needless to say, our duck lunch turned out very good and very rich.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

French Cooking Class - Beef

Beef was class 15 of our 30 week cooking series so we are half way through. Seems like we just started but not so. I've really learned a lot and got some really good ideas and recipes and the beef class didn't disappoint.

We cooked several dishes with various cuts of meat. We made a grilled strip loin steak with a tomato bernaise reduction sauce, steak au poivre (with peppercorns), a beef stew and three side dishes, salad, green beans and a brussel sprout salad with dates, figs, pumpkins seeds.

Seriously, this class can be exhausting with everything we cook. I'm just glad we had a full class to spread out the work. And yes, everything tasted great and there was a lot of food.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

French Cooking Class - Breaded Meats

In this class we went over the process of breading meat. We used dry bread crumbs, panko bread crumbs and we discussed using seeds. Our class was small due to bad weather so we had to drop one of the recipes from our menu and it involved pumpkins seeds.

We made cordon bleu chicken with noodles, breaded pork chops with green peppercorn sauce, shrimp croquettes and the usual staple of salad.

The shrimp croquettes were quite rich. First, you make a rue that is more like a wet pastry dough then the shrimp are poached in wine and pureed. Then you add the shrimp to the dough and some aromatics and cheese and make ping pong sized balls and fry them and serve them with a garlic mayo. They're really good.

Today, I worked on the breaded pork chops, noodles and green peppercorn sauce. Here's the finished pork with sauce on a sheet pan.

We also prepped some duck legs for duck confit. I've never used this method of cooking and it'll be fun to see how everything turns out. We got duck legs and duck fat for this dish. The legs were rubbed with salt and pepper and placed skin side down in a large pan. Additional aromatics such as gooseberries and bay leaf were added and the liquid duck fat was poured over the legs. The dish was placed in an oven around 220 degrees and roasted for several hours. Chef explained that after she pulls the legs from the oven she'll make sure the legs are completely covered with oil or fat and she'll put them in the refrigerator for a few weeks until our duck class where we'll finish the legs.

I got one picture of chef arranging the duck legs. Next, week is beef.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Paradise in Bloom Quilt - Part 2

Now that I have all my units cut out and bagged, I need to move on to my fabric. I know there's a lot of advice out there about washing or not washing your fabric before sewing and I'm firmly in the wash first group. But let me tell you why.....

A few years ago, I decided to make a quilt for my 40th birthday and turning 40 that same year was the 1973 triple crown win by Secretariat. So I designed a quilt featuring horse and rider, all hand appliqued, the background was hand painted using Inktense pencils, hand embroidery and trapunto in the borders. So a lot of work went into this quilt. I used a blue batik with a white fabric to make a checkerboard which was the Meadow Farms colors. And during my quilting process I decided to use the chalk method to mark out where I as going to quilt. Well, I couldn't get the chalk out and pink chalk was kinda ground in the white fabric from the quilting. So I took a spray bottle with water and I was going to lightly buff the chalk out with water. This seemed reasonable until I watched with horror as dark blue ink from the batik spread all over the white squares and turned them light blue.

Needless to say I had to throw the entire quilt into the washer along with a color catcher, turn the thing on and hope my hand embroidery didn't fall apart or the hand applique or anything else equally horrible to ruin the quilt I had worked 7 months on. I'm glad to report that the color catcher I tossed in was a dark blue and white parts of the quilt were white when it came out.

So after that incident, I vowed to pre-wash my fabric before starting any project. And as a side tip, before you wash your fabric, take a safety pin and pin the fabric layers together. Just accordion the fabric back and forth about 20-30 inches in length and pin with a safety pins in a few places so that it can't turn itself inside out then wash and dry. The pins will keep everything together and the fabric won't ball itself up around another bit of fabric which is a plus.

So back to this quilt...

After washing you should iron your fabric to get everything flat before cutting.

Here's some pictures of the layout sheets for the units and templates for cutting. There are a lot of units and templates to cut out for this quilt and that's why it took me so long to get everything ready.

And before you do any cutting make sure you read the instructions thoroughly for each booklet or section you're working on.

But first I made a fabric key for each unit. There is a key in each of the booklets but I went with note cards instead just to keep my original in tact. So I wrote down the booklet number, unit, the background fabric with a piece of the fabric as well as well as my accent fabric 2A-2F along with a piece of fabric. This way there should be no confusion as to which fabric goes where.

The instructions will tell you how much fabric to cut, stack them rights sides up, then lay the cutting sheet on top and cut the various pieces with your rotary cutter. The instructions will even tell you how to label your bags and which bags the cut pieces go into. Just go slowly and follow the instructions.

It's also a good idea to clip/safety pin your individual stacks together then put them into the labeled bag with the paper unit.

After all the cutting of the layout sheets and fabric, the units will come together very quickly and then you just have to sew the units together in the right order.

Next up, is putting together some of the units.