Sunday, July 27, 2014

Late much? Me-Made-May Days 26 - 31

I know, I know, I know, I know.

It's July (late July).

But what kind of person would I be if I completely left you hanging on my Me Made May pledge?

So here it goes:

I made it! I am excited and happy to report that I did, indeed, wear a me-made item for every single day of May. I had given myself two free days a week, but it turned out that I didn't need them. It seems I will have to make things a little more challenging next year.... Although, I will say that I did feel pretty stretched to my limits in wearing an item every day of May, and if I hadn't been able to wear repeats, then I would have been done for. Considering this, there are several things that I learned through my MMM experience--

1) I like to make tops. It's official, even as easy as skirts are to turn out, apparently I gravitate towards sewing tops. Dresses are incredibly versatile, too, but still I make tops. Why this is, I don't know. I tend to live in jeans because of the nature of my job, but that's no reason not to make a few staple bottoms for myself, whether they be skirts or shorts or slacks. I mean, I honestly made the maternity skirt that I wore to my conference in an hour, tops. How hard could it be to turn out a couple more wardrobe staples? This is now on my to-do list (and you will all be happy to know that I just finished my first pair of leggings, and was amazed at how easy they were... I know, how hard can stretchy, one size fits most pants be to make? Still, I was afraid....).

2) I find much more enjoyment in sewing up new garments than altering purchased garments. I fully anticipated modifying some of my current clothes to fit my ever-growing belly, but I still have as yet to actually modify and RTW article of clothing for this purpose. I just like making things new. I'm not sure if I have a fear of "ruining" something that is already functional, or if it just the thrill of taking a rectangle of fabric and turning it into a wearable garment, but whatever it is, my altering work is nearly non-existent. In fact, I think I may only have done this type of work for Casey. And only after he's asked me about 20 times.

3) I have a functional me-made wardrobe. This is really exciting and a little surprising to me. I started out sewing just a little over a year before the start of my MMM pledge, and I am a little shocked and proud of myself for being able to pull this off. I know that my sewing skills and techniques still need a lot of work (notice no detail shots?), but a lot of that boils down to giving myself the time, and learning to have the patience, to work on those technical aspects of garment construction. I know that I take a lot more time and care when I sew things for others (i.e. baby shower gifts, things for Casey, etc.), and when I do, the difference is noticeable. If I take the proper amount of time in sewing whenever I sew, I feel I can produce quality garments.

All that being said, here is the wrap-up for the final days of Me-Made-May 2014:

Day 26:
For day 26, I once again went to one of my dolman shirts made using Cation Designs' pattern. I love this pattern!

Day 27:
What's that? A new shirt? Why yes! For this shirt, I used the McCall's pattern M6519, view B. I graded from a size 6 on top to size 10 on the bottom. As it turns out, I probably should have gone a little bigger, because I intended to wear this shirt for at least a couple months, but it only lasted maybe one month after the day I made it. Oh well, it'll be a nice shirt to pull back out post-pregnancy! The fabric has little pink polka dots on it, and I used neon pink bias taping to finish the neckline and armholes. The bright pink just makes me happy whenever I see it. I dunno why. =)

Day 28:
What's that? Something ELSE new?? That's right! Turns out, when Casey goes out of town, I get a good bit of sewing done. This sewing spree included this lovely little scarf that I made in the same way I previously made my floral chiffon scarf. I also made a henley shirt for Casey that I feel turned out really well. All in all, a very productive few days as a bachelorette. =)

Day 29:
For Day 29, I once again pulled out my shirt that I made using Simplicity pattern 2262, View D. Speaking of groovy bias tape, I actually used a bright blue (about the color of my sweater above) bias tape for finishing on this shirt. Once again, the contrast just makes me happy. I don't know why.

Day 30:
I just can't get enough of this versatile little cardigan, made using Simplicity 2262, View A. I really should make another one of these before fall comes back around!

Day 31:
Bringing May to a close, I decided to get one more use out of this recently sewn shirt (McCall's M6519, View B). The fabric is really light-weight, which was definitely a blessing while watching Casey's softball game today. I can definitely tell that summer is just around the corner!

And there you have it, folks. I'm really sorry for the delay in the post, and here's to hoping that my blogging frequency will get back on track from here on out. I have some exciting things to share with you! I really enjoyed seeing and reading other bloggers' MMM wrap-up posts--it is an excellent reminder of the great sewing community we have online, and I am very grateful I was able to take part in this online community event. Do you have any comments or experiences to share regarding your MMM '14 pledge, or creating your own wardrobe? How about advice for creating a functional self-made wardrobe or inspiration for clothing alterations? I'd love to hear what you think!

