Thursday, March 30, 2017

Project 53: Denim Jacket

After my Pirate of Mens Pants project I had quite a few denim remnants left and I decided to try my hand at a denim jacket. I first used up the black and grey fabric and got a prototype together that I liked fairly well but it had a few fit issues and the sleeve cap geometry was a little awkward.

This is the second version of the pattern and I'm quite happy with the fit. The cuff bands were supposed to be the dark color, but I screwed them up the first time and only had the medium blue fabric left. I still think they look pretty good.

The welt pockets were exceptionally uncooperative this time for reasons known only to themselves. I think I just have to make them a hundred times in order to figure out every trick of getting them to come out perfectly.

For my sassy pockets fabric, I chose chubby baby mermaids. Doesn't that just make you feel better reading those words? Chubby Baby Mermaids!

Now that I'm quite happy with the pattern I'm going to make another black and grey one like my prototype, then make a third with a quilted lining for the winter.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Breakfast Casserole: An Instant Pot Story

If you happened to give the Shrimp Boil a try and had a few tasty sea bugs left over, here's something fun you can do with them. I originally found a recipe for oeufs an cocotte, which I tried but found a bit bland. Starting from there, though, we gave it the ol' Barr-Gagne "what if we" treatment and arrived here.

Breakfast Casserole

  • 1 teaspoon grease (bacon, butter, lard, etc.)
  • 2 cups baby spinach leaves
  • 1/2 cup diced cooked shrimp
  • 4 slices bacon cooked and crumbled
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup grated cheese
  • 6 eggs
  • Old Bay seasoning to taste
  • Fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 1 cup water
Grease two ramekins that will fit inside your Instant Pot. We have the smallest model, so we only have room for two which suits us fine. If you're cooking for a family, you could use one or two larger ones in a larger Instant Pot and serve them family style.

Put a layer of spinach leaves down. They will be compressed by the layers on top of them and cook down, so don't worry if it looks like you're out of space with the first ingredient.

Next, add the diced shrimp, bacon, and garlic. This is the layer where improvisation is most workable. The classic recipe calls for diced ham, which I don't like.

Then a layer of shredded cheese. Probably best to do a little manual compression at this point to be sure that there are room for your eggs.

Crack your eggs, three at a time, into bowls to make sure there are no shell pieces, then pour over the cheese. Smoosh around to ensure good coverage. Sprinkle with Old Bay and pepper and they're ready to go in the Instant Pot.

Place your steamer rack and about a cup of water in the pot. Place the first ramekin in, then using four bamboo skewers cut to appropriate lengths, MacGyver up a scaffold (see photo) and place the second ramekin on top.

Close and seal the lid and set your Instant Pot for eight minutes on low pressure. Do a quick release at the end, et voilà!
1. Grease ramekins

2. Add spinach

3. Add shrimp, bacon, and garlic

4. Add cheese

5. Add eggs

6. Sprinkle seasonings

7. Build scaffold

8. Feel proud of scaffold

9. Program Instant Pot

10. The scaffold worked!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Shrimp Boil: An Instant Pot Story

Prepared ingredients for the recipe on a cutting board

Completed dish in the pressure cooker.
That was easy
I have no earthly idea why I have reached fifty years of age having never heard of a shrimp boil, but it happened. Let me save you the embarrassment in case you're in the same boat I was last week.

The shrimp boil is a staple of social life in the South, particularly on the Gulf coast. The term really refers to the activity rather than a particular set of ingredients or cooking techniques. Descriptions in various places make it sound like the social equivalent of the church spaghetti dinner; an easy way to make massive quantities of food so large groups can eat together and usually raise money.

I've never been a good enough cook to attempt much seafood since it requires such careful attention during the cooking process. Instant Pot to the rescue! I've made this dish four or five times now and the shrimp have come out perfectly every time.

