Life really can be a picnic!

Everyone loves a picnic! This blog is about some of the things I love the most, and the term "picnic" just about covers them all. First of all, a picnic has to include food; simple food that is easy to fix. Next, you need someplace fun or different to visit; a nice, peaceful location. And of course, you always need to take along a good book to read and a well-used quilt to spread everything out on. So, there you have it! Easy recipes, good books, fun quilts along with some interesting, down-to-earth places to visit. You can even take your family or a friend or two if you want.



Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Smell of Christmas

"I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year." ~Charles Dickens 





     I was able to finish up a new Christmas quilt with weeks to spare before Christmas.  It's a real Christmas miracle!  This quilt pattern is by Coach House Designs and is called Christmas in the Country.




     The nicest thing about this Christmas tradition is the smell.  I love the smell of gingerbread that permeates through the house.  I had fun with the kids and grandkids when we made these gingerbread houses last week.



Here are a couple of excellent recipes to make on Christmas Eve to make that family dinner together extra special and the nice part is they're easy!






Creamy Au Gratin Potatoes

                    6 potatoes, sliced or cubed                               3 T. flour

                    1 onion, chopped                                              1 tsp. salt

                    salt and pepper to taste                                     2 cups milk

                    3 T. butter                                    1 ½ cups shredded cheddar cheese

 
            Preheat oven to 400°.  Butter a casserole dish.  Layer the potatoes and onions and salt and pepper in the casserole dish.  In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat.  Mix in the flour and salt and stir constantly with a whisk for one minute.  Stir in the milk.  Cook until mixture has thickened.  Stir in the cheese and continue stirring until melted, about 30 to 60 seconds.  Pour cheese mixture over the potatoes.  Mix together and cover dish with foil.  Bake 1 ½ hours.  Let cool 10-15 minutes before serving.



 
Breaded Pork Chops
                    6-9 boneless pork chops
                    salt and pepper
                    garlic powder
                    2 Tbsp. olive oil
                    1 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
                    ½ cup parmesan cheese
                    1 Tbsp. dried parsley

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In flat dish mix bread crumbs, parmesan cheese and parsley.
Heat oil in large frying pan.  Salt and pepper each pork chop.  Sprinkle each pork chop with garlic powder.  Dip each pork chop in bread crumb mixture, pressing bread crumbs to coat chops liberally.  Brown pork chops about 5 minutes on each side in frying pan.  Place pork chops in a large baking dish and bake in preheated oven for about 25 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 145 degrees..




Spritz Cookies

3 ½ cups flour                                      1 cup sugar

1 tsp. baking powder                            1 egg

1 ½ cups butter                                    1 tsp. vanilla    

                                                                        ½ tsp. almond extract

Stir together flour and baking powder.  Beat butter for 30 seconds; add sugar and beat until fluffy.  Add egg, vanilla and almond extract.  Beat well.  Gradually add dry ingredients to beaten mixture, beating until well-combined.  Divide dough in half and mix in red food coloring in one half and green food coloring in the other half.  Add enough food coloring to get the desired color.  Push dough through a cookie press onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper.  If desired sprinkle with colored sugar or small sprinkles.  Bake in a 400 degree oven for 6-8 minutes.
 
 
 

 
     This was a good book about a woman named Eliza Spooner whose husband went off to fight in the Civil War.  She makes a quilt to send to him for Christmas. It's also the story about the women in her quilting group and how their lives are affected by war.


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Give a Little Thanks!


"The Pilgrims made seven times more graves than huts. No Americans have been more impoverished than these who, nevertheless, set aside a day of thanksgiving." ~H.U. Westermayer


     The Tooele Quilt Guild displayed some of it's member's quilts at the Nuttal's Bernina shop in South Jordan.  Customers were allowed to come and view the quilts and vote on their favorite.  Here are a few that I liked.
















     The Thanksgiving Holiday is well on it's way.  Here is a recipe that will help use up that leftover turkey (use turkey in place of chicken).  Your family will love it!



Chicken Broccoli Stuffing Casserole

1 package chicken stuffing mix
2-3 cups cooked chicken
2 cups steamed broccoli florets
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 (10 ¾ oz.)can cheddar or cream of chicken soup


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare stuffing mix according to package directions, using 1 ¼ cups water.
In a large bowl, combine chicken, broccoli and soup.  Transfer to a greased 11x7” baking dish.  Sprinkle with shredded cheddar cheese and top with prepared stuffing.  Bake, covered, for 20 minutes.  Uncover and bake for 10-15 additional minutes.  Makes 6 servings.




    
        This cookie recipe works well for either Thanksgiving or Christmas.  It's quick and easy.



Jam Thumbprint Cookies

1 cup butter                                                    2 ½ cups flour
2/3 cup sugar                                                  ½ cup jam
1 egg
½ tsp. almond extract

     Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter and sugar together in medium bowl until smooth.  Mix in egg and almond extract.  Mix in flour until dough is formed.  Roll dough into 1 inch balls and place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Make a small dent in the center of each ball using your thumb or a small round measuring spoon.  Fill each hole with your favorite jam ( about ½ tsp.).  Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until very lightly browned.  Let cool for 1 minute on cookie sheet.  Makes about 3 dozen. 

(You can also roll each ball in finely chopped nuts for a crunchy variation.  Or you can make a glaze to drizzle over the cookies  after baking by mixing together ½ cup powdered sugar, ¾ tsp. almond extract and 1 tsp. milk.

 



     I enjoyed reading this book by Mitch Albom.  We should all have a little more faith no matter what religion we are.  We should also have a lot more tolerance and understanding of all religions.