Until next time!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Me Made May Days 13 - 25

As the end of the month nears, I'm excited to report that I have still been able to maintain my MMM '14 pledge! It hasn't been exactly easy, and I have had to repeat several items (I am definitely learning what my most versatile me-made items are in my wardrobe!), but I'm still going strong. I am particularly happy that I was able to wear a me-made item every day that I was away at my conference--something I didn't think I was going to be able to do. Below is a summary of my MMM days 13 - 25:

Day 13:
Here again is the shirt I made using the Simplicity 1720 pattern View C. While I love the style of this shirt, it still reminds me just a tad too much of Christmas.... Oh well, what are you going to do?

Day 14:
I threw on this easy cardigan-ish layering piece again, because it is perfect for the spring weather we've been having--just a little chilly in the morning, then gorgeous in the afternoon. This was made with the Simplicity 2262 pattern, View A.

Day 15:
Here is a shirt that you haven't seen before! That is because I had just finished it the night before. This is a shirt that I made with the intention of wearing it for much of my pregnancy. I actually have the bottom folded under here. I made the shirt extra long to try to increase it's longevity over the next few months. I figure that after having baby, I can always shorten the hem too. Luckily this Jersey fabric is super stretchy, so this shirt should still have functionality after my maternity days are finished (unluckily, this fabric is super stretchy, and I had a heck of a time not having lettuce-y rippled edges on all my hems. I finally finished them with an overlock stretch stitch. This shirt would have been finished a week sooner if it wasn't for this issue). The shirt was made wit the McCall's M6513 pattern, view A. I figured the ruching would help with my expanding belly bump, and that the V-neck wrap top style would be very convenient for breastfeeding after our baby girl gets here. Bonus!

Day 16:
As I already mentioned before, I really love the Dolman shirt pattern by Cation Designs. Here it is again, ever comfortable and easy to wear. A surprise for me was to see that Cation Designs is also expecting a little one, only one day after our own due date! She is also participating in MMM '14, so it is fun to see how she is utilizing her wardrobe as well! Many congrats to her, and many thanks for the great (and free!) Dolman shirt pattern!

Day 17:
Whoa, blurry! Sorry for that, turns out it took me awhile to figure out the best way to photograph myself in my hotel room at my conference. The next ones are better, promise. The conference I attended was in San Diego and this photo was taken right after arriving after my flights. Maybe it's a good thing it's blurry, to avoid seeing all the post-plane trip wrinkles... ;) You've seen this me-made shirt before, and know it is one of my favorites. It still fits...barely. But I'm going with it, because who doesn't love that floral fabric pattern?! This shirt was made using the Simplicity 2255 pattern View E, without the ruffles or side tabs.

Day 18:
For the first full conference day, I pulled out the shirt you've seen previously that I made using McCall's 6355, View C. I'm still surprised this shirt is fitting, but that's jersey knit for you!

Day 19:
What's that? a NON shirt me-made item?! Yeah, so if MMM has taught me anything, it is that I make a lot of shirts, and little else. But why? I don't know why, because I busted this skirt out in under an hour, and it is super useful and comfortable. I made it several days before leaving for my conference, when I felt I needed another option for bottoms on the trip (I don't have any dress pants that fit anymore, and only a few elastic-banded skirts that are appropriate for work functions).

I didn't use a pattern for this skirt. Instead, I traced the tan skirt you see up in Day 17, and inserted a belly-band out of jersey knit that I have had in my stash (used to make the shirt above in Day 18). To insert this where the zipper,etc is on the original skirt, I just cut out a half-moon-ish section in the front section of the skirt to lower the front waistline. Then for the jersey, with a folded edge at the bottom, I made the opposite of the shape (half moon extra in the front) so that the Jersey band, when sewn up, would reach down in the front but the top of the skirt would all be even. This is hard to explain, but maybe you can appreciate it better with this belly bump photo:

See how the front waistline of the striped fabric goes down in the front? This is basically what I have seen with other maternity pants/skirts, and it worked really well!

Day 20:
This is the day I had two presentations at the conference, and I chose to wear my me-made shirt made using the Simplicity 2262 pattern, View D, that you have seen once before. I really love how versatile this shirt is, as it can easily be dressed up or down, and be fun and/or professional. As an added bonus, this fabric is super resistant to wrinkling. Yay!

