Sunday, September 22, 2013

Spiral Table Runner

As soon as I saw one of these spiral table runners at a guild "show and tell," I knew I wanted to make one. Since I couldn't find the pattern in several local quilt stores or at shows, I was happy to see that a friend was offering a class at her home. Along with 6 other quilting friends, I spent a pleasant 6 hours putting this together. You have to love a project that you can begin and finish in the same day. Strictly speaking, however, the decision to quilt this runner meant another few hours at home, but it was the perfect opportunity to practice my free motion quilting.

One of the roadblocks to free motion quilting for me is having to negotiate the basting pins, so I decided I'd hand baste this. After doing so, I realized that while I wouldn't need to remove the pins as I was quilting, I'd still have to remove the thread or chance "sealing" it into the runner with my quilting stitches. Out came the basting thread.

Remembering that I'd purchased a can of fabric adhesive spray, I decided this piece was small enough that I could use this method of basting. I'm happy to report that even with the curves and odd shape of the spiral, it made my free motion quilting a less daunting experience.

I had initially thought I'd practice my paisleys, but the shape of the runner seemed to call for quilting each fabric separately. What better shape for my spiral runner than the spiral, the one pattern I have a bit of confidence with. I'd purchased some Superior metallic thread and was pleased that with a few tension adjustments, it quilted beautifully.

I was nearly done with the quilting when I broke my needle. I don't know why, but it was easily changed and I did not emerge sweat drenched with an aching neck. I think the combination of not having to dodge safety pins and having done a bit of practice with my FMQ made all the difference.

Next up, I'm considering using the basting spray on my strata quilt which is currently pin basted. It's largish, but I think it's worth a try. Any suggestions??

Friday, September 6, 2013

Brownie Wars Revisited

No, I haven't dropped off the face of the earth, but I have been busy, busy, busy, mostly with my quilting, but with other pursuits as well. For those of you who are also retired, you'll understand when I say that I don't know how I ever fit work into my schedule.

I decided to post today because I want the recipe for these two incredible treats where I can always find them. The debate as to which brownie is superior--cake-y or fudge-y will never be won. And then you can throw into the mix the devotees of blondies and all I can predict is lots of yummy moments nibbling on the "contestants."

For the fudge-y brownies, I went to the King Arthur baking site. If you haven't visited this site, you've been missing out on some cooking and baking magic. Here is the link to these brownies (click here).


4 large eggs
1) Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9" x 13" pan
2) Crack the 4 eggs into a bowl, and beat them with the cocoa, salt, baking powder, espresso powder, and vanilla till smooth.
3) In a medium-sized microwave-safe bowl, or in a saucepan set over low heat, melt the butter, then add the sugar and stir to combine. Or simply combine the butter and sugar, and heat, stirring, until the butter is melted. Continue to heat (or microwave) briefly, just until the mixture is hot (about 110°F to 120°F), but not bubbling; it'll become shiny looking as you stir it. Heating the mixture to this point will dissolve more of the sugar, which will yield a shiny top crust on your brownies.
4) Add the hot butter/sugar mixture to the egg/cocoa mixture, stirring until smooth.
5) Add the flour and chips, again stirring until smooth. Note: If you want the chips to remain intact in the baked brownies, rather than melting in, let the batter cool in the bowl for about 20 minutes before stirring in the chips.
6) Spoon the batter into a lightly greased 9" x 13" pan.
7) Bake the brownies for about 30 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, or with just a few moist crumbs clinging to it. The brownies should feel set on the edges, and the center should look very moist, but not uncooked. Remove them from the oven and cool on a rack before cutting and serving.

nutrition information

Serving Size: 1 brownie (63g) Servings Per Batch:24 Amount Per Serving: Calories: 260 Calories from Fat: 130 Total Fat: 17g Saturated Fat: 8g Trans Fat:0g. Cholesterol: 55mg Sodium: 130mg Total Carbohydrate: 36g Dietary Fiber: 2g Sugars: 27gProtein: 3g.
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For the coconut macadamia blondies, I refer you to my blogging friend Deb of Kahaki Kitchen (click here).

Coconut Blondies 
Adapted from Ruth Cousineau, Gourmet Magazine 2008 via Epicurious
(Yield : 24 )
2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter
2 cups packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
 6 oz toasted and and chopped macadamia nuts

2 cups sweetened flaked coconut, divided

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Butter and flour a 13- by 9-inch baking pan. 

Melt butter in a large bowl in the microwave, stirring, until smooth. Cool to lukewarm. Whisk in brown sugar and vanilla. Whisk in eggs 1 at a time until mixture is glossy and smooth. 

Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt, then whisk into butter mixture. Stir in chopped macadamias and 1 1/2 cups coconut. 

Spread in pan and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup coconut. Bake until a pick inserted in center comes out clean, 35-45 minutes. I started checking mine at 35 minutes, then cooking in 5 minute intervals before checking again. A cake tester inserted into the middle should come out clean. Cool completely.

The smells in my kitchen were intoxicating. Both these recipes are very simple, but the results belie that simplicity. The brownies have that classic glazed and crackled top with just the right amount of chewiness and chocolate magic.

The blondies were the surprise of the day. The only blondies I've ever eaten contained white chocolate, which I abhor. These reminded me of caramel. I confess to licking the bowl clean before washing up. The combination of toasted macadamia, caramel, and coconut put me in mind of the gentle trade winds of Hawaii. Thank you Deb. And thank you King Arthur.