Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Adventures in the Kitchen and other Fun Surprises!

Okay so today's little blog is actually NOT all about stitching, or really even my current WIP as I'm sure you can tell by the title.

Let me start this out by explaining a few things.  About a month or so ago Thomas and I went to Kenny's apartment for dinner.  Kenny is one of Thomas's old West Point roommates, a good friend, and one of his classmates at this Captain's Career Course. He lives in the same apartment complex as we do, just a few buildings over.  We periodically switch around who hosts dinner, usually on the weekends, since Kenny lives by himself but still likes to cook and it's frustrating to cook for only one person. I like to cook as well and we both like to cook for other people so....thus the current arrangement.

Well Kenny made homemade pasta that night for dinner and it was AMAZING! Seriously, like WAAAAY better than store bought pasta. He showed me his wonderful metal pasta machine that he had picked up at Ross (or some place like that) years ago for like $15/$20!! I about died since I know the one that is sold as an attachment to my KitchenAid stand mixer is like $100 easily, which is why I haven't bought any attachments for that sucker... too much $$! Don't get me wrong, I LOVE it and I'm soooo glad my siblings got it for me as a wedding/engagement gift since I use it all the time, but it's expensive to buy parts for it.

So Sunday I decided I was going try my own hand at making pasta from scratch as I know it's easy to do as far as ingredients I just have never done it before. All I needed was Kenny's pasta machine and hope for the best. It WAS easy! Took longer than I wanted since I was constantly looking back over at my recipe to make sure I wasn't messing things up, but really, not that difficult.

Word of advice though....if you aren't going to cook the pasta right away and you dry it for an hour (like you're supposed to before you store it and like I did) do so on a floured surface! I used wax paper because I didn't want to clean off a kitchen table full of flour and that was a mistake! The pasta stuck to the wax paper and some of them broke when I was trying to take them off.  :(

Anywhos, on to the recipes! FYI: all * are notes added by me and are not in the original recipes. Nor are the notes right next to recipe title. 

PASTA: modified between 2 different ones - Taste of Home's 'Homemade Pasta' and Mario Batali's/Martha Stewert's online recipe.  Seriously though, I figured the wonderful Italian cooking, orange clog wearing Mario knows his pasta so he's a good one to get instructions for the pasta machine I borrowed, Martha just happened to have it on her website.

Ingredients:

2 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. Salt
4 large eggs (lightly beaten)
1 T cold water

Steps:

1) Mix flour and salt in a bowl. Make a well in the middle of the flour and pour in the eggs and water. Use a fork (or whisk) to slowly mix the flour into the eggs adding more flour until it all is incorporated.*
Step 3

2) When flour is incorporated, gather dough together and make a round mass. Kneed the dough with the palm of your hands until smooth and elastic, about 10 minuets. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest for 30 min at room temp.

3) Use a knife to cut the ball into 4 pieces keeping 3 covered with a slightly damp kitchen towel. Take the 4th piece and flatten and roll the dough into a shape that is a bit narrower than the pasta machine.

Step 4
4) Feed the dough through the machine's widest setting, using your palm to guide it onto the work surface as it comes out. **

5) Fold the dough into thirds, roll out the dough again, and repeat 5 times.

Step 5
6) Change the pasta machine setting to the next number up and repeat the above process 6 times. Change it again to the 3rd setting and repeat 3 times.*** If the pasta ever becomes too long to work with cut into 2 pieces and continue on. You can also dust the pasta lightly with flour to prevent sticking if needed.

Step 7
7) On your 3rd pass at the thinner setting do NOT fold the pasta. Roll your dough through progressively thinner settings without folding it until you have reached the thinnest or next-to-thinnest setting. ****
Step 8

8) Using the widest-cut attachment of the past machine, cut the pasta into 1/2-in wide strips.

9) Trim off (pull off) any dried parts around edges of cut pasta sheet.

Before Step 9
Note: If you want to cut the pasta by hand, cut each pasta sheet into 10-in lengths, brush with flour, roll up the sheet and use a sharp knife to cut into 1/4-in wide strips before unrolling.

After Step 9
10) Use the pasta immediately, or dry on a floured work surface and store in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Cook in boiling, salted, water for 8-10 min.*****

Cooked pasta

* Now I eventually got frustrated and just ended up mixing it all in then using the dough hook attachment that came with my mixer, and put it on medium.  When it started to look more mixed I turned it off and dumped the dough onto a floured counter and started to kneed the dough.

** I forgot to check the setting before I started.  Mine was set to setting #3 instead of #1. I decided to keep it as I didn't think it was going to matter that much in the long run.

*** I changed this setting to #4 and the last was #6

**** Honestly, I forgot to do this step COMPLETELY! I stopped at the 3rd pass on #6 and just went straight to the cutting attachment after cutting the sheet in half to make it easier to work with. I will have to do this the next time and see if it makes a difference or not.