Shrimp Boil Sheumais

Ingredients are listed in quantities per person for a generously fed full-sized gay

1/2 lb raw shrimp in shell, de-veined
1/2 large smoked sausage
1/2 onion roughly cut
1 ear of corn cut in thirds
4 baby potatoes
2 mushrooms
1 12 ounce can of beer
1/2 tablespoon Old Bay
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic
Red chili flakes to taste

Ready for these complicated instructions? Put everything into the Instant Pot and set it to cook on high pressure for four minutes. When done, release the pressure. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to a serving dish or plates. Put an empty bowl nearby for the shrimp shells.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Chicken Pot Pie Stew: An Instant Pot Story

Takes me right back!
The diet that we enjoyed on my parents' farm growing up would be the envy of many foodies today. We grew most of our own vegetables, apples, pears, plums, and many herbs. We raised chickens, so our eggs were always warm-from-the-chicken-butt fresh. We raised beef cattle, grew the hay they lived on in the winter, and grazed them on our own land the rest of the year. Our water came from our own well, and our mushrooms grew among the fragrant piles of cow poo in our own pastures. My Mom was a very good cook, so you put all those things together and it's no wonder I have a passionate relationship with food.

Every once in a while though, Mom wouldn't feel up to cooking, so we would get something from the frozen food aisle. My favourite was Swanson's Chicken Pot Pies. I don't know what it was about them - probably the excessive salt - that made me love them so much.

Limiting my carbohydrates to keep my diabetes in remission means I probably wouldn't splurge on one of those pot pie crusts (36 freaking grams!!), but I have found a way to have something very much like the pot pie experience using the fabulous Instant Pot.

Chicken Instant Pot Pie Stew

  • 1 diced onion
  • 2-3 tablespoons oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 5-6 boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 16 ounce package of mixed frozen vegetables (Just do it once; you'll understand)
  • 2 cups half and half
  • 3 tablespoons flour or corn starch
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Turn the Instant Pot to sauté and wait for the display to say “HOT”. Add the cold oil and onions, stirring occasionally for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for a further minute.

Hit the cancel button and add the stock and chicken thighs. Stir to deglaze the bottom of the pot. Put the lid on, set the vent control to “SEALING” and press the poultry button.

When the cycle is done, hit the cancel button and turn the vent control to do a quick release of pressure. Use a slotted spoon to remove the chicken pieces and set aside in a bowl.

Press the sauté button to bring the stock and onions back up to boiling.

Use two forks to shred the chicken.

Whisk the flour or cornstarch into the half and half.

When the stock in the pot is boiling, add the frozen vegetables and let them cook for 5 minutes. Pour in the dairy and starch mixture and stir until thickened.

Return the chicken to the pot to heat back up and serve!

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Boxing Day Butter Chicken: An Instant Pot Story

It's even better the next day
Due to the Great Thanksgiving Flood of 2016, I was staying at the Marriott Residence Inn while my condo was being repaired over the holidays. I decided that I needed to do something to mark them, even though displaced. In 2016, Christmas fell on a Sunday, so the official observed Federal holiday was Monday the 26th. Being of British background and citizenship, I call that day Boxing Day and it is customarily when you visit with friends because you're sick of your family by that point.

I decided to have a Boxing Day Indian Buffet at my hotel room. I had never cooked Indian food before, but the Instant Pot seemed the ideal tool for it and indeed I found many, many Instant Pot recipes for my favourite dishes, including my absolute number one: Butter Chicken.

I looked through a dozen or so recipes to get a consensus idea of the spice profile and cardinal ingredients. This recipe is the result of my research and several increasingly fabulous experiments.

Boxing Day Butter Chicken

  • 1 diced onion
  • 2-3 tablespoons ghee
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • ~1.5 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1-4 hot peppers to taste
  • 6 roma tomatoes pureed
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1 big pinch of fenugreek leaves

Before you start:

  1. Dice your onion
  2. Cut the chicken into bite-sized chunks
  3. Measure your garlic and ginger and put in a small bowl
  4. Measure your dry spices into a small bowl
  5. Puree tomatoes and peppers
Turn on the Instant Pot to the sauté setting. When the display reads "HOT" add the cold ghee. When it melts, add the onions. Sauté the onions until the edges start to turn brown. Add the ginger and garlic and continue to sauté for another minute or so.

