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Sous-vide March 31, 2017

Sous-vide (/suːˈviːd/; French for ‘under vacuum’) is a method of cooking in which food is sealed in a vacuum-sealed plastic pouch then placed in a water bath or in a temperature-controlled steam environment for longer than normal cooking times (usually 1 to 7 hours, up to 48 or more in some select cases) at an accurately regulated temperature much lower than normally used for cooking, typically around 55 to 60 °C (131 to 140 °F) for meat and higher for vegetables. The intent is to cook the item evenly, ensuring that the inside is properly cooked without overcooking the outside, and retain moisture.

The method was first described by Sir Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford in 1799 (although he used air as the heat transfer medium). Butterfly, brine and roulade your breasts - roll it around whatever you like - for instance, a nice spicy sausage, or pesto or whatever you have on hand. Tie it (them) up with butcher's twine, of course.

Roll your rolade in the dry or wet rub of your choice.

Now, take a square of parchment paper, a larger one of BBQ foil and wrap the two sheets around your roulade (s).

Seal it well, this is what the foil is for.

This will trap all the flavors of the filling and the rub and the only place it has to go is into the chicken.

Bake in a 400 degree oven - sorry, I use a temp probe for this, so I'm not sure how long. But clearly, until the center is 180.

Remove from oven, open and if you wish to brown it, you can finish under the broiler, or with your handy brulee' torch. (we all have one of those, right?)

It won't be AS tender as sous-vide, but I've never had any complaints.

If you have a pressure cooker or a crock pot, there are many things you can do; most are more complete dishes.

But if I had a whole tray of the things and I wanted to cook all of them - say to freeze and reheat - I'd simply slather them in my favorite BBQ sauce and pack them into a cast-iron dutch oven I'd lined with parchment paper, with the bottom covered with chunks of carrot, celery, yellow onion and crushed garlic.

Add about a cup of liquid - something like lemon juice and beer, or white wine or orange juice mixed with white vinegar.

Throw the whole thing into the oven with the lid on tight at about 350 for three or four hours.

When the temp probe says it's ok, remove, let it cool and then do whatever you were going to do. Remember to pour off the liquid and veggies and put them in the fridge until you are ready to make some awesome soup - because you are half done.

The After Baby Shower Cleanup February 27, 2017

Well it was a whirlwind party. I never saw myself hosting a baby shower. But then I never had one for my children. I am in my first marriage, my husband who is 15 years older than me already has a 23 year old daughter and she is now the proud mommy of a lovely little baby girl.

About five months ago we had a baby shower. And before you ask, we are more like best friends than the mother daughter duo. She is young, smart and full of life and we just hit it off. So when she asked me if I would host the baby shower it felt like a really good fit and I was glad to do it.

You will get clothes, lots and lots of clothes.

My livingroom was so swamped in clothing it looked like the department store after a sale.

As we were sorting it all out she would comment on this piece and that.

And while it is nice to have all the newborn and 0-3 months stuff ready to go when baby gets here (because no one wants to be cutting off tags and doing laundry during that phase) it dawned on us that . That said, we DID end up with a lot of clothes she will never put baby in. I'd wait to wash stuff until after your baby shower at least so you know what you're working with.

I noticed while I was sorting out the clothing that you need to make sure you don't just sort by the size the brand puts on the clothes. Some brands run small, and I had many outfits I didn't get the proper use out of because I had them in storage for when she was older. Actually hold the clothes up to each other and you'll get a good idea of what belongs where.

I have heard many people say that you should just buy 12 month or older things because people tend to only give little baby clothes and forget that the baby will grow quickly. But there was a nice mix. Sure there were more baby clothes. But I think if she has to purchase new clothes it will be around 9 month and over mark. Which would be nice since we can make use of the stuff on clearance now will fit her next spring/summer.

I think that we are in a unique situation. Sure we had a lovely shower, and I invited some of my friends that would have been left out if somebody else had doe it. I everything that I read has said it is tacky for the mother to host the shower.

I am not the mother in the traditional sense, and due to the minor age difference it doesn't seem right either.

Now I think it's considered "tacky" to throw your own shower, and in cases like that they usually have someone pretend to be the host and then you still end up do all the planning?

Like a friend.

Give them the credit, but plan the details? I personally don't think it's a big deal but people tend to get weird about it. We did get a couple of comments and I just shot them down. I said that I saw her as my best friend and if she would have been my daughter I must have gotten pregnant at eleven.

And I think that the times really are changing.

Times change, customs evolve, what's SOOO shocking today will be common place tomorrow.....

Look at us we really are a patchwork family. But I have always loved quilts the best.

As for the cleaning there was just so much. It took me two whole days and I was tired afterwards like you wouldn't believe.

I think timing decides food. If you have the shower at noon people expect lunch. If you have a 10:30 "brunch" it's more snacks or afternoon party it's more snacks as well.

We held in at five and it was because that was when the most people could attend. That felt like I was responsible for a full meal. That was the mistake.

I had to clean the carpet in multiple spots.

But we had a fairly healthy set of guests there. They enjoyed the food and drinks. I know some people say that you shouldn't invite that many people. But I think you invite anyone you aren't ashamed to ask for a gift from. My guest list was practically RSVPing itself before it was even official so that is why it grew so big. A baby shower is a "shower of gifts" so whoever you think is reasonable to ask for gifts. And that is why we ended up with such a healthy set of clothes.

My step-daughter, yuck - that just sounds wrong, was thrilled that I was willing to do it for her. But I made her promise that she would never let her daughter call me grandma. My husband teased me and said that I am the hottest grandma he knows.

