Sunday, February 25, 2018

Celebrating the Olympics … this time with bulgogi!

As many of you already know, major events such as the Olympics provide us with an opportunity to locate and try out new recipes. Our Olympic tradition dates back to 2006 with the Torino games when we made baked ziti. Other examples include borscht in honor of the 2014 Sochi games and a pork and black bean stew to mark the 2016 Rio games.
With Pyeongchang games, we have been eager to try out some Korean recipes. We found a great Korean food blog site: Kimchimari that has provided a great start to our efforts. The first recipe we tried was bulgogi. I hope that you will consider trying this recipe as well.
First, let's take a look at South Korea and the 2018 Olympics:

1. PyeongChang is located in the Gangwon province of South Korea
2. The venues for the 2018 games are actually located across the area with most events held in the mountain region while others such as hockey and the skating events are being held in Gangneung which is on the country's east coast.

 3. Although PyeongChang is at about the same latitude as southern Utah, its geography makes it the coldest city on earth relative to its latitude. Those of us who have been following the Olympics have noted some of the delays in the skiing events because of the cold and wind.
4. The mascot of the 2018 Olympic Games is Soohorang, a white tiger. The white tiger is regarded as Korea's guardian animal. "Sooho" is the Korean word for protection, and "rang" comprises part of the Korean word for tiger.
Now, let's make some bulgogi!
The marinade:
3 Tbs soy sauce
2 Tbs sugar
1 Tbs honey
1 Tbs sesame oil
2 Tbs minced garlic
1 tsp black pepper
2 tsp toasted sesame seeds
1 Tbs chopped green onion
2 Tbs pear puree - the pear serves as a tenderizer. We picked out an Asian pear at the grocery store. Chopped kiwi or pineapple also will serve as a tenderizer.

The meat
1 lb thinly sliced beef - we used top sirloin

Here's the chopped green onion and the pear puree

Here are all of the marinade ingredients stirred together
Now to cut up the meat. This picture gives you an idea as to how thinly we sliced ours:
Now, let's stir it all together and let it set for a few hours. Are you starting to imaging the amazing smells?
Bulgogi can be prepared with or without vegetables such as onions, peppers, or carrots. We elected to include some sliced onion in ours.
We used our wok to stir fry up our bulgogi. We added the onion first to get it nice and soft. 
When adding the meat, make sure that the pan is well heated so that the meat sizzles when it hits the surface. 
 Serve the bulgogi over rice and enjoy!
 What have been your favorite memories of the 2018 Winter Olympics?

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Moose in a row, on the go …

With the final hours and minutes of January 2018 slipping away, I'm finally deciding on the content for this post. This is one that, actually, I've been contemplating since the first of the month. For most of the month, I had a very different idea for its emphasis. Now, however, I'm finding that it has taken a bit of a different pathway (no pun intended).
Over the past few years I've shared several rows that I have created using patterns acquired as part of the annual Row by Row experience. I do need to confess that, even with the rows that I have managed to complete, I probably have at least that many more unfinished ones in the designated drawer in my craft closet. That being said, I have been working hard not to acquire new projects, but to focus on completing the ones I have.
For me, the week between Christmas and New Year's Day is a time where I give myself permission to set work aside and to enjoy some devoted days in the sewing room. During this year's break, I decided to pull out a couple of rows that I had collected and to get them completed. These rows happened to be from the same shop, Davidene's Quilt Shop, in Park City, Utah. One was from 2016 and one was from 2017. If you happen to be in the Park City area, Davidene's is a great little shop and well worth your time to visit.
Both of these rows feature moose and involve machine appliqué. Although I do like the moose, I do have to confess that the prep work for machine appliqué is not exactly my favorite. I have to really want to do a given project to put myself through the tracing, fusing, cutting, and more fusing - especially when rather small pieces are involved. Once the pieces are fused in place, however, I enjoy stitching them down and watching the appliqué scene come together. 
For the most part, I use a blanket stitch for my machine appliqué work. My machine is a Brother brand, and the blanket stitch is Q-14. Once you have selected the stitch, however, you still have to decide how wide and how long you want your stitches to be. Over the years, I've come to prefer a 2.5 mm width and length for my appliqué designs. If I am working on a very small piece, I will go as narrow as a 2.0 mm width. Otherwise, I find that the stitch really isn't wide enough to adequately tack down the fabric.

