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 21, 2014

The Best Gifts

"How much better the world would be if we all gave gifts of understanding and compassion, of service and friendship, of kindness and gentleness." ~Thomas S. Monson

     I was privileged to attend the Tooele County Quilt Guild Christmas luncheon.  Along with an amazing meal we also were honored with a visit from Kris from My Girlfriend's Quilt Shoppe in Logan, Utah and her twin sister, Kim from Kimberbell patterns.  They shared their story and showed us some of their amazing quilts. They are such sweet ladies and an extra bonus is they are Utah State Alumni!
 I have included pictures of guild member's quilts who were challenged to make a quilt using a stack of charm squares from a certain line of fabric.  I think they turned out so cute and so different from each other.

     This is the veggie tray I made for the ladies luncheon for all the ladies in our community that are over the age of 70.  I love those ladies!

     I needed to use up some very ripe bananas and came across this recipe.  It turned out so delicious!

Hawaiian Pineapple Banana Bread

3 eggs                                                                       3 cups flour
1 cup canola oil                                                      2 cups sugar
2 tsp. vanilla                                                            1 tsp. baking soda
2 cups mashed ripe banana                                  1 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup crushed pineapple, drained                       1 tsp. salt
(reserve 4 tsp. juice for glaze)       ½ cup macadamia nuts, chopped (optional)
½ cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray two 8x4” loaf pans with cooking spray.
In a large bowl combine eggs, oil, vanilla, bananas, and pineapple.  Mix well. 
In a separate large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.  Stir together dry ingredients and add chopped nuts. 
Mix dry ingredients with wet mixture and stir just until all ingredients are moistened.  Spoon batter into prepared loaf pans.
Bake 55-70 minutes or until wooden toothpick comes out clean.  Cool in pans for 15 minutes and then remove from pans and let cool on wire racks. 
In a small bowl, mix powdered sugar and reserved pineapple juice.  Drizzle over cooled loaves of bread.

     Have you ever made chocolate bark for Christmas?  This is my first time.  There are so many great combinations to use.  The top picture shows a red/green combination with white chocolate, craisins and pistachios.  The second picture shows a milk chocolate combination using chopped cashews and toffee chips.  So easy and so yummy!

     This is the book our family has been reading together for the month of December.  It is helping us focus more on Jesus Christ this Christmas season.  The version I bought came with a wooden nativity set.

     Each year I usually make some Christmas ornaments for our tree.  This year I just didn't have the energy to even come up with an idea.  Bless my daughter's heart!  She showed up one day with slices of a tree branch cut from a tree in her yard and some paint.  She helped me paint these cute snowflake ornaments for the tree.  So simple yet so beautiful.

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.