M’s Patchwork Travel Quilt

20130531-103539.jpg
M’s Patchwork Travel Quilt

This is a project that my daughter and I made together. I wanted her to get experience on the sewing machine without having to fiddle with a lot of busy work while she sewed. What I love about the project is that the seams are pinked with shears and its all simple, straightforward measuring and sewing. We picked out four coordinating flannel fabrics and cut 112 (6×6″) squares with pinking shears. We placed the squares 8 across and 14 down. (You can certainly make it larger or smaller to suit your needs. ) M sewed the rows with seams, wrong sides together, for a more rustic look. Before adding a pieced backing (made with odd shaped flannel scraps), M stitched three colored ribbons into the side seam of this travel blanket so that it can be tucked away and pulled out when needed. M sometimes ties her blanket to her backpack or suitcase so it’s there when she needs it. I’ve washed this several times and it seems to get softer with each washing. This is a great beginner quilt project for kids!

20130531-103918.jpg

20130531-103930.jpg

20130531-103958.jpg

Mom’s Hearty Biscuits and Gravy

20130531-093027.jpg
When we travel, I look for hotels that have an extensive continental breakfast included in the stay price. I’m seeking fresh fruit, whole grains, lean protein…for my active crew. At a recent stay, as we made our way across the lobby for an early morning breakfast, I had to cringe when I heard my son say…”Awesome, they have biscuits and gravy!” Of all things…biscuits and gravy?
So, this past weekend, in the chiily,early morning hours, while most were fast asleep, my kids woke with the birds and headed off to the pool to get in their required morning yards. I felt like I wanted to make something special for their return home on this holiday weekend. The first thing that came to mind was biscuits and gravy. (Along with sunrise smoothies, fresh baked Irish scones, and cheese omelets.)
My mother-in-law gave me this recipe years ago. She had taken a mini-cruise that was meant to showcase the beautiful fall colors along the New England shore. The ship’s cook had shared this recipe with her. I still remember the hand written page that she shared with me over 15 years ago as I transferred the ingredients into a small notebook that I once carried around with me. I’ve only made this recipe a handful of times, but every time I make it, my son is one happy camper!
Mom’s Hearty Biscuits and Gravy

First prepare the biscuits and get them in the oven…

Beautiful Buttermilk Biscuits

1/2 cup cold margarine or butter
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup buttermilk

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Mix dry ingredients together in a medium bowl. Cut margarine into the flour mixture until it resembles fine crumbs. Stir in buttermilk; stir. Dough will be soft and sticky. Turn dough onto a floured surface and kneed lightly about 10-12 times (adding a bit of flour if needed) until dough is not longer sticky. Roll or pat dough to about 1/4″ thick. Use a 2 1/2″ round biscuit cutter to cut the dough. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet; about one inch apart. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Makes about 12 biscuits.

Mom’s Hearty Gravy

1 roll of pork sausage ( I always use Jimmy Dean’s Premium Pork Regular Sausage)
1/4 cup flour
1 3/4 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Brown sausage in a large skillet, crumble and cook over medium heat until no longer pink. Stir in flour and cook, while stirring, to completely incorporate the flour. Slowly add milk to the sausage mixture. Cook gravy 5-7 minutes more or until thick and bubbly. Season with salt and pepper. Serve over those beautiful buttermilk biscuits!

Crazy Mixed-Up Caesar Salad

20130530-133020.jpg
We are not a family that often eats out. I’d much rather make “copy-cat” restaurant favorites at home. Then, I can tailor the recipe to please the whole family ( for far less money). However, there are times when we are out and about and find ourselves in need of a meal.
A couple of years ago, we went to a new restaurant for a birthday celebration. My daughter ordered a salad that looked quite interesting. She was attracted to the notion that the salad included a few of her favorite foods…noodles, romaine lettuce, and Parmesan cheese. She was quite pleased with her choice and was not disappointed with her meal. As I looked at the salad, I realized that we were paying $9 or so for a Caesar salad with noodles in it. Shortly thereafter, I duplicated the salad in my kitchen and it has since become the only way I prepare Caesar salad for my family. Adding grilled chicken makes this tasty main-dish salad a hearty meal.