Some things that I can say I took away from the whole thing include:

  1. I would definitely do it at home. Just anticipate the clean up and parking.
  2. Invite as many people as you're comfortable hosting. My sister had 60-70 people attend her shower in a much smaller house and it was not crowded or uncomfortable
  3. Finger foods are great as long as you don't schedule it at a meal time (11-2 or 12-3, for example). Schedule it 1 pm-3 or 4 and you'll be golden.

Quilting, That Mesh Layer February 8, 2017

So I was just at my Bernina dealer test driving a 765 and they gave me a little test quilt sandwich to try out on the machine and it had some kind of fine mesh between the batting and the fabric!

I forgot to ask what it was, but when I got home I googled "mesh quilting".

I think it was batting with what looks like a flexible protective layer at the top. Wonder if that's what it was?

I have an Aurora 430 and while I love it, my husband has been starting to make noises about maybe upgrading me.

I have the stitch regulator and it is great!

As far as quality goes, my machine is a tank and I've never had a problem with it though I am a bit obsessive about cleaning it. Learning how to load a front loading bobbin and use the automatic needle threader was a bit weird, but it's great now that I'm used to it.

Of course I am playing it cool (for now), but I really would like a machine with the embroidery software built into the machine. Right now I have to connect to the computer and do all sorts of confusing things, resulting in very little embroidery being used.

The Top 20 January 28, 2017

Here are 20 chicken recipes that have been loved and repeated in my household:

  1. White chicken chili
  2. Lemon garlic chicken kababs with basil chimichurri
  3. Chicken with lime, garlic, and cilantro
  4. spatchcock a chicken and roast it in a pan at 450, use the backbone to make stock or a au jus.
  5. Sprinkle chicken seasoning on thighs and broil 8 minutes per side.
  6. Ina Garten's lemon chicken
  7. Serious Eat's 5 minute grilled chicken cutlets with rosemary and garlic
  8. Serious Eat's halal chicken and rice
  9. Chicken rollatini
  10. Pioneer woman's chicken tortilla soup
  11. Chicken enchiladas (I use pre-cooked shredded rotisserie chicken and the budget byte recipe for sauce.)
  12. Chicken marsala
  13. Chicken cooked in milk. It sounds disgusting but it is totally delicious - especially if served atop mashed potatoes.
  14. Lemon-tarragon chicken salad
  15. Chicken with dried fruit
  16. Thai curry made with chicken thighs. (America's test kitchen)
  17. Chicken Stew from ATK. I serve it with biscuits.
  18. Baked chicken cutlets with breadcrumb/parmesan coating. I mix olive oil/garlic, coat the chicken and then dip into seasoned mixed breadcrumbs with parm before baking.
  19. Sheetpan harissa chicken potatoes
  20. We also like a NY Times recipe for garlic Middle Eastern chicken though I can't find it.

Then there is the classic. Roast chicken.

Most roast chicken recipes call for roasting a normal sized bird (4-5 lbs) at 350F for 20 minutes per pound. This can take an hour and a half or more depending on the size of the chicken. The problem with that approach is the white meat overcooks often before the dark meat is done and the skin is more leathery than it is crispy.

Keller's approach is different. He roasts a slightly smaller bird (2-3 pounds or so) at very high heat for a shorter amount of time. The result is that the white and dark meat are done in about the same amount of time and the skin crisps up nicely. With a smaller bird, you can even roast two at a time and be flush with chicken for a week, plus extra for soup.

Silhouette Cameo and Quilting January 27, 2017

I've used the Silhouette for many fabric cuts and it's been great. Once in a while a little piece won't have cut all the way through, but I don't mind that since I despise cutting it all by hand.

That's not to say there isn't work involved, but it has been superbly useful for me. I recently quilted a US flag and cut all 50 stars with the Silhouette and it was great. There's no way I would have ever done that by hand. I've also cut designs for other themed-wall hangings and it was great. I asked if there was a difference at all between the fabric blade and the paper blade with the machine and it's just a different color casing so that you can keep them separate. I'm not really bothered by that answer but at the same time I guess I was hoping for something more. It's great for cutting EPP papers.

I separate the blades I use for fabric and paper, and I always apply my heat transfer first.

I like it for cutting strips and squares out of fabric. It does speed up the cutting process but it is an investment. You also have to be okay with a little bit of waste. You can minimize that by folding your fabric but you will still get more waste than you would with a regular rotary cutter and ruler.

The Death of a Sewing Machine December 13, 2016

My 16 year old sewing machine died this weekend. It was a sewing date with one of my friends. I transported my sewing machine to her house. And shortly there after it died.

I used her new Janome over the weekend and did not like it, but she said it would take some getting used to before you got the hang of it.

Mine came with a built-in walking foot, which I use for everything, but is really essential for quilting. Having to attach the add-on walking foot to the Janome was a pain in the ass, and then the clearance under the presser foot was so poor, I doubt I'd have been able to get a quilt sandwich under it. I've never used anything but my Bernina either.

What I like is that Janome is the only sewing machine company that makes their own machines. The 8900 is a great machine. Janome machines hardly break and they don't need to be oiled every 8 hours of sewing like the Berninas.

Janome has a jam proof bobbin case and the 8900 is awesome because it comes with the plexiglass table and all the feet you need for quilting. Bernina feet are typically more expensive. I'm not sure what comes with the 770.

But the 8900 has the Accufeed feet, auto thread cutter, knee lift bar and 1/4" piecing foot that comes with the machine.