Here are a couple of close-ups of some of the detail on the "Home Sweet Home" row. The row features a printed cloud background. Here are the house and the birdhouse before I added the lace curtains and trim to the roof. One of the things I like about this shop's row designs are the added embellishments.

Here are the three mini-quilts before they were hung on the clothesline. I added some batting and machine quilting to give them a little extra interest.
I do hope that you have had a good start to your 2018. For me, this has been a month of some new and unexpected opportunities - some more challenging than others. It's also been a bit of a season of finding myself experiencing a lack of clarity in some of my projects while also having unanticipated opportunities for future projects. In the midst of these issues, I've found myself needing to slow down, be still, and reflect on some of the simple truths from God's word. The verses that have come to mind and are guiding me through this season are ones that, perhaps, are familiar to you as well. Whatever pathway you may find yourself traveling at this time, keep your focus on God, and allow Him to guide your path.
Trust in the LORD with all of your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all of your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight. 
Proverbs 3:5-6

Monday, January 29, 2018

Meat and Potatoes

Although we are not a big "meat and potatoes" meal family, there are definitely times where we enjoy a good hearty meal. During a long cold January, a good filling meal can truly hit the spot. If it involves a chance to use our smoker, even better. Here are a couple of recipes that we enjoyed this past month. I hope you will enjoy them as well and find an opportunity to use them.
The first is Poor Man Burnt Ends. This recipe is adapted from one posted at For those of you who may not be familiar with the expression "burnt ends," here is a little more explanation. The burnt ends are pieces of meat derived from the "point cut" of a smoked brisket. This cut is the fattier portion of the brisket and also takes longer to fully cook so that it becomes tender. If the brisket is cooked as an entire portion, typically the flat portion is removed once it is cooked, and the point portion is then returned for additional cooking. This longer cooking time is what gave this portion of meat the name "burnt ends."
The recipe that I am sharing substitutes a chuck roast for the point cut of the brisket. We enjoyed it and will definitely be preparing it again. 

The meat:
3 lb beef chuck roast
The rub:
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon garlic salt
The sauce:
1/2 cup barbecue sauce - feel free to use your favorite. We used Stubbs Sweet Heat - this brought in a little bit of spice to complement the sweet of the brown sugar. 
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar (yes, I did mention the brown sugar twice)
The steps:
1. Prepare the smoker for indirect grilling at 275 degrees F. We used hickory wood.
2. Combine the rub ingredients and spread liberally over both sides of the roast. Here is what ours looked like.
3. Smoke until the roast reaches 165 degrees at its center. Ours took about XX hours. Remove the roast from the smoker, wrap it in foil and return it to the smoker. Cook until the internal temperature reaches 195 degrees.
4. Remove the roast from the smoker and allow it to sit for about 15-20 minutes. Cut it into 3/4 inch cubes and place in a roasting pan.  We used our Le Creuset dutch oven. Sprinkle with the 1/4 cup brown sugar and most of the barbecue sauce. Toss gently to coat the pieces.
5. Return the pan to the smoker and cook for another 1.5 to 2 hours or until the sauce is becoming bubbly and the meat is starting to fall apart.
6. Sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and the rest of the barbecue sauce. Stir gently and return once again to the smoker to allow all the flavors to meld together.
7. Serve as a stand-alone meat dish or on buns as a barbecue sandwich. Either way, you will be sure to enjoy!
Now for some potatoes… 
This is a modification of the Potatoes au Gratin recipe from the Betty Crocker cookbook that I received as a wedding gift. 
6 medium potatoes
1 medium chopped onion (I'll say a little more about this later)
1/4 cup butter (feel free to use margarine if you like)
1 tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 cups milk (depending on what you have on hand, feel free to substitute cream or half-and-half for all or a portion of the volume)
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup dry bread crumbs
1. Peel and slice the potatoes thinly. I like to boil my sliced potatoes for about 5 minutes. I find that this helps decrease the time in the oven. Be careful not to cook too long or you risk having your potatoes au gratin turn out a bit mushy. If you don't mind a more mushy consistency, that isn't a really bad thing. They will still taste good. If you opt to boil the potatoes, be sure to drain them promptly after cooking.
2. Saute the onion in the butter in a 2-quart saucepan until tender. Depending on your taste preferences, you can use less onion or even leave it out altogether. When I went to make this recipe a few weeks ago, I discovered that we were out of onion. I ended up using dehydrated onion instead. I reconstituted the onion in a small dish using 2 tablespoons onion and 2 tablespoons water and let it sit for about 5 minutes before adding to the melted butter. For me, this amount actually worked out pretty well and added some nice flavor without being overwhelming.
3. Stir in the flour, salt and pepper. Stir until the mixture is well-combined and bubbly. Essentially, you are making a light roux. remove from heat.
4. Stir in the milk (or milk/cream/half-and-half mixture) and 1.5 cups of cheese. We had an extra cup of cream on hand that I needed to use or throw away, so I used it as part of the milk volume. Cook over a low-medium heat until mixture just comes to a boil, stir constantly. Boil for about 1 minute and remove from heat.
5. Place the potatoes in an uncreased casserole dish and cover with the cheese sauce. Bake uncovered at 350 for about 30-40 minutes. You will need to increase the baking time to 60-80 minutes if you did not boil the potatoes. 
6. Mix the remaining cheese with the bread crumbs. Sprinkle over the top of the potatoes. Broil for about 5 minutes until the top is crispy.
Here's how we served up our meat and potatoes!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Christmas Cuddles