Day 21:
For the final day of my conference, I wore the shirt I made using McCall's M6513 pattern, view A again. This is another shirt that can be easily dressed up or down, making it super versatile and me super happy. The jersey fabric is also very soft and comfortable, making it easy to travel in.

Day 22:
Did I mention that the jersey fabric of that red shirt was comfy and easy to travel in? Well, it is a good thing because it turns out that I wore that exact same outfit above for Day 22 as well as Day 21. My flight home from San Diego included a layover in Denver. Unfortunately, there were some bad storms (hail and tornadoes? In Denver? Is that normal?) that caused our group to be delayed out of San Diego for 3 hours. When we arrived in Denver, we had missed our connection and had to spend the night before catching a flight out the next day. Unfortunately, I had checked my bag, which is uncharacteristic of my traveling habits but I thought would be a good idea, being pregnant and all. That meant that I had no change of clothes for the next day, so spent the day traveling in my same outfit from the day before. Needless to say, by the time I got home the next afternoon, I went straight for my PJ's. I still count this as a MMM pledge success, because I did wear a me-made item for my entire day traveling (albeit the same item as the day before...). That's fair, right?.... ;)

Day 23:
Ahh, clean clothes! For this day, I wore the skirt that I made and blogged about here. I didn't use a pattern for this skirt, but luckily I did use an elastic waistband, so it still fits well. =) I don't generally wear skirts to work, but I imagine that is going to be changing in the next few months!

Day 24:
I just can't get enough of this floral chiffon scarf. I love it! You've seen this a few times now in my MMM pictures, and I blogged about it here. I have plans to make more of these because I seem to always be reaching for this one, especially in this lovely spring weather.

Day 25:
This dress is actually the very first garment that I ever sewed. I made it using the Butterick 3862 pattern, View B, without the side slits. I was super proud of this item, despite it being way too big for me. Turns out, I must have just subconsciously known that in a mere year or so I would need a cute maternity dress to wear! I'm now glad I didn't take this apart for scraps, which had been my plan for some time!

Well, there is my MMM Days 13-25 roundup. So far, so good! I'm really happy with how well I have been able to stick to my pledge, and even exceed it by not using my two weekly "freebie" days. This month has gone by so quickly--I can't believe it will be June in less than one week! Don't worry, I'm planning on finishing out the month strong!

If you are participating in the Me Made May challenge this year, how are you coming along with your pledge? I hope you are having as much fun as I am learning about your own-sewn wardrobe! Let me know how it's going--I'd love to hear from you!

Until next time!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Me Made May Days 1 - 12

Finally! A post! I know, I know, I'm not exactly sticking to the ~one post a week for my Me Made May pledge, but here is a round-up for the first third of the month. One thing that I am really happy about is that I have been able to wear one handmade item for each of the first 12 days, even though my pledge was only for a minimum of 5 days per week. Although, I will be going on my conference in the coming week, so this may very well change... We shall see. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Thursday, May 1, 2014
Starting off the month, I wore this button up that I made using the Simplicity 2255 pattern, View E without the ruffle or side tabs. I really love this shirt, it is possibly my favorite me-made item, and I think it is one of my best constructions (maybe that's because it has no sleeves--oh how I dislike easing in sleeves....). The fabric is a quilting cotton. I can't help myself, I just love the print! I don't imagine this shirt will be in rotation for much longer, so I will be trying to get as much use out of it while it can still fit around my growing bump!

Friday, May 2, 2014
This is arguably the brightest, busiest fabric pattern I am comfortable wearing on a regular basis. I'm not entirely convinced this pattern is actually flattering on me, but every time I wear this shirt, I just feel like springtime! I bought this knit from Girl Charlee and I love the feel and sturdiness of the fabric. I am also a really big fan of this pattern, which is the Dolman Shirt by Cation Designs. This is one of two shirts I've made using this pattern and I see many more in my future!

Saturday, May 3, 2014
This is a shirt I made using the Simplicity 1720 pattern, View C. The fabric is a knit that I found in the remnant section. It is pretty thin, but sturdy enough to sew up pretty easily--not too much stretch. I loved the pattern of the fabric when I first found it. Although, ever since sewing this shirt (which I barely squeezed out of what I remember being a scant ~2/3 yd or so of fabric on the remnant), the colors really remind me of Christmas. Oh well, whatchya going to do?

Sunday, May 4, 2014
Taking advantage of what I imagine will be one of the last cool days of the season, I decided to wear my crocheted infinite scarf/cowl (blogged about here) today for my MMM item. It provided the perfect amount of warmth for walking around the Farmer's Market in the morning. I'm so excited it is finally that time of year for the Farmer's Market to be up and running--this was the first week of the season!