Crazy Mixed-Up Caesar Salad

3 small heads of romaine lettuce, chopped into bite-sized pieces
3/4 cup bottled Caesar salad dressing (I use Marzetti’s brand)
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded (I use Kraft or Sargento Brand)
1/4 cup water
1 16 oz box of noodles, fully cooked and cooled ( I use Ronzoni Smart Taste Brand)
Croutons
Pepper to taste

In a large serving bowl, mix romaine lettuce with fully cooked and cooled noodles. In a smaller bowl, mix 1 cup of dressing with 1/2 cup water to dilute the dressing, mix to combine. Pour dressing mixture over the lettuce and noodles. Toss to coat all of the ingredients. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over the salad and gently toss. Add croutons and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Garden Fresh Veggie Pizza

20130529-070848.jpg
This is surely one of my family’s favorite snacks. As we planted vegetables and herbs this weekend, it made me think of this colorful, nutrition-packed pizza. Most of you have probably seen a variation of this recipe in cookbooks or online… this is the way I have been making it for years. When everyone pitches in to mix the topping and chop the vegetables, this one is a snap to put together. I often cut a few leftover slices to fit into lunchbox containers for the girls. What a great way to get a variety of fresh vegetables on the plate!

20130529-071029.jpg

Garden Fresh Veggie Pizza

2 (8 ounce) packages refrigerated crescent rolls
1 cup lite mayonnaise
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 (1 ounce) package ranch dressing mix
2 green onions, finely chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped (any color)
1 1/2 cups fresh broccoli, chopped
1 medium tomato, diced
1/2 cup cucumber, diced
1 carrot, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a jellyroll pan with non-stick cooking spray. Pat crescent roll sheet into a jellyroll pan, pinching seams to close any holes. Bake for 10 minutes, let cool.
In a mixing bowl, combine mayonnaise, cream cheese, ranch dip mix. Spread this mixture on top of the cooled crust. Arrange all of the prepared fresh vegetables on top of the creamed mixture. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled. Cut into squares and serve.

DIY – Plant Markers

20130527-223015.jpg
Every spring, when I plant seeds in my garden, I buy unique (often expensive) plant markers to identify my herbs and vegetables. It’s not that I can’t identify my plants without the markers…its just that I like the way the markers look in my garden.
Well, it never fails…by late August, the markers have faded, rusted, or have gone missing. I usually end up throwing the silly things out in November and buying a whole new batch for the next growing season. This year, visiting the paint department at our local hardware store, I got the idea of using paint stirring sticks (that are free) to make my own plant markers. While they may only last one or two seasons, at least they are reasonably priced! The girls and I had fun making them together. This is also a great gift idea for Mother’s or Father’s Day.

DIY – Plant Markers

Visit your local hardware store and ask for a few paint stirring sticks. ( We are painting our bathroom and laundry room so they gave us plenty of sticks with our paint purchase).

Supplies

Paint Stirring Sticks
Craft Paint
Permanent Black Sharpie Marker or Paint Markers
Satin Clear Spray Paint or Spray Sealer

20130528-125042.jpg

20130528-125107.jpg

20130528-125121.jpg

20130528-125138.jpg

20130528-125159.jpg
Paint both sides of the sticks with craft paint; letting them dry thoroughly between coats. Use the permanent marker to write various plant names on the paint sticks. Spray several coats of clear spray paint or sealer over entire stick. Let dry completely before putting them outdoors.

20130528-125636.jpg

20130528-125714.jpg

Simply Made Pineapple Snack Cake

20130527-075039.jpg
This is one of my favorite cakes to bake! It’s crazy delicious and super easy to throw together. The taste reminds me of a Kentucky Butter Cake recipe I used to make when my children were little. The first time I made this cake, I was delighted to learn that there is no butter, shortening, or oil in this recipe. During the school year, I omit the glaze, and pop it into lunch boxes for a tasty lunchtime treat…Yum!

Simply Made Pineapple Snack Cake

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 (20 ounce) can crushed pineapple with juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13×9″ baking pan.
In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar and baking soda. Add eggs, vanilla, almond extract and crushed pineapple, with liquid. Mix well to combine.
Bake 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into cake comes out clean.
On warm cake, frost with my Powdered Sugar Glaze.

Remember…

20130527-074411.jpg
I spent the better part of a pleasant, mild weathered Sunday planting and painting, weeding and pruning. After a long day of yard work, I looked around me with a sense of accomplishment. Most of the work that I had hoped to complete was behind me.
I had made every attempt to avoid making plans for the weekend. No swim meets, no work projects, no long car rides to visit relatives…I wanted to be right here at home, enjoying my family and taking care of little projects that have been waiting for my attention for a while.
It’s quiet this morning. As my children sleep and the sun rises, I say a little prayer and remember all those who have died protecting my country and my freedom.

For the love of country they accepted death. ~ James A. Garfield