Monday, May 25, 2015

More Block Testing …

Back in November, I shared some of my experiences as a quilt block tester. Quiltmaker magazine has just released volume 11 of their 100 blocks magazine. I once again served as a block tester. This post features the 14 different blocks that I tested. I'm also sharing links to the designers' web pages so that you can check out more of their work. 
The block at the top is my favorite of this group. It is titled "Snow Cat" and was designed by Jennifer Ball. The cat is cut from wool felt, and I liked the black background that gave the appearance of a nighttime snowfall.
This time around, I had a number of appliqué blocks to test. Continuing with the animal/pet theme, the block on the left was titled "Across My Heart" and was designed by Amy Rullkoeter who is a contributing editor for Quiltmaker magazine. The block on the right was titled "Hang Ten" and was designed by Margie Ullery of Ribbon Candy Quilt Company. Margie was one of the teachers on the Alaskan quilting cruise I took last June and designed the quilts featured in Sewing at Sea Part II. On a fun note, I received this block to test right after I had returned from a meeting in Maui.

These next two blocks have more of a floral theme to them. The one on the left is titled Sun Shower and was designed by Beth Helfter. The one on the right was simply titled "Whimsy" and was designed by Karen Comstock of Quiltricks.
 Continuing with the floral theme, this next block is titled "Hexadaisy" and was designed by Emily Breclaw. This block features 42 paper-pieced shapes, and was the most time-consuming of the blocks that I tested. For this one, I needed to trace and cut all of the paper templates, cut and baste the fabrics to the templates, stitch the individual pieces together and then blind stitch them to the background. 
I also continued to expand my paper-piecing skills. This block was my favorite of the paper-pieced ones. It is titled Basket Star and was designed by Marjorie Rhine. I liked the way that the batik fabrics worked together.
The anchor block on the left was probably the most challenging block to piece with its multiple individual pieces and paper-pieced units to put together. It is titled "By the Sea" and was designed by Barbara Cain. The kite on the right was a great way to use up multiple small scraps. It is titled A Kite's Tale and was designed by Nova Birchfield. I tried out one of the decorative stitches on my machine to create the kite string.

This final paper-pieced block provided another fun way to use up scraps and to combine them in a fun way. I liked the opportunity to mix and match different shades as well as fabric styles within the block. It is titled Scrappy Strippy Kisses and was designed by Heather Kojan.
I also had a few traditional pieced blocks to test. The one on the left is titled Sparkler and was designed by Donna Benham. The one on the right is titled Capital Square and was designed by Kari Carr.

A couple of pieced blocks featured unique patterns within the block. The one on the left is titled Points In and was designed by Denniele Bohannon. The one on the right is titled Reflection and was designed by Denise Starck, the art director for Quiltmaker Magazine. Can you spot my piecing error in this one?


The final block that I am featuring in this post is titled "Friendship Circle" and was designed by Corey Yoder. It features thirteen tiny friendship stars. I chose to use prairie style prints for the star points.
As I come to the end of this post, my season as a quilt block tester is also coming to a close. I have greatly enjoyed the opportunity to serve as a tester for three magazine issues and even to design a quilt with some of the blocks I tested. Working on the test blocks has challenged me, helped me develop new quilting skills, and has helped prepare me to for some new projects that I might otherwise not have pursued.
For the present, I'm finding that I need to devote some additional time to some other projects and pursuits so this is a good time to bring this season of testing to a close. I will simply close this post with a few words from Solomon.
There is an appointed time for everything. An there is a time for every event under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Celebrating Cinco de Mayo with Chicken Enchiladas

As I have clearly established with this blog, my family loves to eat. I don't know that we necessarily favor one type of cuisine over another. As long as it tastes good, we are more than happy to give it a try. 

We are definitely fans of good Mexican food. We enjoy Mexican food more often than Cinco de Mayo, but we are always glad to pull out some of our favorite Mexican recipes in early May. One of these favorites is chicken enchiladas. This is a recipe that we acquired from a recipe book that we received as a wedding gift. This recipe book featured Mexican recipes from Spanish teachers from the state of California. This recipe for chicken enchiladas is just one of the recipes we have enjoyed.

Before proceeding to the recipe and instructions, here is a little background on the history of enchiladas. Enchiladas are essentially some type of filling such as meat, beans, rice, cheese, or vegetables, wrapped in a corn tortilla and covered with a chili pepper sauce. In the Nahuatl language which was spoken by the Aztecs, the word for enchilada is chīllapītzalli, which essentially means "chili flute." 
Aztec pyramid
Enchiladas originated in Mexico and are believed to date back to the Mayans whose diet included corn tortillas wrapped around fish. In more recent history, one of the Spanish conquistadors, Hernan Cortes, is described as giving a feast which included foods wrapped in corn tortillas. The first recipe for enchiladas appeared in a Mexican cookbook titled, El cocinero mexicano ("The Mexican Chef"), which was published in 1831.

As with most recipes, we have adapted it a little to fit our preferences. The recipe that I am sharing in this post reflects the modifications we have made. Although this recipe involves a lot of ingredients, it is well worth the time and effort.

Chicken Enchiladas
2 whole boneless, skinless, chicken breasts (1 lb)
1/2 cup water
2 tsp fresh minced garlic (equivalent to 2 cloves)
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 tbsp butter or margarine
tsp fresh minced garlic (equivalent to 1 cloves)
1 tbsp chili powder (we like using a chipotle chili powder that I brought back from a trip to New Mexico - it adds a nice smoky flavor as well as an extra kick of heat)
2 cans (3 1/2 oz) chopped green chilies
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 cup flour
1 cup chicken broth (may prepare using bouillon cube & 1 cup water)
1 cup heavy cream (may substitute half and half)
1/2 lb monterey jack cheese, grated (approx 2 cups)
12 to 16 - 6 inch flour tortillas (may substitute corn tortillas for a more "authentic" enchilada)

Now for the instructions:
Place chicken breasts in medium sized saucepan. Add water and 2 tsp garlic. Cover and bring to a simmer. Cook just until tender. Cool. Remove chicken and reserve broth. Cut chicken into thin strips. Set aside in a medium bowl.

Saute onion in butter or margarine in medium sized skillet just until soft, about 5 minutes. Add 1tsp  garlic, saute 1 minute. Add chilies, chili powder, cumin, salt, oregano, and pepper; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Stir in the reserved chicken broth, the prepared chicken broth, and the heavy cream. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently until mixture thickens, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in 1 cup of grated cheese until melted. 

Combine 1 cup of this mixture with the reserved chicken. Preheat oven to 400º.
Divide chicken mixture equally along the center of each tortilla. Here is an idea as to about how much of the chicken mixture we put on each tortilla.
Roll up tortillas and place seam side down in two rows in a 13 x 9 x 2 inch baking dish. Pour remaining cheese sauce evenly over tortillas. Sprinkle with remaining 1 cup of cheese.
Bake at 400 º for 20 minutes or until bubbly. Serve with sour cream and salsa. Mexi-corn and/or Spanish rice make great side dishes.
You will notice that the above picture features a 9 x 9 inch pan. With fewer of us living at home now, we will often prepare the enchiladas in two 9 x 9 inch pans. That gives us one to eat at the present, and one to freeze for later or perhaps share with someone else.