As the final hours of 2017 are ticking away, I hope that you have had a very blessed and happy Christmas season. I was initially hoping to have this entry posted in advance of Christmas, but it will have to turn in to a Happy New Year post instead.
This post features one of the quilt kits that I acquired during the 2017 Shop Hop. I was particularly drawn to the fabrics in this quilt, in part because of the familiarity in the storybook prints. 
I also found some of the fabrics included in the "snowball" blocks reminiscent of Christmas prints from about the 1960s.
I was really pleased with the quilting work that Utah Valley Quilting provided for this project. I picked some all-over swirls for the center and the outer border of the quilt. I decided to go with a snowflake pattern for the white area between the trees. I like the way this pattern filled the space without adding too much "stuff" and "busyness."
Because my goal for this quilt was to have it serve as a cozy, cuddle up quilt for the Christmas season, I opted to use minky fabric for the back. For those of you not familiar with minky, it is a 100% polyester fabric with a soft pile that is slightly stretchy. It is much softer than fleece and is a great choice for baby blankets. Quilters tend to have mixed feelings about working with minky. Because of its stretch, it can be a bit of a challenge to hold in place. On the other hand, some really like it because of how the quilting design shows on the back. You may need to adjust your computer screen to enlarge the below picture to see the details on the trees in the inner border. I've also found that when I'm sewing the binding on my quilts with minky backs, I need to take extra care to ensure that my needle is going through the minky.
As you can see from the picture below, my cat approved of this quilt. If you look closely, you can see the clips that I use to hold the binding in place as I sew it. Perhaps I will use a future post to tell more about these and some of my other favorite quilting notions. In case you were wondering, I opted not to disturb the cat's nap at this point in time. The quilt was, however, finished before Christmas.
I am one who definitely enjoys the comfort in the familiar, particularly around the Christmas season. As much as I enjoy the memories and traditions associated with the familiar, I've been reminded in recent weeks not to allow myself to get so attached to the familiar that I miss out on new opportunities that may lie ahead. The Christmas/New Year's season provides the context for reflecting on the blessings of the past while anticipating the blessings that lie ahead.
As we enjoy these final hours of 2017, I pray that you will look with anticipation to the new year. I will close with these verses that were included on our church's bulletin cover this morning.
The LORD bless you, and keep you; the LORD make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up His countenance on you and give you peace. 
Numbers 6:24-26

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Christmas Candy Chemistry Part II: Chocolate Covered Cherries

For around 20 years now, dipping chocolates at Christmastime has become one of our traditions. After receiving some homemade chocolates as a gift, we decided to learn more about the process and have since made it our own. In the top picture, you can see the results of this year's efforts. For this particular post, however, I will focus on making chocolate cherries with some attention to the chemistry related to managing the chocolate throughout the dipping process.
The recipe I will be sharing will make about 50 or 60 cherries, essentially the number included in a 16 ounce jar. You then wrap the drained cherries in fondant and dip them in chocolate. Sounds easy, right? OK, perhaps not all that easy so here are the steps that we follow.