Monday, May 5, 2014
This is actually the first "pregnancy" clothing item I have made thus far. I used the Simplicity 2262 pattern, View D, and modified it by adding a waistband at the bottom--just trying to give myself a little bit of a waistline, ya know? This way, this shirt may work okay as a normal post-pregnancy shirt too. We shall see. I really like the overall look of this shirt, and am particularly happy that it is professional enough with a jacket that I can wear this at my conference I will be attending later in the month. This pattern is actually written to be made with woven fabrics, but I felt like the more knit I can put in my pregnancy wardrobe, the better off I will be, so I just went with it. This is a pretty stable knit without too much stretch, so it worked out pretty well. I may try making this shirt again though, but using a woven fabric and maybe nixing the waistband. I can always add one later when I no longer need the extra width =) .

Tuesday, May 6, 2014
Nothing says comfy like a nice slouchy cardigan. I made this piece using the Simplicity 2262 pattern again, View A this time, using yet another knit remnant I found at Hancock Fabrics. I was a little lazy with the finishing details of this garment, particularly with the inner seams and not hiding them even though they show because of the design of the piece. That can always be fixed later though, right? Right.....

Wednesday, May 7 2014
Now here is a shirt I absolutely did not think would be making it into the rotation this May. But alas, let's make it work, shall we? This is actually the first shirt I ever made (please do not scrutinize the details too closely....). It is made with a jersey knit, which I guess is why I can still manage to pull it off, albeit with a long tank underneath. The pattern is McCall's 6355, View C. Despite some construction flaws, this shirt has served me very well in the past year or so. Usually I will wear it when I need to look professional for a talk or lecture, but it doesn't look too bad with a pair of jeans either. I wonder if I will still be able to get by wearing this shirt at my conference later this month..... Fingers crossed!

Thursday, May 8, 2014
Here is another of Cation Designs' Dolman pattern shirts. I love this pattern! It comes together so easily, and I love both of the shirts that I have made with the pattern. I wear them both fairly often, pregnant or not, but they are proving particularly useful in pregnancy. I will probably have to  sew up a couple more of these in the next few months! This fabric is another remnant knit fabric I found. It is pretty stretchy, so this dolman is much looser and more forgiving than my other dolman, so it may be in rotation longer this summer. Although, I imagine it is going to be pretty hot in another month or two.

Friday, May 9, 2014
My MMM item for the day was the floral chiffon scarf that I've blogged about here. This was a really big day for Casey and I--we had our 20 week ultrasound! Our little one is healthy and on track for our September 22nd due date. And, we also learned we are having a little girl!! =) We are super excited, and it felt so good to see her moving around in there, grabbing her little toes, then covering her face with her cute little fists. It seems we may have a shy one on our hands =). We can't wait to meet this beautiful, long-legged little lady face to face in just a few months from now!

Saturday, May 10, 2014
You are now going to begin seeing MMM item repeats. =) I once again brought out this button-up shirt made with Simplicity 2255 pattern. It's still fitting, so by golly, I'm still wearing it! It was comfy and kept me relatively cool while watching Casey play softball in the 80 degree weather. Also, since I keep mentioning this growing bump of mine, I thought I'd give you an idea of what I'm talking about. =)

Sunday, May 11, 2014
It is all too easy to take an outfit from meh to collected with just the addition of a scarf--especially when scarves are so easy to make! I pulled out the floral chiffon scarf once again for church and meeting Casey's mom for a Mother's Day brunch this Sunday. It definitely gave my outfit the necessary elevation to be appropriately put-together for the day's outings.

Monday, May 12, 2014
Today I came back around to my floral Dolman sleeve shirt that I made using Cation Designs' pattern. I felt like the overcast, drizzly day needed something bright to lighten up the mood of the day, and this fabric is clearly just the ticket!

Well, that about catches us up! So far my Me Made May pledge has been challenging, but definitely do-able. Hopefully I'll be able to hang in there fore the rest of the month!

Are you participating in Me Made May? If so, how is your challenge going? I'd love to hear from you!

Until next time!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Me Made May '14 and other news


That's right, folks. It is time for Me-Made-May '14. A year ago when I first saw blogs from participants in MMM'13, I was astonished and inspired. A whole month of wearing things that you yourself had handmade? Just the prospect of such a task seemed daunting and undoable. I was still in my garment sewing infancy, and couldn't imagine trying to tackle such a feat myself.

