Wednesday, May 31, 2017

What's in a name?

What's in a name? Well, in my case, lemon, azure, hyacinth, and light background. In case you are feeling a bit confused, I will back up a bit and relate a little more of the story.
Back in January, I was visiting one of my favorite local quilt shops, K & H Quilt Shoppe in Kaysville. On this visit, I learned of a quilt "challenge" they were issuing. Although I've heard of quilt challenges, I hadn't yet participated in one. This one intrigued me, and I decided to sign up.
For those of you who may not know what a quilt challenge is, here is my attempt at an explanation. A quilt challenge is issued to invite interested quilters to create a quilt, or perhaps just a quilt block around a given feature. Most often, I have seen quilt challenges involve a given piece of fabric. Those who elect to participate in the challenge, receive the piece of fabric and must incorporate it into their quilt. Sometimes the challenge also involves a theme so the quilter must design a quilt that incorporates the fabric and, in some way, relates to the theme.
So now, back to my challenge. The theme of this challenge was "What's in a Name?" Those participating were directed to construct their quilt using colors that started with the initials in their name. We were allowed to use middle and maiden names so that gave us some added variety. We were told that we could design our own quilt, use a kit, base it from a pattern, really whatever - it just needed to be at least 30 inches square and needed to just include the colors corresponding to our initials. We also were allowed to use a background fabric.
For my initials of L A H L, I let my husband pick out the colors. He selected lemon, azure, and hyacinth. I decided that the last "L" could stand for light background.
Next, I had to decide what my quilt would look like. I pondered through some patterns and magazines, but nothing really seemed to fit. After a while, I realized that I had some Civil War-themed block pattern books that I have been eager to use. I also had Civil War-themed fabric in my selected colors so I was off to work.
The next looming challenge was which blocks to select. With limited time, I couldn't use all of them. I also wanted a smaller wall quilt so I chose to use 6-inch blocks. The book I used, however, gave directions for 8-inch and 12-inch blocks. So, I took on the challenge of sizing down the pieces. Keep in mind that sizing down pieces for a 6-inch block isn't just a matter of using half the dimensions of the pieces for the 12-inch block. You also have to keep in mind the seam allowances. If a given set of patches is cut more than once, in the case of quarter-square triangles, you will need to account for that as well. (I can explain more in another post.)
Here is a picture of all of my completed blocks on the design wall before I added the sashing strips. I was very happy with how they turned out. I also had fun using different shades of my selected colors.
Here are a few closeups of some of the blocks with the machine quilting in place. 

I think this one is my the way the fussy-cut lemon-colored rose is centered in the block.
Here's the back of the quilt so that you can see the edge-to-edge quilting motif.
Finally, here is a close up of my label. I'm not the most artistic at creating my labels, and I have a hard time getting my letters of uniform size and darkness.
As I've thought about "What's in a name?" I've also pondered what God's Word has to say about names. One particular Sunday School memory verse comes to mind, and I will simply close out this post by sharing it with you. 
A good name is to be more desired than great wealth, 
favor is better than silver or gold. Proverbs 22:1

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Smoked Four Cheese Macaroni and Cheese

Who doesn't like good down home comfort food? If you know us or have followed this blog at all, you know that we definitely like to eat. We especially like good barbecue and sides to go with it. A few weeks back, we tried our hand at a smoked macaroni and cheese. You could also prepare this macaroni and cheese in the oven, but we were rather intrigued at the idea of using the smoker.
Macaroni and cheese is regarded as a dish of English origin. The cheese sauce most frequently features cheddar cheese. Recipes for pasta and cheese casseroles actually appeared in both English and Italian cookbooks dating back to the 14th century. In the United States, Thomas Jefferson is reported to have served a macaroni and cheese-type dish at a state dinner in 1802. A recipe titled, "macaroni and cheese," appeared in The Virginia Housewife, a cookbook published in 1824. 
The recipe that I am sharing features four types of cheese: cream cheese, cheddar cheese, Gouda cheese, and parmesan cheese. Each brings a distinct flavor to the macaroni and cheese. Although you can use any type of pasta that tends to hold its shape well such as shells, bowties, or penne, elbow macaroni is often the pasta of choice. I like using the Barilla brand elbow macaroni. The elbows tend to be a bit larger, and they are ribbed, which adds a little interest while keeping the classic look to the dish.

Here are the ingredients and instructions:
1 16 ounce package of pasta
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
3 1/2 cups milk
8 ounce brick of cream cheese (Don't use the low fat stuff as the consistency won't turn out right; we're talking comfort food here - go for the real stuff. Moderation in all things.)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 cups shredded Gouda cheese
1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
Crushed Cheez-It crackers

1. Cook the pasta according to directions. Drain and set aside.
2. In a large Dutch oven, melt the butter and whisk the flour into the butter to form a light roux. Cook over medium heat for two minutes until the sauce is thick and bubbly.
3. Whisk in the milk and bring to a low boil. Cook five minutes until the mixture is thickened.
4. Cut the cream cheese into chunks and stir into the milk mixture until it is melted. Stir in the salt and pepper. Remove from heat.
5. Stir in 1 cup cheddar cheese, 1 cup Gouda cheese, and the parmesan cheese until they are melted. Stir in the pasta until it is well coated.
Here is a picture of the sauce before we stirred in the pasta
6. Spray a 11 x 9.5 inch roasting pan with non-stick cooking spray. Spoon the pasta mixture into the pan.
7. Combine the remaining cheddar and Gouda cheeses with the crushed Cheez-It crackers. Sprinkle over the top of the pasta.
8. Load the wood tray of the smoker with one small handful of wood chips. We recommend using a fruit wood such as apple or cherry. Preheat the smoker to 225 degrees.
9. Place the pasta in the smoker and cook for 1 hour until bubbly and heated through. If you don't have a smoker, bake in the oven at 350 degrees until bubbly and heated through, about 40-60 minutes.
Here it is on the shelf in the smoker
 Here you can see the crispy cracker topping.
We had our macaroni and cheese with some smoked pulled pork and vegetables. I'm thinking we will be trying this recipe again.