I will usually begin the work of preparing the cherries a few days before we undertake the dipping process. I will typically drain the jar of cherries in a colander and then place them on a paper towel or two to absorb additional liquid.

The next step is to prepare the fondant. The amount produced by this recipe will wrap around all of the cherries.
Fondant ingredients:
3 tablespoons butter (use the real stuff)
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups powdered sugar
Steps to making the fondant:
1. Allow the butter to soften slightly at room temperature to make it easier to handle. Do not melt the butter. Melting the butter by heating it results in a chemical change and will result in a fondant that is extra sticky and very difficult to manage.
2. Stir the butter, corn syrup and salt together. This will take a bit of time and effort. I use a wooden spoon and gradually mash the butter into the corn syrup.
3. Gradually stir the powdered sugar into the butter/corn syrup mixture. You really will be able to mix it all in.
4. Allow the fondant to chill in the refrigerator. Although it's relatively easy to handle, chilling it will make it more manageable.

Now it's time to prepare the cherries for dipping:
1. Shape an approximately 1 teaspoon portion of the fondant around each cherry. I will typically flatten it out a bit before I wrap it around the cherry. Here is a picture of some fondant-wrapped cherries that are ready for dipping. You can place them in the refrigerator to chill while you are preparing the chocolate.
2. Prepare the chocolate. This involves a process known as tempering the chocolate. This process has nothing to do with the chocolate's disposition but rather the chemical structure of its components. Tempering chocolate involves heating the chocolate to a series of temperature that will allow it to form a stable structure. In our earliest years of dipping chocolate, we created a makeshift double boiler with a couple of our saucepans and did our best to estimate the temperature with a mercury candy thermometer. 
A few years ago, we invested in this counter top machine that allows the chocolate to heat and then cool to the specified temperatures based on the type of chocolate - dark, milk, or white. In the below picture, you can see that we are heating dark chocolate which is our favorite.

The buttons on the machine allow you to select the type of chocolate and then enter the stages of the tempering process. First, the chocolate needs to melt completely at around 115ºF. If the temperature gets too hot, the chocolate will burn and the chocolate acquires a grainy texture that can not be recovered.
Second, the chocolate needs to cool to about 88-92ºF. At this temperature, the chocolate forms crystals that remain firm and create a stable structure around the center.
A key advantage of this machine is that it is able to hold the chocolate at the desired temperature for dipping. Because the cherries have chilled, they have the potential to cool the temperature of the chocolate. 
3. Dip the fondant-wrapped cherries. Place the cherries, one or two at a time, into the melted chocolate. Allow them to become fully coated, lift them out of the chocolate with a fork or other dipping tool, tap off any excess chocolate, and place them on a sheet of waxed paper. Allow them to sit on the countertop for a day or two to allow the chocolate to cure. Store in an airtight container.
Dipping chocolates is, indeed, a bit of an undertaking and consumes most of a weekend. Just the same, the results are pretty amazing, and we enjoy sharing them with our friends.
Here are a few other pictures of our chocolate dipped treats. These include pretzels, caramel pecan clusters, and Rice Krispie clusters.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Pony Express: Orphans Preferred

