About the Blog

Some people create to enjoy the finished product. I get my greatest satisfaction from the process of creating. This blog is my attempt to share that process with others.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Recipe: Pesto-Chicken Pasta Casserole

Description: combine lots of yummy pre-prepared ingredients in a bowl, bake as a casserole, and prepare for recipe requests!

Servings: 6

  • 8 oz. pasta (Recipe called for penne; I used bow-tie. I boil pasta ahead of time and freeze in 8 oz. portions for re-heating and use)
  • 3 c. cooked chicken (I bought a hot rotisserie chicken from Walmart, removed the skin, and tore the meat into small pieces/strips/chunks)
  • 2 c. (8 oz.) shredded Italian cheese blend (I used an Italian 3-cheese blend from Whole Foods)
  • 1.5 c. fresh baby spinach
  • 1/2 of a (15 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 of a (15 oz.) jar prepared Alfredo sauce (I used a light Alfredo I found at Walmart)
  • 1/4 c. 2% milk
  • 1/2 of a (8.1 oz.) jar prepared pesto
  • 1/4 c. seasoned bread crumbs (or plain breadcrumbs with Italian seasoning mixed in)
  • 1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1.5 tsp. olive oil (I used Monjuni's seasoned olive oil)

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Cook pasta according to package directions.
  3. Meanwhile, combine in a large bowl: chicken, cheese blend, spinach, tomatoes, Alfredo sauce, milk, and pesto.
  4. Drain pasta and add to chicken mixture; toss to coat.
  5. Transfer to a greased 8-inch square baking dish.
  6. In a small bowl, combine bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, and olive oil. Sprinkle over the top of the casserole.
  7. Cover and bake at 350 for 40-45 min or until bubbly.
My Rating: 5/5 - you can't beat pesto, cheese, alfredo, and pasta; the spinach and tomatoes trick you into thinking it's healthy. I'm very sad that I only have 1 serving of this casserole left.

Note: recipe can be easily doubled to make 2 casseroles. An unbaked casserole may be frozen for up to 3 months, thawed in fridge overnight, and baked covered at 350 for 50-60 min until bubbly.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Wedding Record

The Project:

When people get married, they like to make a record of it. These records are sometimes cross-stitched by friends like me, who enjoy doing crafts with teeny tiny details. Since this particular piece is a gift for someone, I wasn't sure if I could post it on here without ruining the surprise.

Then it occurred to me: there are a lot of people I know who are getting married. It could be for any of those people. I don't have to say who the gift is for!

I like this design for a "wedding record" because it uses a limited color scheme, has lots and lots of details, and lacks the cheesy sayings so often used in these patterns.


- Pattern
- Floss colors specified in pattern
- Kreinik metallics blending filaments in: gold and pearl
- Fabric????

Here's where I ran into a problem. The pattern calls for a certain color (which is no longer sold) of 32-count fabric from Zweigart, on which the design will be stitched "over-two." The finished design will be about 10" x 8.75." Just the design. Not the design in a frame. The design. That's about the size of a sheet of computer paper - pretty big for a piece of needlework displaying a wedding date and the names of the couple. I wanted to make the design smaller.

The 32-count fabric that I bought created giant stitches when done "over-two" and miniscule stitches when done "over-one." That wasn't going to work. I tried several different fabrics, finally settling on an 18-count cream aida and over-one stitching. I have to come up with a way to make the white designs stand out more on the lighter fabric, but hopefully the finished product will end up being a reasonable size. (It seems like it will fit in an 8x10 frame.)

What I Changed:

It's usually best to follow the pattern in cross stitch designs, so I'm not making any significant variations. However, I am adding some extra detailing to make the design even more elegant.

For example, I want to incorporate some of the stitches I learned in working on my (still unfinished) whitework ornament. I am also making use of my two Kreinik blending filament sets (silver and gold). I have tiny needlework beads in both gold and cream, and I plan on adding those in at strategic places in the design. I've added gold blending filament to one color used in the wedding rings and "pearl" blending filament to give shine to the white flower petals and make them more distinct from the white scrollwork designs.