***** I ended up cooking it for 10-12 min.  I checked it at 8, added 2 more, then gave over the pasta cooking to the hubby when it still wasn't ready at 10 min so I could move on to other things in the kitchen.  I think he added another 2 min to the time but I'm not sure.  Just test your pasta for doneness periodically.


EASY GARLIC ALFREDO SAUCE: not mine. I got it online and have adjusted it from www.melskitchencafe.com

Ingredients:

2 Tbs butter
3 garlic cloves (finely minced)
4 oz cream cheese (softened and cut into 6 pieces)
2 c milk or heavy cream *
1 c grated Parmesan cheese **
1/2 tsp each: salt and pepper

Steps:

1) Melt butter in a saucepan.  Add garlic and cook for about 2 minuets, stirring to keep the garlic from burning.

2) Add the cream cheese and whisk until smooth.  It will look lumpy at first just keep whisking it will smooth out eventually, promise.

3) Add milk about 1/4 c at a time, mixing to make sure it is all incorporated before adding more. Once the milk is in, add the cheese, salt, and pepper and mix till cheese is melted and sauce has thickened some.  You can continue to cook and stir till the sauce has reached your desired thickness before tossing with pasta.

* If using milk DO NOT use 2%! It will take FOREVER to thicken your sauce. Honestly I recommend you just bite the bullet and use the heavy cream....or half and half if you are watching calories. Whole milk might work too and is probably what the original author of the recipe wanted you to use.

** I always add a few shakes of garlic salt because well....it adds to the garlic flavor of the dish.

CHICKEN BREAST:

I don't really have a recipe to be honest.  I just kinda go with whatever feels right at the time.  That usually means garlic salt and black pepper as my starting seasonings and then I'll add any of the following:

- Paprika    - Cyanne (red) pepper   - Oregano   - Italian seasoning   - Basil   - Cumin


It came out amazing! I also added some pre-cooked (frozen) shrimp that I had on hand to clean out my freezer, to a pan once thawed, that Thomas added some seasonings too and heated up on the stove.  I know garlic powder and Oregano were added since he was asking me to pass him those as he was messing with them but I don't know what else was included, if anything at all. Twas tasty though so that's really all that matters.

*~ *For those not interested in anything Cross-stitching related feel free to stop reading here! *~*

Now that all the yummy yummy food is out of the way on to the other fun surprise of the day as mentioned in the title.

I was checking my e-mail when I noticed 3 e-mails from Tilton Crafts.  For those of you who don't know, Tilton Crafts is this wonderful and amazing site that sells cross-stitching patterns as either PDFs or they will send you the pattern via postage, which will cost more. They partner with artist to make their beautiful works of art into patterns and boy do they deliver! Seriously, tiltoncrafts.com, go check them out!

*Ahem* okay...so why am I so surprised to see the e-mails? Because one of them said 'Order Confirmation' and the other one said 'Your Order has been shipped!'.  Now....I KNOW I didn't order anything from them and their freebie patterns are all PDF downloads (which yes....do happen to already be saved on my laptop). I did create a wish-list of pretties that I have in mind for gifts already (2 on the wish-list happen to be ones I picked out for ME this time which is a shocker, I know.) and create an account to save said wish-list.  I figured this would be the best way to 1) get my 'ooohhhh must have!' impulse in check, which isn't too bad, while keeping to the SFS budget and 2) give my family/friends something to look at when they ask me what I want for such-and-such occasion. (You can read previous blogs to find out more about SFS ^_^)

Now, TC was having a 30% off sale which made a lot of their patterns even MORE tempting ($7 for some of the small ones, $11 for their 'regular' ones) but I refrained.  So imagine my shock, and confusion, when I saw the subject line of those e-mails. So....I open the fist one and was even more confused when I saw Leonore's name in the e-mail.  I thought she must have accidentally typed in my e-mail when she ordered her charts. Not sure WHY she would have accidentally typed in my e-mail but hey....stranger things have happened.

For those of you who don't know her, Lenore is a beautifully, wonderful, amazing friend I made online through dA who is also a cross-stitcher. Her blog is: http://needlepensword.blogspot.com/ go look at her current WIP (work-in-progress for you non-stitchers out there) and oohhh and aahhh over it and her other lovely finishes.

Anywho, I go on to read e-mail and scroll through all the 'your charts will be delivered *blah blah*' stuff to see MY name also listed.  At the end is a little message that says 'RAK from Leonore [last name]. Enjoy :)'

Again, for those non-stitchers 'RAK' stands for 'Random Acts of Kindness' which is used for when someone purchases a pattern for someone else (usually off of a wish-list) and gifts it to that person. TC has the option of letting the person know or keeping your identity a mystery.


The 2nd e-mail read similar.  The 3rd e-mail had 2 beautiful charts in the attachments. Normally I would download them from the site but they were having issues with it not connecting on my account so Shelly, on of the love ladies at TC, e-mailed them directly to me!

Now Leonore and I had been talking about the 2 charts she gifted me because she had just ordered them herself and we were talking about TC, the sale, the charts, and our SFS budgets and how we 'really didn't need them but....' I managed to resist as I already have a full 'to do' list for this month/year and I like to try to keep to my budget so I told her I added them to my wish-list and will get them....eventually.