Yet, here I am. And that's not all.

I've known since late last fall that I wanted to participate in MMM'14. I felt I was on track to have the necessary number of handmade garments to actually incorporate at least one piece for each day in May. I was excited. Even a little proud, if I do say so myself.

Then, in January, something happened. Not just any something, but something that will surely change my life inexplicably and miraculously for the rest of my life.

Casey and I learned we are expecting. =)

And we couldn't be more happy, more thrilled, (okay, more terrified), and more blessed than to have this beautiful baby that we have yet to meet grace us with their presence in this world.

But with all this excitement and happy news, it did leave me to question where I stood on my personal aspirations for Me-Made-May 2014. I have to admit it wasn't exactly on the TOP of my list of things I was spending my time thinking about, but still....

For a couple months (namely, the months that I spent curled in a ball on the couch or struggling often unsuccessfully to hold down my cheerios... oh, fun times), I really doubted I would participate. To be honest, with the exception of a gift I sewed for Casey for Valentine's Day (a bike frame bag--details to come in a future post, I promise!), I didn't sew anything from January through the end of March. Not. A. Thing. And even for me, that's pretty bad. I felt a little down on myself for my lack of motivation, but couldn't find a way to pull myself out of my rut (and nausea, and exhaustion) enough to get back to the sewing machine.

But, then, as the winter months began to wane, and the first glimpses of spring peaked through the cold, I started feeling better. Yay, second trimester! And with my re-found energy and renewed health, I began to reconsider my personal pledge to MMM'14. I mean, I WOULD need to start making some clothes that were more maternity friendly (After all, I did make one of my New Year's Resolutions this year to not make any off-the-rack garment purchases, with undergarments excepted; I know, great timing). What better way to motivate me to do so than to continue with my aspirations to join in for MMM'14? 

So here I am, getting back on the horse and back on the sewing wagon. I originally had intended to make a pledge to wear a handmade garment for every day in May. However, because some of my handmade garments simply aren't fitting over my 19-week bump right now (not to mention how things will be fitting at the end of the month...), I want to be realistic with my goal. I think that a lot of my sewing in the next few months, May aside, should be focused on refashioning items that I already have or can thrift inexpensively as opposed to making an entirely new handmade wardrobe. Therefore, for my MMM'14 pledge, refashioned items will count towards my goal. As a final curve ball affecting my MMM'14 pledge, I have a 5-day research conference I will be attending in May. Considering my sewing has been largely casual wear, and the business-professional clothes that I have sewn are for the most part no longer fitting, I have to be realistic about what I can wear that will be appropriate for the meeting. And a handmade chiffon scarf (which is totally counting as a handmade item, by the way. Don't judge... ;) ), lovely as it is, can only go so far on a 5-day business trip. Thus, to avoid the frantic sewing frenzy that would accompany making a pledge encompassing EVERY day in May (as panic-sewing is not condoned in MMM, after all), I will be giving myself an out for certain days when it is simply not realistic for me to wear a me-made item (or for those days when I never quite get out of my PJs...ya know what I'm saying, right?)

So, with these considerations in mind, here (finally!) is my Me-Made-May '14 pledge:

I, Tara of Gries in Progress, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May '14. I endeavour to wear at least one me-made or refashioned item for a minimum of five days a week for the duration of May 2014.

Well, there it is. Wish me luck! To help give myself incentive to uphold my pledge, I also plan on photographing what I wear each day as proof of my commitment to the challenge. I will be posting these photos probably on a weekly basis to this blog. 

And by all means, any suggestions, tutorials, or tidbits of knowledge on fashioning a maternity wardrobe are much much MUCH appreciated, so please let me know what you think. I'd love to hear from you! =)

Until next time!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Chocolate Chocolate Muffins

Yeah.... let's call them muffins.


Really though, you can call them whatever you want, but what you've got here  is a decadent, delicious, chocoholics dream of a treat.

Casey was craving a little something sweet a couple nights ago and, after some deliberation, he felt that chocolate muffins would be just to thing. Not having a chocolate muffin recipe of my own, I turned to Google for inspiration. What I found was this recipe, which I basically followed directly, except using soy milk instead of whole milk since that is what I had on hand.