Sunday, November 9, 2014

November Notes

"Blessed are those who can give without remembering and take without forgetting."~Elizabeth Bibesco






     This is the barn block of the month quilt that I have worked on this past year through the Quilt, Etc. quilt shop in Sandy, Utah.  We got to work on a regular block each month and as a bonus we got to work on a barn block.  Then at the end of 12 months we got to put the blocks together and design our own quilt.  I am happy with how my quilt turned out.


 
     This is a fast, easy dish that can be made in 25 minutes.  This recipe is adapted from a recipe from budgetbytes.com.

Creamy Tomato and Spinach Pasta

1 Tbsp. olive oil                                               ½ tsp. salt
1 small onion, diced                                        1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced                                   2 oz. cream cheese
1 (15 oz. ) can diced or crushed tomatoes     ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
½ tsp. dried oregano                                       ½ lb. penne pasta or pasta of choice
½ tsp. dried basil                                            2 cups coarsely chopped fresh spinach
Pepper to taste

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling water according to pack directions until tender.  Drain in colander.
Meanwhile cook onion and garlic in large skillet in olive oil until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the tomatoes, oregano, basil, salt and pepper.  Stir in the tomato sauce.  Cut the cream cheese in small pieces and whisk into the tomato mixture until cheese is melted.  Whisk in parmesan cheese gradually until melted.  Add the fresh spinach and gently stir into the sauce until it has wilted, 3-5 minutes.  Add the pasta and stir until well-coated with the creamy tomato sauce.  Serve warm.  Makes 4 servings.



 
Breadsticks

1 1/8 cup water                                               1 Tbsp. yeast
3 cups flour                                                     3 Tbsp. melted butter
1 Tbsp. sugar                                                  seasoning salt
2 Tbsp. powdered milk                                    garlic powder
1 tsp. salt                                                        parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp. butter                                                  grated cheese


Add first seven ingredients in a bread machine.  Select dough setting.  When dough is ready roll out on an 11x15” baking pan that has been coated with cooking spray.  Using a pizza cutter, cut dough in 1 inch strips.  Brush with melted butter.  Sprinkle with seasoning salt and garlic powder.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and grated cheese.  Let rise about 30 minutes.  Bake in 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes.
 
 

     I loved reading this book by Gloria Whelan.  Homeless Bird is about a girl in India who is married and widowed at a young age.  Because she learns to read and becomes proficient at the skill of embroidering she is able to overcome many hardships and find happiness in her life.
 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Pumpkin Party


"A grandmother pretends she doesn't know who you are on Halloween." ~Erma Bombeck


"There is a child in every one of us who is still a trick-or-treater looking for a brightly-lit front porch." ~Robert Brault


     I was able to finish my Spooky Quilt just in time for the Halloween season.  This pattern is in a book called So Many Choices by Abbey Lane Quilts.  It was the first time I have ever made a stack and wack quilt.  I thought the whole process was really fun.  I used Halloween fat quarters that I purchased last year during shop hop when they were all on sale.


 
 
 
     We took the grandkids to the Pumpkin Walk at the Benson Grist Mill in Stansbury Park last Saturday.  There were pumpkins for sale, a maze made out of bales of hay, snow cones, corn dogs, booths with merchandise, live music, trick or treating, pony rides and lots of fun.

 
























     

     Here are a couple of very yummy recipes perfect for a nice Fall/Halloween dinner.



                                             I love this soup!  It's chock full of vegetables.


Minestrone Soup

  6 slices bacon                                                          1(15 oz.) can green beans, drained
  3 cloves garlic, minced                                          2 cups baby spinach, coarsely chopped
  1 large onion, chopped                                         1 medium to large zucchini, cubed
  2 cups celery, chopped                                         1 tsp. dry oregano
  5 carrots, sliced                                                      2 tsp. dry basil
  4 cups chicken broth                                             1 cup shell pasta
  1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce                                   salt and pepper to taste
  1 (15 oz.) can red kidney beans, drained           parmesan cheese

In a large stock pot, cook bacon until crisp.  Remove to a plate to drain.  Cook onion and garlic in bacon grease for 4-5 minutes.  Add carrots and celery and cook for 2 more minutes.  Add chicken broth and tomato sauce.  Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes.  Add kidney beans, green beans, spinach, zucchini, oregano, basil and shell pasta.  Cook for 10-15 minutes or until pasta is done.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Add bacon that has been crumbled.  Cook for 2 more minutes.  Serve with parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.  Makes 8 servings.
 


Superb Herb Bread

(adapted from Taste of Home recipe)

                 1 cup water                                                  1 ½ tsp. poppy seeds
                 1 Tbsp. powdered milk                              1 ½ tsp. dried minced onions
                 1 egg                                                             1 tsp. sage
     1½ Tbsp. butter                                          ¼ cup parmesan cheese
     2 Tbsp. sugar                                              2 cups flour
     1 tsp. salt                                                     1 cup whole wheat flour
     2 tsp. caraway seeds                                 1 Tbsp. active dry yeast

Place ingredients in bread machine in order listed.  Select dough setting.  When cycle is completed, turn dough onto a floured surface.  Punch down; shape into a loaf.  Place into a 9x5” loaf pan coated with cooking spray.  Cover and let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove from pan, spread butter on loaf and let cool on wire rack. 


 
     Did you ever have a wish to be invisible?  I have; that is until I read this classic book by H. G. Wells. 





     Here are some cute little pretzel pumpkins.  They are so easy to make and very tasty.  Just take small pretzels and dip them in melted orange candy melts: add a mini green m&m for the stem.  Wait for them to harden and then you have a yummy snack.