Random Comments: Hanno??

My first thought when I saw the example design displayed on the front of the pattern: What kind of a name is Hanno? Why not use the generic "John"? Or even something like George? Or Fred? Or Ed? (Ok, you get the idea...)

I mentioned this to my friend, Margaret M., (I'm not talking about myself in the 3rd person, I promise) who suggested that we look up the meaning of the name Hanno. Turns out it's a German version of... "John." Go figure. They DID use John.

My progress so far:

Metallic cross-hatch:

Metallic details on the wedding rings:

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Previously Completed Project: Old World Map

I worked on this giant map of the world VERY sporadically over the course of 3 years. I finally finished it over the summer this year. Thought I'd share it with you.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Recipe: French Crockpot Roast

Description: flavorful and hearty, with only 5 ingredients and absolutely no prep time, this is one of my favorite no-brainer recipes!

  • 3-4 lb. chuck roast, visible fat trimmed
  • 3-4 c. sliced fresh mushrooms (I use pre-sliced mushrooms or an egg slicer to cut whole mushrooms)
  • 1/2 c. red wine (I use cabernet)
  • 1 pkg. McCormick brown gravy mix
  • 1 pkg. Lipton onion soup mix
  1. Wash and dry roast; trim large visible fat and place in crockpot.
  2. Mix together gravy and onion mixes; sprinkle over roast. Pour wine over roast. Top with mushrooms.
  3. Cook in crockpot on low for 8 hours.
  4. Can serve with cooked rice
My Rating: 4/5

Shortcut: I use plastic "slow cooker liners" in my crock pot. When the dish is done, you throw away the liner and have minimal cleanup to do after the meal.

Recipe: Taco "Twists"

I've decided to add recipes to my blog. Why? I like to cook, and I like to eat. Because I have so little time for cooking, I especially like to cook recipes that require minimal effort/preparation. Other people probably have the same problem. So, I'm going to share some of my favorite "lazy chef" recipes.

Taco "Twists"

Description: Is it a taco? Is it a crescent roll? Nope, it's BOTH!

Servings: 12

  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 1/3 c. frozen chopped onion (Pictsweet) (or 1 large onion, chopped)
  • 2 c. (8 oz.) finely shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 c. salsa (I used Pace mild chunky salsa)
  • 1 can (4 oz.) chopped green chiles
  • 1 pkg. Taco Bell Taco seasoning
  • 3 (8 oz.) tubes refrigerated crescent rolls
  • spray butter (opt.)
  • Progresso plain bread crumbs (opt.)
  1. In large skillet, cook meat and onion over med. heat until no longer pink. When meat is almost brown, sprinkle taco seasoning on top and stir in as you finish browning the meat. (At this point, cooked meat can be refrigerated for up to 2 days before finishing the preparation.)
  2. Stir cheese, salsa, and chiles into beef.
  3. Unroll crescent roll dough and separate into 12 rectangles. Place on ungreased baking sheets. Press perforations to seal.
  4. Place a little less than 1/2 c. of the beef mixture into the center of each rectangle. Bring 4 corners of the dough to the center and twist; pinch to seal. Pinch all open seams together to seal.
  5. If desired, immediately prior to baking, spray the top of each twist with butter and sprinkle with bread crumbs.
  6. Bake at 350 for 25-30 min until golden brown.
  7. Baked twists can be frozen for up to 3 months. To use frozen twists, bake on ungreased baking sheet at 350 for 20-25 min until heated through.
My rating: 4/5; really tasty and convenient; definitely a keeper.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

My So-Called Scarf

The Project:

A scarf knitted from a free pattern I found online. Another great pattern for multicolored yarns - the cross-hatch stitch pattern really shows off the color changes.


2 skeins of Punta merisoft hand painted yarn in HP71. LOVE. THIS. YARN.