Add the chicken and stir until all the pink is gone. Add the dry spices and stir until well combined.

Hit the cancel button, then add the tomato / pepper puree and stir to deglaze the bottom of the pot.

Put the lid in place, making sure the vent control is set to "SEALING." Hit the poultry button.

When the cycle is done, use the vent control to do a quick pressure release. Use a slotted spoon to remove the chicken and set aside.

Either use an immersion blender to puree the sauce or remove it to blend separately. Never mind. Just go get an immersion blender. You deserve it.

Stir in the whipping cream and re-add the chicken and fenugreek leaves. Turn the Instant Pot on to the sauté setting to get everything back piping hot.

Serve with rice or naan, but not both! You don't need all those carbohydrates.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Spicy Beef Stew: An Instant Pot Story

Twenty-nine minutes to NOM!
On Thanksgiving last, I came home about 10:00pm from dinner out with my family in Poulsbo to find water pouring into my condo through every conceivable spot in my kitchen and living room ceiling. Turns out my upstairs neighbor turned on the tap in his kitchen sink and forgot about it for hours. The upshot of that is that I'm living in the Marriott Residence Inn for about six weeks while my home is repaired. It's a lovely place and it has a functioning kitchenette, but no real oven. My cooking repertoire leans heavily toward the grill and the oven, so I was feeling a bit out of luck.

My beloved friend Hippy Goodwife had recently joined a cult purchased an Instant Pot, which is a very fancy multi-function gadget that is simultaneously a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, sauté pan, and other things I'm sure. I was intrigued with the possibility of using it here in the hotel, so having unexpectedly received an Amazon gift card, I settled on the smallest size of the current product, the IP-DUO50.

While I waited the 24 hours for it to arrive I studied the bazillion recipes you can find online just by typing "Instant Pot r" into Google. It seemed that most people's first essay in Instant Pottery was beef stew, so I gave that a try. I read through five or six recipes and then decided that I knew better. Shocked?

I just finished slurping down my third bowl and felt the need to share the recipe with you all before collapsing in a heap on the gorgeous king-sized hotel bed.

Seumas' Instant Pot Spicy Beef Stew

Serves two full-sized gays generously.

  • ~ 1 lb chuck roast cut in cubes by the handsome butcher at your local grocery store
  • 1 cup onions diced for you by the staff in the produce department
  • 1 tablespoon diced garlic from a jar because who has time for that
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 1 jalapeño pepper
  • 2 dashes worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • ~1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 cup carrot slices
  • 1 cup mushroom slices
  • 4 new potatoes cut in quarters
  • 2 stalks celery cut into one inch sections
Combine the flour, salt, and pepper and coat the beef cubes while you heat up the Instant Pot on the sauté setting. Add the cold oil and beef to brown on all sides. Add the onions and garlic and stir until the onions start to soften. Turn off the Instant Pot.

Puree the tomatoes and jalapeño. Add the remaining flour mixture and worcestershire sauce. Add enough red wine to bring the total fluid to two cups. Add to the beef / onion / garlic mixture and deglaze the bottom of the cooking pot. (that's fancy cooking talk for scraping the stuff off the bottom that got stuck)

Add the beef stock and the vegetables. Put the lid on the Instant Pot – it beeps to tell you if you did it right and won't let you go any further until if you don't. A very nice safety feature.

Push the button marked "Meat / Stew" and go find something to do for about 45 minutes while the Instant Pot heats up, cooks for you, then cools down and depressurizes.