The lovely lady apparently decided I needed to join her in her madness to stitch these patterns and took it upon herself to RAK me.  Although apparently it's also revenge of feeding her addiction to Thomas Kinkade Disney kits. I have no remorse Leonore! None!! Those kits are amazing and I love them as much as you do so there. : P I swear I'm 5 28!

Honestly, I can not begin to tell you how much I loved getting these patterns.  To quote Mal from Serenity "...there could [have been] tears". And yes Firefly/Serenity fans....I typed that and in my mind I heard Mal's voice. Oh Mal....how I miss you and the rest of the crew. Seriously though, there were a few tears shed because I was just so overwhelmed. It was like a mini Christmas getting those patterns and I loved it.

So what are these 2 new wonderful patterns you ask?

1) Master http://www.tiltoncrafts.com/servlet/the-188/Cross-Stitch-Chart-Pattern/Detail
Master

Dark Force

2) Dark Force http://www.tiltoncrafts.com/servlet/the-187/Cross-Stitch-Chart-Pattern/Detail


Both are done by Tsuneo Sanda (sandaworld.com) who has done some AMAZING Star Wars art! I wish more of his art were done as cross-stitch patterns as I would have a wall full of them as fast as I could stitch & frame them. Might have to settle for purchasing a print of something....eventually....maybe.


Now, you might be thinking to yourself, 'Krystal....what are you going to do with those?' Well! If you know my husband at all hi hunny! you know he's a HUGE SW fan. Since I can't exactly work on these without him knowing about it (I stitch in the living room people, he sees my current projects, since I leave everything out and reads my blog) I showed him the patterns.

I plan on stitching these two and getting them put in matching frames to hang up in the game room.  I thought of having them put in the same frame with a double mat but the colors are so different I don't think that would work and having them framed separate would make it easier to move them around if needed. We will see how I feel when I actually get them complete.

These are going to take a while (both are 300 x 450 stitches and have a 30 page pattern) and I'm not going to get to them anytime soon. I still have Emma's stocking to finish and I really really really want to start Romeo & Juliet before the year is over so....these patterns are added to my 'to-do' list.  Probably when I finish R&J.

On a completely different note - if any of my non-stitching friends ever see a pattern or cross-stitching kit that they simply fell in love with and would love to have, or if you happen to see any of my completed projects and really really want it, I will make you a deal.

YOU buy the pattern, fabric and any floss that I don't already have in stock (if I already made the project I have the pattern), pay for your own frame job if you want it in a fancy, professional, frame, and *I* will stitch it for you. Otherwise the completed project gets put in a frame of my choosing.

Now how is this a deal when you're the one buying all the stuff? Because it takes time to make said projects.  Lots of time as my family can attest to and I've seen people charge $1 a stitch! That adds up quickly plus they charge for the materials to make it. Now, that being said you can also learn how to do it yourself and I will gladly teach you, or point you to some wonderful YouTube videos if you would rather do that. But the offer is there if anyone would like to take advantage of it.

Till next time everyone! Happy cooking and stitching! :)

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Sept IHSW, SFS + WIPocalypse

Okay so I really need to get better at blogging on time.

So - for WIPocalypse the question is: "Who is your favorite person to stitch for, or do you prefer to keep your stitching yourself?" I don't really have a favorite person to stitch for, I stitch a lot of gifts though, mostly for family. I do have a few projects that I'm going to make for myself though - Teresa's R&J and my Orchid/Butterfly ones I'm going to keep. There area few others that I might keep as well. Overall though most of the items I stitch I end up stitching with other people in mind.

Progress as of Sunday
IHSW:

It was a lot of fun. Finally got to hang with all my wonderful ladies at one time.  I made some progress on my stocking for Miss Emma (about 173 stitches on Sat and 174 on Sunday). I would have done more on Sat, but I got off to go play SWTOR with my hubby which was fun too. 


9/26 Progress
SFS:

Well I went home to Kingwood for a weekend visit and to pick up my car a couple of weeks ago.  One of these days my Mom and I went to JoAnn's because she wanted to look for some colored felt for a project.  I went looking at cross-stitching supplies.  I picked up 30 different DMC colors ($9.90) that I didn't have already in my stash, a pack of plastic bobbins w/ a metal ring ($1.99) for the, and a wrist pincushion ($2.40) after coupons and sale items I spent about $14.29 



Found a new TV show to watch called 'Forever' that on ABC.  Seems like it's going to be an interesting show.  Also, found out that Season 9 of 'Bones' is on Netflix so I'm watching it to keep up before I start watching Season 10 which aired this week. 


Making good progress on the Reindeer - who I'm calling 'Dasher'. Dasher's blue scarf is almost done and I have the outline of his hand done.

Hopefully I can finish him up soon and move on to the rest of the presents in the middle before I work on the snowy bottom of the stocking.

Well until next time, happy stitching everyone! ^_^