Other comments:

Nothing much to say about this scarf. It was easy and fun to knit, and it knitted up pretty quickly. I love how it turned out! A great scarf for fall.

The finished project:

"Garterrific" Scarf

The Project

The the designer's online instructions are very sufficient to explain how to make this scarf. The only ambiguity in them really is which method of "make one" to use.

I actually used two different methods: when a triangle side was slanti
ng to the right, I made a right-leaning increase; when a triangle side was slanting to the left, I made a left-leaning increase. So, I'd make a left-leaning increase at the end of a row and right before turning the work, but after turning the work I'd begin the next row with a right-leaning increase (because the side switched from left-leaning to right-leaning when the work was turned).


I used the exact same yarn that she did (Punta Yarns Merisoft in hand painted color 71, purchased at Knits by Nana).

I loved, loved, LOVED knitting with this yarn. It has so many different colors but somehow still manages to not look wild and ridiculous - most of the colors in the yarn are softened or muted rather than vivid and bright. Such a lovely use of color. I commend the designer of this project for finding an interesting way of displaying the yarn's colors without detracting from its beauty by an overly ornate stitch pattern. Bravo! The tassels, the triangular shape of the scarf, and the single band of yarn-overs in the middle of the triangle are exactly the kind of details that make a colorful piece visually interesting without being overwhelming.

What I Changed

When binding off, I left two stitches on the needle and used them to make a simple, 2-stitch i-cord. I didn't make the cord very long, just long enough so that the tassel on one side of the triangle would be farther from the corner of the scarf than the other. The reasons I did this were to make the scarf easier to put on and keep on and to make more tassels visible from the front when wearing it.

The Finished Product:

Patchwork Wrap: Fringe Fixes, Alterations, and the Finished Product

Fringe Fixes

The last time I wrote about the fringe on this wrap, I was faced with a dilemma: more fringe to make than yarn to make it with. The fringe really adds something special to the wrap, so I didn't want to shorten its length. The solution I chose, therefore, was to alternate colors in the fringe border when one of the edge squares was knit in a color I was running low on.

The fringe for each edge square is crocheted in the same color as the half-square that forms the edge. Originally, I tried crocheting the alternating-color fringe by just picking a random color to mix in with the edge color. I decided that this made the fringe look a little clownish and ultimately alternated the edge square color with the color comprising the other half of that square. (I realize that this is a really awkward explanation - it's hard to explain.)

Here's a picture of a square that has alternating-color fringe, so maybe you can figure out what I'm talking about:


After crocheting fringe around both short edges and one long edge of the wrap, I thought that the wrap was complete. Then I tried it on. I looked like I'd fallen asleep on the couch, woken up late, and ran out the door wearing my afghan. The word "babushka" also came to mind.

The long sides of the wrap were....too long. Fortunately, my parents came in town and I was able to get their opinion on the length of the wrap. They agreed that it was enormous. To make the wrap more wearable, I removed 2 rows of squares from it, shortening it about 8 inches. It's now long enough to wrap around me but short enough so that I won't be fumbling with too much excess fabric.

The Finished Product

Inconsistency, Thy Name is Margaret

Real life has been demanding a little more of my time than usual lately. I'll update the blog later this week, since we don't have class on Thursday or Friday. (Thank. Goodness.)

For my few and faithful readers, here's a quick update on my various projects (posts and pics are coming soon):
  • Patchwork wrap: finished the fringe, ended up removing 2 rows of squares to make the garment more wear-able (and less like an afghan), and finally finished.
  • "Garterrific" scarf: finished! I added a little i-cord to connect one of the tassels and have already worn it to class.
  • My So-Called Scarf: started with the leftover yarn from the "Garterrific" scarf, but had to buy a second hank. Still a work-in-progress.
  • Box Lace Stole: started, but I'm only 3.5 pattern repeats in (and the stole has 100 of them). Learned how to work an open cast-on