What funny thing happened on the way to the oven

We like to use most Friday nights as pizza night. Served with a nice tossed salad and some fruit our meal is complete, simple, quick and tasty. This past Friday night something funny happened on the way into the oven. But more on that in a minute.

To get started you can use a prepared pizza dough or make your own. I generally make my own but it has been hot here in the desert so I used a good prepared one.

Depending on the number of people you are serving or number of pizzas you are making I generally use 1 pound of sweet Italian sausage plus 1/2 cup of black olives and a 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms. I brown all of these together with 1 clove of garlic. Remember, these do not have to be accurate and adjust to your tastes.  I also add 1 heaping tsp. of oregano and a scant 1/8 tsp. of red pepper flakes.

TIP: Italian sausage has red pepper flakes and adding the flakes after baking might be a better choice.

Drain the sausage and set aside. Preparing the sauce is quick and easy. I use 4-6 Roma tomatoes, cleaned and quartered. Place in a food processor or blender with 1 tsp. pf salt. Pulse until you have a thick chunky sauce. We like pizza with less sauce but fresh tasting. This suits us but do adjust to your own preferences.

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Now you can roll out your prepared pizza dough a bit more. We like thin and thick crust. So it is about whatever mood we are in on pizza night. Spread as much sauce as you like on your pizza and add the drained sausage and your shredded mozzarella topping. I always prefer my cheese shredded. I also add additional sliced tomatoes or peppers and black olives and basil at this time. I have added this to about half of the pizza as my husband is not as big a fan of Black olives and mushroom as I am.

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Now it is on the pizza peel  and ready to bake in oven. This is a job my husband loves to do and does so well, slipping the piazza off the peel and into the oven nicely centered on the pizza stone. The oven is preheated to 400 degrees. This is where a funny thing happened on the way into the oven. The pizza slipped off the peel, part of it fell between door and oven and the rest fell to a fairly sticky mess on the stone. Yes, that did happen. I had no time for a picture as we were busy trying to save some of this and keeping everything from burning. Had to move quickly while saying out loud “How did that happen?” Not exact words but close enough. I did what I could in cleaning this up and was able to fold  the pizza over so it looked like a half moon or a calzone. It still was tasty but not simple and quick and the mess was a big cleaning chore. So, no I did not get a picture of this food delight… maybe next time. It still tasted good and we decided not to consider it a failure. We did save it, after-all.

So, you can see one does have to have a sense of humor about our creative endeavors. That sometimes arrives a week or two after the happening when you are having fun telling the story to someone.

So, I say, everything can be salvaged to a point, keep creating and enjoy the moment.

Creative Works in Progress What is a Good Number

My creative needle endeavors goal of one a week or month can set in motion several unfinished projects. Many people lovingly refer to these as UFO’s. That seems to cause me too much angst as I feel all this work is hovering on my shoulders.

So, I like to refer to them as Works in Progress (WIP) which seems to allow me as long as it takes to complete without any guilt. Needle creations for me start with an idea. I see the big picture but not necessarily the end result. The project evolves and it often takes time. Sometimes I need the right piece of fabric or a ribbon to complete. Sometimes the piece itself will lead me in a different direction than my original vision.

So, that does take time for me and generally leaves me with 5 or 6 WIP.  It is how I like it…. no guilt or boredom.  Often when working one idea opens another idea leading me to a new project or the completion of an old one.

So, today I guess I am saying that anyone who has difficulty finishing a project might try giving yourself permission to have as many WIPs that you can handle.

I have several categories of WIPs. But today I thought I would share my dolls.

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Christmas Twins
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Hand embroidered facial features
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Need Shoes

These are considered my Christmas dolls, twins, no name yet but will have when finished. They need their hair tweaked and clothing for the one and new shoes. They did not like the ones that were made for them…… They said too old fashioned. So, I think they will finish their dressing by July.

The blonde doll, unnamed yet needs a thinning of her hair and clothing. I have clothing chosen just need to cut out and sew. The theatrical lady in black and white will have wild colored mohair for hair and some Madrigal clothing as will the doll heads in the tray. They are Christmas tree ornaments and I plan a series of them in honor of my daughter in law. She sang with a Madrigal group for several years and she has an amazing voice.

I also consider the rabbit a doll and he needs some tweaking also. When completed I will post them on my etsy site.

So, my humble message is be a creative spirit no matter your limited time. Give yourself permission to work on more than one project at a time. Your project is completed when you say it is. Work a little each day and see how much is completed in even 15 minutes.

Always enjoy and share your projects.

Have a great day!!

Multi Herb Pesto Does It Alway Have to be Made with only Basil

Pesto is familiar to many people these days and still many have never tasted it. It is readily available in most stores and also easy to make. Generally pesto is made with basil, garlic, pine nuts, cheese, and olive oil and a little salt. Freshly made it can last in your refrigerator up to a week or frozen for later use.

I wanted some one day and I did not have all the ingredients so I decided I would make my own recipe and refer to it as Multi Herb Pesto. Anyone can make this and add it to our growing list of one new creation a week. I simply did not have enough basil in my herb garden and I felt like getting creative.

Here is the recipe I created with what I had on hand at the time:.