The damn thing even keeps your food warm for you if you forget about it!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Project 53: The Pirate of Mens Pants

Five pair of jeans, light blue, red, dark gray, dark blue and medium gray.
I made seven pair, but these five are the best.
Groan if you must, but it was either that or Lord of the Pants. Anyway, Back when I made my Black Velvet Pants I thought I had the whole trouser thing down pat, but when I tried to make myself some jeans, I realized that the geometry for pants is quite different from that of jeans. I went through eight different versions of the pattern before I got the fit just right.

Light blue and red jeans with printed pockets turn out.
Sassy pockets!
Having succeeded with the pattern drafting, I went to town and made a bunch of them. I can now proudly declare that when I step out my front door, I'm almost always wearing my own jeans!

Along with getting pretty good at sewing a fly with a zipper shield, I've settled on my signature move in jeans; Sassy pockets! I pick up a couple quilting remnants (called fat quarters) in a print that I like and make the pocket bags out of them. I'm usually the only one who sees them, but I think they're really fun.

detail of zipper shield in fly.
Fly with zipper shield. Pretty close to RTW!
Speaking of sewing a fly, I watched a bunch of videos and read tutorials but ultimately I figured out my own way of doing it that I actually think is better than anything I read or saw on YouTube. I may have to make my own video about sewing a fly in my spare time.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Ding! Level 50

Pearrygin Lake
Another year over and it's time to answer the Birthday Questions again. I spent an extended long weekend with Doug, Lance, Deena, Suzanne and their parters and kids camping out at Pearrygin Lake State Park near Winthrop, Washington so this is a little late.

What was the most difficult thing you faced while 49?

Without a doubt, it was the realization in early 2016 that I had slipped back into a depression and that it was manifesting very differently than before; as anger. After I got back from my wonderful Christmas trip back to Cleethorpes and no longer had that out in the future to distract me I started to find myself getting into pointless, unnecessary conflicts with people. Some of them very important and beloved people. After the third or fourth incident I started to feel like something was wrong with me, since I was the only common factor in all the scenarios. I'm happy to report that just naming the problem has given me the power to at least control myself when the anger arises. I'm working on more durable solutions, but that's a story for another time.

What was the best thing that happened while you were 49?

Aunt Betty, and two daughters, one granddaughter,
and four great granddaughters of my Uncle Eric.
The moment that I became a UK citizen in my Mum's hometown with my aunt Betty and cousins Karen and Dave there. I became aware in 2014 that the UK had changed their citizenship laws so that the foreign-born children of British mothers could apply to be recognized as citizens. The foreign-born children of British fathers have always been citizens from birth. Apparently citizenship flows more easily through a penis than a vagina, or something like that. Anyway, I began the application process and one of the requirements was that within 90 days of being approved you have to attend a citizenship ceremony in the UK. I used the magic of Google to find out how long the application process usually takes and counted on my fingers and toes. If all went well, I could combine the trip for the citizenship ceremony with my long-wished for trip back to Cleethorpes to spend Christmas with the English side of the family. There were a huge number of variables, of course, and my approval didn't come through until a week before I got on the plane, but the kind folks at the Northeast Lincolnshire Council accommodated me. Since Doug has been a UK citizen from birth through his father, we now have a shared citizenship and the possibility of living and working in Scotland someday.
Aunt Betty and Uncle Tom, cousins Karen and Dave Suthern,
and their daughter Kelly.

What do you hope to achieve while you're 50?

When I retired from the Board of Slighe nan Gaidheal last October, I decided that I would not accept any new projects until my Three Great Quests were achieved. Firstly, finish Mum's estate. Secondly, finish my second CD, and lastly get married. Will I achieve all three this year? Who knows?
I'm going to close this post with a quote from the birthday card that my loving, patient future husband wrote to me.
Just a reminder… 
Cousins Lynn and David and their grandson, Corben
Welcome to 50, Love – it's way cooler than it looks. You get to be you. You give up a few things that it turns out you weren't going to be, and then you find out they were blocking your view of who you are.
And you're fabulous.
My younger cousin, Mark