Be forewarned, these are not exactly what I would consider a breakfast muffin. For a breakfast muffin, I would refer you back to the heartier, healthier sweet potato and avocado granola muffins here. But heck, if you want to eat these for breakfast, go right ahead. I mean, they ARE muffins, right?... ;)

Chocolate Chocolate Muffins

2 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
3/4 cup sugar
1 T baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cup milk (I used soy, and the muffins taste great)
2 T melted butter
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, plus ~1/3 cup more for sprinkling on top

Preheat your oven to 350 F, and grease and flour a muffin pan, or use muffin/cupcake liners like I did. Next, mix together your dry ingredients (first 5 ingredients above). In a separate bowl, mix together your wet ingredients (next 5 ingredients, mixing together in order they appear above, i.e. mix milk and butter, then add veggie oil, etc.).

Now, all at once, add your wet ingredients to your dry ingredients. Fold/mix them together JUST until incorporated. There will be a few lumps. That is okay. The recipe I linked to above suggested mixing for 10 seconds. I honestly did more like 20 seconds, adding in my 1 cup of chocolate chips at about 15 seconds, but folding just until I had everything incorporated and no more. If the batter is over-mixed, your muffins will turn out dense and rubbery/chewy. No bueno.

Spoon your batter into your muffin pan, and sprinkle the remaining 1/3 cup chocolate chips evenly over the tops of the muffins. Bake 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick stuck into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Because I made 12 generously sized muffins instead of 18 ~normal-sized muffins, I baked my muffins for about 25 minutes. Take your muffins out of the oven and let them cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool another 5-10 minutes (or until you can't take it any longer and MUST have a muffin!)

And what can I tell you. The results are amazing. As I said before, I used my normal-sized muffin pan and made 12 very generously sized muffins. I could easily have made 18 muffins, but I didn't feel like dirtying another pan (anyone else HATE doing dishes?). For me, one of these muffins, with their sweetness and richness, is more than enough. You could even split one of these with a friend and still be satisfied (ok, I could split one; don't ask my husband to do that though... those be fightin' words!).

So, let me know what you think! Any other chocolate fans out there that want to check these out? How about other chocolate chocolate muffin recipes that I should give a try? I would love to hear from you!

Until next time!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Spinach Fettuccine Carbonara

Let me tell you, folks. This Christmas, my husband brought his A game.

With these.

Kitchenaid pasta maker attachments for my Kitchenaid stand mixer!!

I know, right? I'm not sure it gets any better.

You can imagine my excitement! Think of it, delicious, homemade pasta any day of the week, any add-ins I want, oh the possibilities! You don't know how excited I get when I spy a spinach penne from Barilla! Now, all of these possibilities, at my finger tips! Homemade!

I really hope I'm not the only one who gets excited over these sorts of things. Anyone? Maybe?

Ahh, who am I kidding. I know you're out there, kindred spirits! And because you are, I know you will love this recipe that I whipped up using my very first batch of homemade fettuccine.


~12 oz spinach fettuccine pasta (or pasta of your choice!)
1 Finely diced medium onion
1 cup baby portobello mushrooms, sliced
3 T bacon bits (or real bacon or pancetta, if you prefer)
2 tsp minced garlic
2 eggs
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
black pepper and salt, to taste

Boil your pasta until it is al dente. Meanwhile, heat ~2T oil in a pan and toss in your onion, bacon bits, and garlic. allow these to fry for ~2 minutes then toss in your mushrooms. Allow everything to fry for another 2-3 minutes until your onions are clear and glossy with brown edges and everything is lovely and fragrant. When your pasta is done, drain it, reserving some of the pasta water. Add your pasta to the onion mixture, coating it in the oil and flavors. Then, mix together your eggs and parmesan cheese with a whisk. Turn the heat off of the saute pan and while everything is still hot, pour your egg/cheese mixture over the pasta. Quickly mix everything together, making sure that the eggs do not scramble, and season to taste with black pepper and salt. Use the leftover pasta water to thin the sauce slightly. Top with another few sprinkles of parmesan cheese, and you are good to go!

Let me tell you, this recipe really is a pleaser. We love it in our house! And the homemade pasta really kicks it up a notch. I was curious how much of a difference it would be to have homemade pasta versus the typical store-bought dried pasta, and all I can tell you is WOW. I am a convert. The texture is so silky, and the flavors are so much more bright than any store-bought pasta I have ever had. For anyone who has not made their own pasta or ventured to a restaurant that makes their own, I would highly encourage you to do so, pronto. =)

I know bacon bits are not what you typically see in carbonara, but when you don't keep much meat in your house, they make for a nice alternative for the salty, smoky flavor the pancetta typically imparts in this dish. As a note, I have made carbonara without the bacon flavors at all, and it still is delicious. However, it is worth noting that the bacon bits I used don't actually contain any meat (nor do many bacon bits--take a look at those labels to check which ones are real vs. fake!), so this is a good option for a Meatless Monday meal, or anyone who doesn't eat meat or is looking to cut back.