This past fall, I embarked on a bit of a quilting journey. Around the Labor Day weekend, I learned of a "Pony Express Block Party" that was being sponsored by Northcott Fabrics. To make a long story short, the "party" involved a line of fabrics emphasizing the Pony Express and participating quilt shops located in the states through which the Pony Express ran. 
Those who participated in this block party were challenged to visit participating shops to acquire a free block pattern. Participants were then issued a challenge of creating a quilt featuring at least six different blocks from six individual participating shops.
Because I enjoy the history of the American West, I was intrigued by this "Block Party" and decided to start visiting some shops. I then decided to go ahead and create a quilt to enter in the challenge contest. Because some of the shops designed 12-inch blocks while others designed 6-inch blocks, I had to make some decisions about my own quilt's design. I opted to go with smaller blocks and then had to size down some of the block patterns. To add a little variety, I put them "on point" and created my own corner blocks. I hope that you will enjoy a few close up looks at some of the blocks.
This star pattern is actually featured twice in the quilt. Can you find the other version of it?
These arrowheads required curved seams. This was actually my first effort at sewing a block with curved seams. The points aren't as exact as I would like, but I enjoyed giving this block a try.
When turned on point, this block takes on a fun zigzag appearance. Interesting what a 90 degree shift can do to your perspective.
With this quilt, I also opted to be deliberate with how I designed the back. Rather than attempting to incorporate a panel featuring the map of the Pony Express route on the front, I centered it on the back. 
For those of you a little less familiar with the history of the Pony Express, it ran for only 18 months between April 1860 to October 1861. The length of the route was 1966 miles. Stations were located approximately 10 miles apart. Riders changed horses at each station and would ride for approximately 100 miles before being replaced by the next rider. The Pony Express allowed mail to be transported from Missouri to California in 10 days (up to 16 days during the winter). By comparison, transporting mail via stagecoach would take 24 days.
The identities of many of the Pony Express riders are shrouded in obscurity. No one knows the name of the first rider or the precise location in St. Joseph, Missouri, from which he departed. Advertisements for Pony Express riders give us some insight into their characteristics. They were to be young (18 years or younger), skinny, wiry expert riders who were willing to risk death daily. Advertisements also noted that orphans were preferred, suggesting perhaps, that these riders were regarded as expendable.
Reflecting on this history has also given me opportunity to reflect on our status both from the perspective of the world and from God's perspective. While the world may see us as obscure and expendable, we are raised to significance through what Christ has done for us. With the Advent season upon us, this particular passage from Galatians seems fitting for closing this post.

But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!" Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God. Galatians 4:4-7

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Turkey soup with a Minnesota North Woods flair

Now that November is finally here, I can "officially" begin my Thanksgiving preparations. As much as I enjoy the work of preparing everything for our Thanksgiving dinner, I also enjoy the immediate post-Thanksgiving season of putting those turkey leftovers to good use.
As I have shared before, our Black Friday tradition is to make turkey and andouille sausage gumbo. With as much turkey as we prepare, however, we still have plenty of leftovers for sandwiches, additional types of soup, and even to put into the freezer for later. For us, working with the leftover turkey is part of our Thanksgiving weekend fun. We will typically oven roast a medium sized turkey and then smoke two turkey breasts. We smoke one with cajun spices and one with herbs from the garden.
This soup includes wild rice which provides the Minnesota North Woods flair. Wild rice is actually the grain that comes from a grass. Three species of wild rice are native to North America. The one I will emphasize here is Zizania palustris, which is native to the Great Lakes region of the United States and Canada. This species was historically harvested by the Ojibwa This picture illustrates the traditional harvesting process with one individual tasked with paddling the canoe with others threshing the grain into the bottom of the canoe.
Wild rice has a distinct flavor and is also highly nutritious. Wild rice contains 4 grams of protein per 100 calories and is second only to oats in terms of protein content among grains. Wild rice is also a great source of lysine, dietary fiber and B vitamins.
Here is how we make this post-Thanksgiving favorite.

2/3 cup uncooked wild rice
2 cups water
6 tablespoons butter
1/4 - 1/2 cup chopped onion
1/4 - 1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 - 1 cup sliced carrots
1/3 cup flour
2 quarts turkey (or chicken) broth
2 cups chopped cooked turkey
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1 cup half and half

1. Bring the wild rice and water to a boil in the saucepan. Simmer until the rice is tender, approximately 40-45 minutes (wild rice needs longer to cook relative to white rice). Allow the rice to set for about 5 minutes and fluff with a fork. Set aside until later.
2. Melt the butter in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until the onion becomes soft. Stir in the celery and carrots and cook until they are slightly softened.
3. Stir in the flour and cook until it becomes a pale yellowish color (something like in the picture below).
4. Whisk in the turkey broth until no lumps of flour remain. Simmer until the vegetables are tender.
5. Stir in the wild rice, turkey, salt, pepper, and almonds. Here's an approximation of the turkey. Of course, you can include as much as you want. Simmer for another few minutes until the entire mixture is heated through. We like to include a mixture of our smoked turkey and our regular roasted turkey.
6. Stir in the lemon juice and half-and-half. Bring the soup almost to a boil (avoids the half-and-half separating out). Serve warm. Note: you can also freeze this soup as well. We typically double the recipe, enjoy a meal's worth and then freeze the rest.

Wishing you blessings as we anticipate the Thanksgiving season.