Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Hip to be a floating square

Two months ago, I shared a picture of a "floating square" block. This was one of several blocks I created for this quilt. A few days ago, I put the final stitch on the binding , and I am ready to share the quilt with you. It has been a fun project to put together this summer. One of the nice things about it is that the blocks are rather easy to cut and then piece together. If you are efficient, the top could be finished in a weekend.
As I shared earlier, my daughter and I saw a quilt using this pattern during our visit to Corn Wagon Quilt Company during the Utah Quilt Shop Hop back in June. This is one of our favorite shops along the Shop Hop route. It's probably a good thing for my bank account that this shop is about an hour and a half drive away from my house. They have a great selection of fabrics and patterns in many styles. My favorites are their wool projects and Civil War reproduction fabrics.
So, back to the story of this quilt …
The pattern for the quilt is found in the book Piece of Pie by Pie Plate Designs, which is based in Fountain Green, Utah
The patterns in this book are described as layer cake friendly. In this case, a layer cake is not a dessert but rather forty-two 10-inch squares from a given fabric line. For this quilt, the fabric line was Chic Neutrals.
One of the nice things about layer cakes is that you get a sampling of the different fabrics without having to buy a significant amount of yardage. They are great for smaller wall quilts and even up to lap size quilts. They also make it easy to match shades and colors. You can see the variety of related patterns and colors that were included in this fabric line. I will note that, in addition to the layer cake package, I also needed to purchase additional fabric for the borders - just something to be aware of when working with pre-cut fabric such as layer cakes.
Because this quilt was for my teenage daughter, I elected to use minky fabric for the back. Minky is a type of plush fabric. It is softer and thicker than fleece and isn't prone to "pilling." Minky fabric does tend to slip apart when you are trying to sew it together. When I was piecing the backing for this quilt, I found it easier to use a 1/2 inch seam rather than a typical 1/4 inch seam. I also pressed the seams open rather than to one side. A fun thing about minky is the way in which the machine quilting design shows in the fabric. I elected to use an edge-to-edge geometric pattern for this quilt. Here is what the back looks like.
In case you were wondering, my daughter was rather happy with her new quilt.
As I contemplated the term "floating" in the name of this quilt block, the image of something fleeting or temporary came to mind. In the New Testament, James reminds us that this life is temporary, like a vapor, and that we do not know what tomorrow will bring. Paul also reminds us in his second letter to the church at Corinth that, "the things which are seen are temporal." I will close with some excerpts from Hebrews 11, also known as the "Hall of Faith." As we live our our lives in this temporary world which is seen, we are reminded to walk by faith with an eye to the eternal things which are unseen.
 By faith Abraham … went out, not knowing where he was going … for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 
Hebrews 11:8,10

Sunday, August 14, 2016

An Olympic Meal: Brazilian Pork and Black Bean Stew (Feijoada)

As I've shared in previous posts, I love the Olympics, and I enjoy creating meals around events. During the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, I shared our recipe for borscht, a Russian beet soup. For these Rio games, I did a little work to find a Brazilian recipe that we would enjoy. I settled on a pork and black bean stew. While this recipe is a little similar to the Cuban Black Beans & Rice recipe, I shared earlier this year, it also has its own distinct flair. The name of this stew is Feijoada and has been described as the national dish of Brazil. It can be made with either pork or beef. In Rio de Janeiro, it is most commonly prepared with black beans, other regions of brazil may use red beans. Feijoada also can include vegetables such as kale - we used collards, and it is often served over rice.

Before moving on to the recipe, here are a few fun facts about Brazil:

  • Brazil is the 5th largest country in the world in both area and population
  • Brazil's official language is Portuguese. Portuguese explorers first arrived in Brazil in 1500.
  • Brazil is divided into 5 regions. The north region includes the Amazon rain forest.
  • Brazil's plant and animal species are highly diverse. Over 1,200 species have been identified in the Amazon rain forest alone.

  • Rio de Janiero, the site of the 2016 Summer Olympics, is the second largest city in Brazil. The Christ the Redeemer statue is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. 

Here is our recipe for Brazilian pork and black bean stew. We've enjoyed it, and we hope you will, too. 

1 pound of black beans
4 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Large sweet onion, chopped - set aside about 1/4-1/3 of the onion to use later
1-2 teaspoons chopped garlic
2 or 3 bayleaves, crushed
2 ham hocks - these really are going to provide flavor as much as anything so it's okay if they don't have a lot of meat on them
1 pound sausage - we used andouille, but you could use another smoked sausage such as linguica if you like
1/2 pound bacon
2 bunches of collards
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Soak the black beans overnight in cold water. The next day, drain and rinse them, cover with water, and cook until tender. As the beans are cooking, you can continue with some of the other steps. Note: do not drain the beans after they have cooked. 
2. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sauté about 2/3 of the chopped onion along with the garlic. Stir in the crushed bay leaves and sauté a few minutes longer. 
3. Cover the ham hocks with water and add the remaining onion. Simmer until the meat is starting to fall off the bones. Remove the ham hocks from the liquid and allow them to cool until they can be easily handled. Pour the broth from the ham hocks into the beans.
4. Now to prepare the meat. Pull the meat from the ham hocks and discard the bone and fat.  Slice up the sausage and bacon and place all of the meat on a baking sheet. Bake for about 15 minutes at 375 degrees until the meat starts to become slightly crispy. Drain off any fat and stir the meat into the bean mixture.
5. While the meat is cooking, you can prepare the collards. I rinse them off well and then separate each leaf half from the stalk. I then stack up the half-leaves (will create several stacks) and roll them up tight like a cigar. Next, I make 1/2 to 1-inch cuts through the collard cigar. In a separate pot, heat another 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the collards to the oil and slowly sauté them. You can add the collards to the oil in stages, allowing some to cook down a bit before adding more. The collards will cook down quite a bit (well, a lot) as you sauté them. You can also add a bit of water if you wish to keep them from sticking to the bottom of the pan. I also covered the pot as the collards were cooking. After they are nice and tender, stir into the beans. You will now have a pot of stew that looks something like this.
6. Ladle your stew over some steamed rice and enjoy your Olympic dinner!