Let me know what you think! Anyone else have tips or tricks to amp up carbonara or give it a new twist? How about any groovy homemade pasta recipes to explore? I'd love to hear from you!

Until next time!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Balsamic and Bleu Baby PortoBello Sliders

Say that title five times fast! I have to admit, I couldn't help but go back and capitalize the "B" in portobello after repeating this post title in my head. What can I say? I love alliterations. I love puns too, just in case you were wondering. You were wondering, right?

Okay, okay. You know what else I love? These sliders.

I recently got to indulge myself in watching part of an episode of The Chew. Usually this is not possible since I have to go to work and all (and the Chew is on at noon on weekdays), but the time off work over the holidays allowed me this exciting opportunity (please bear with me and my dorky obsession over food-related television)! I feel the stars were aligning on this particular day because not only did Michael Symon make a Portobello Blue Cheese Sandwich, but what did I find in my fridge during the commercial break directly following the segment? Baby portobello mushrooms! Bleu cheese! Onions! Add that to the half of a baguette on my kitchen counter and some balsamic vinegar, and you get these amazingly delicious (and wonderfully-alliterative) balsamic and bleu baby portobello sliders!

For 10 sliders:
6-8 baby portobello mushrooms, sliced
1/2 onion, thickly sliced (I cut mine in rings, then halved the rings)
~ 2T Balsamic vinegar (or as needed to coat mushrooms and onions)
~ 2T Oil + oil to lightly coat pan
1/2 of a French baguette, sliced into 20 pieces
Bleu cheese, to top
Arugula, red or green leaf lettuce, or other leafy green

Butter one side of each of your baguette slices. On 10 of the slices, sprinkle with bleu cheese (on buttered side), then toast all of your baguette slices. Coat your mushrooms with ~1 T balsamic vinegar and ~1 T oil, and do the same with your onions. Heat a pan over medium heat with oil, and toss in your mushrooms on one side and onions on the other. Allow them sizzle in the pan for about 1 minutes, then put on a lid and allow them to soften for about 2 minutes. Uncover, flip the mushrooms/onions over (you are looking for a bit of caramelization action to be happening) and allow to cook another 1-2 minutes. You are now ready to assemble your sliders! add several slices of mushrooms to 10 of the baguette slices, top with your onions, and add a few leafy greens. I had some extra balsamic/oil in my pan that I drizzled over the sandwich sliders, then topped with the remaining 10 baguette slices.

And there you go. DELICIOUS. Even my wonderful husband who is not a huge mushroom fan (although he's coming around!) really enjoyed these. I particularly enjoyed the balsamic with the meatiness of the portabello mushrooms. Top that with full-flavored smoky bleu cheese, and I was in slider heaven! It is hard to make a satisfying vegetarian sandwich, at least in my experience, but these sliders left nothing wanting.... Except maybe one or two more! ;)

So what do you say? Any other ideas for flavorful, satisfying vegetarian sandwiches? Any ideas for how to mix these sliders up and try new flavor combos? What about grilled portabello mushroom caprese sliders? Mushroom sliders with roasted pepper and curried chickpea puree? Now I'm just making myself hungry. Let me know what you think--I'd love to hear from you!

Until next time!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Egg and Asparagus Bake for Brunch

Ahhh, Christmas time. I love the holidays, I truly do. This year though, things are sweeping by faster than ever. I just realized yesterday that we are less than two weeks out. Yikes!

So, what does this post have to do with Christmas?


I told you, I'm behind the times.

Even if it's not Christmas-y though, I know you are going to enjoy this. Nothing says festive like brunch (right?), and this is a truly delicious and supremely easy recipe. I actually saw a version of this made on Food for Though with Claire Thomas this past summer. Yes, I am a big Saturday morning tv fan. It is one of the few times of day that our local channels feature cooking shows! I don't necessarily miss having cable tv, but boy do I ever miss the Food Network...

Alas, I ramble on. The thing that I like most about this recipe is that you basically only need to use one dish per person, because the dish you mix and bake in is the dish they end up eating out of, too. Awesome.

Ingredients (per person):
Two eggs
1.5 Tablespoons cream (or milk, or half-n-half)
2 stalks asparagus, chopped
Pepper or lemon-pepper seasoning
Oregano (opt)
Parmesan cheese for topping (opt)

To make the dish, whisk your eggs until fluffy in an oven-safe ramekin or small soup bowl, then whisk in your cream or milk and add your seasonings to taste. Chop your asparagus into ~ 1 inch strips and add to the eggs. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Bake in the oven (or toaster oven, like me) at 350 F for 10-15 minutes until the eggs are fluffy and lightly browned on top.

That's it! Let stand for a couple of minutes to cool, then enjoy! This is a delicious base recipe that you can flavor to your choosing. Imagine this egg bake with feta cheese, spinach, and sun-dried tomatoes, or with chopped onion, green pepper, and potatoes. You can really do what you want. I know it can be a challenge to find asparagus this time of year; this asparagus was actually from a bunch that I chopped and froze some time ago, and it worked great. Also, if you don't have the voracious appetite that I have in the morning, you can also make this recipe with one egg per person. Just reduce the cream by half, and you can keep the asparagus the same or reduce by half as well.

I hope this gives you a reason to enjoy a delicious (if slightly summer-y) brunch this holiday season, without the dread of doing all of those dishes! Any of you have other easy, delicious brunch recipes? Let me know--I'd love to hear from you!

Until next time!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Make your own chiffon scarf!

Scarves, scarves, they are everywhere! And I must admit that, these days, I feel a little lost without one bundled snuggly around my neck. It all started when I found a beautiful vintage chiffon scarf at an outdoor flea market on our last day in Kaikoura while on our honeymoon in New Zealand. When I saw the scarf blowing lightly in the cool breeze of the morning, I grabbed that lovely piece of fabric up, paid the lady her price ($1? $2? I can't remember--only that it was worth it!), and wrapped that scarf around my neck. Ever since then, I have been captivated by scarves of all colors, patterns, and fabrics.

I know I'm not the only one. In fact, I think I arrived rather late on this trend. One thing I will say though--despite my love of scarves, I am unwilling to pay the department store prices for them. The scarves I have are all thrifted, gifted, or handmade (i.e. crocheted, as shown here).

Really, few things are simpler than making a scarf. It is a rectangle that, if needed, is hemmed on all four sides. This is the case for the beautiful floral chiffon scarf I am showing you here today. I found this fabric in the remnants pile at Joann's Fabrics and quickly scooped that baby up. This wasn't the only awesome fabric find that day, but more on that later...

I had 1/2 yd cut from the fabric for use in making the scarf. Although, you really only need 1/4 - 3/8 yd I would say. Also, I think it is worth noting that when I was having this fabric cut, an older woman (70's or so? I'm horrible with ages) behind me in line was quick to swoop in and pick up the remaining amount of the remnant left. She wanted to do so with another floral fabric I had as well, but I ended up taking all the remaining yardage. Muahaha.... Regardless, this provided concrete evidence for something I have supposed for some time: I have the fabric tastes of an older woman.... Classic, I say!

Regardless, on to making the scarf. It really is just as simple as hemming all four edges. For this delicate chiffon fabric, I starched the heck out of the edges of my fabric, then folded over and lightly pressed the fabric edges twice so that my raw edges were hidden in the hem.

Starch the fabric to make it sturdier for hemming.
Make a hem by folding over and pressing twice.
I then just sewed up all the edges with a straight stitch.

With a fabric as delicate as chiffon, you'll want to be extra careful not to lose your fabric edges under your presser foot. I was a little nervous at the start, but really the only semi-difficult sections were the corners. Starch them up, and you should be good do go. You could also do a rolled hem, which might allow you to have an even neater edge, but apparently I have zero patience when sewing, and the way I did it was just easier for me. If I had a rolled-hem foot for my sewing machine, maybe I would have been convinced.

Alas, I'm just blabbering on because I feel like I ought to be telling you something more for this to be a quasi-tutorial. BUT.... that's really pretty much it. Go enjoy your lovely new scarf! I tie the opposite ends of my scarf together to create sort of an infinite scarf, and wrap 2 or 3 times around my neck. It's that simple! Just as an FYI, If you use a knit fabric for your scarf making, things are even easier. You literally have the fabric cut to 1/4, 3/8, or 1/2 yard in store, and call it good. That stuff ain't gonna fray; You have a scarf the minute you walk out that door!

Okay, okay. I hope I've sufficiently convinced you to make your own scarves instead of buying. Now, anyone else have any tips or tricks to share regarding the wonderful world of scarves? If so, please let me know! I'd love to hear from you!

Until next time!