  1. 3 cloves of garlic
  2. 2T. (about 8) Kalamata pitted Olives ( use those packed in olive oil)
  3. 3 stems of Basil— it was all I had left
  4. 3T chopped sun dried tomatoes
  5. 10 stems of Parsley
  6. 3 stems of cilantro ( all herbs are optional and to your taste)
  7. 3-4 T olive oil ( adjust to your taste and degree of thickness)

Pinch of salt…. can always add more and I generally do. This recipe makes about 3/4 C

Gather your herbs from your garden or at the market. I went off to my herb tub to snip herbs that I could use.Rinse the herbs and toss in a food processor or chopper along with other ingredients. Chop and add oil. If too thick add more oil. Be sure to taste and add more salt if needed.

If using over spaghetti, I place a small amount in bottom of pasta bowl, add pasta on top, then more pesto, a little of the pasta water and continue to toss until pasta is evenly coated. I generally add hamburger, sausage, or chicken and serve. Shredded cheese is on hand as we prefer to add our own amount of cheese rather than having it in the pesto sauce.

Even if I make a red sauce for pasta I generally add some of this multi herb sauce to the red after it has cooked.

Other uses:

We love to grill vegetables and the sky is the limit…..zucchini, onions, celery, sweet red peppers, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, etc and we add this sauce to it with a little more oil and sometimes a bit of  balsamic vinegar. It makes for a great salad. You can also add lettuce to this or pasta of your choice and some grilled chicken for a main course.

We use it as a basting sauce for chicken, also placing some under the skin of the chicken. Grill or roast the chicken

Love it on cooked potatoes. Cool the potatoes slightly, cut in mouth size pieces and add the sauce

It is good on fish. I often use it on tilapia and cod and sometimes salmon.

There are so many uses for this Multi Herb Sauce and even though this is not a Traditional pesto recipe it is what we enjoy and use. Changing the herbs each time alters the flavor so something new arrives at the table each time. .

So use what you have on hand, adjust ingredients to your taste and Enjoy!

 

Grilled Lemon Chicken

Great day in the desert to Bar-B-Cue ( high 80’s and no wind) chicken using a simple  basting of lemon and herbs. First outside to our  Meyer Lemon Tree to pick a large one or several small ones..

So many lemons still on the tree and new blossoms appearing.  The scent of the lemon blossoms is so invigorating to my senses. When the patio doors are open it reaches inside our home and can be enjoyed while cooking.

Now onto our herb garden in a tub to snip some parsley,thyme and oregano. Use whatever herbs appeal to you.

These herbs have grown all winter long covered in the tub with small white Christmas lights providing some heat. We sell the tubs locally and off and on at my Tanglewood site. Yes, sorry, that was a bit of advertising for our custom made wood tubs. 🙂

The chicken weighed 3.7 pounds and today we cut  it in half;  basting one in lemon dressing and the other half for a red sauce. Here is my recipe for the lemon basting:

  1. Juice of 1 large lemon
  2. 2-3 T. olive oil
  3. Use Any amount of  chopped herbs you like. I like to use 2 T. and add a teaspoon or more of honey and then whisk to mix.

In the mean time the chicken has been cleaned and dried and sprinkled with coarse sea salt and pepper. Allow to sit for 20- 30 minutes while preparing grill.

We use briquets from Trader Joe’s. They have no fillers added such as coal dust or parafins as binders. They only use cornstarch with their hardwoods. All Natural without petroleum products making the taste much better and safe for us. Get the grill hot and then oil with a little olive oil. Place chicken to side of hot coals using the indirect grilling method.. Grill for 20 minutes and then baste and turn chicken. I do this every 20 minutes until chicken is done. I generally like mine to show a temperature reading of 175 while most  cooking thermometers say 165. Everyone has their own taste and opinions on this. I like mine to fall apart a bit while remaining moist. So today grilling these as half chickens took  mine about 1 hour to complete. Again, let your preferences be your guide.

Our chicken was served with baked potatoes and a simple veggie salad. Yum, we always enjoy this and  hope you do also.

Have a great day.

Rabbits on Your Pillow

Yes, Rabbits on your pillows. Read on and see how I like to showcase them.

Who loves pillows? I do and I enjoy them everywhere and changing them out with the seasons. So, I make them. Most of them are made with zippers or some form of opening on the back. This makes for easy changing, very easy storage for the next season and more economical as pillow forms can be pricey even when found on sale.

Also, if you go to my etsy shop you see I do love rabbits. When my children were growing up we raised rabbits and my joy of them continues to this day. I incorporate them into many things…. paintings, necklaces, quilts, appliques, pillows, table runners, placemats, etc. Well you get the picture. They remind me of spring growing up in the Midwest. Even in the desert Spring remains my favorite season.

I am featuring 2 small pillows today. No real tutorial but they are simple and can be made any size. The first is small___ 8″ x 8″ square. I made it to cover a small store bought pillow that had seen its better days. Recycling can work and save money. For this I did a small needle punch rabbit (5″ x5″) and then just added fabric strips of various colors using a 1/2 inch seam. These strips were added in a log cabin manner. The first strip was added to the right side, second on bottom, third on left and the last at the top. Your choice on how you do this. When these strips have been added the front side will be an 8 1/2″ square. I cut a back piece the same size as the front and place the two right sides together. Sew, leaving an opening at one side for stuffing the pillow form. I like to hand sew the opening closed but you can do it on the machine.

You do not have to do a needle punch focal piece. Mine was a kit that I had started a few years ago and decided I must finish it was as it was perfect for this little pillow. Any piece of fabric can be used, even seasonal motifs or picture fabrics. You can stuff it with batting instead of using a pillow form. It is great to use as a hostess gift or prizes for card groups or organizations that you attend.

The second pillow is approximately 14″x 10″. It was made the same way as the first but I also made a little piping to go around the edge. The piping is optional and if you are a beginner you can skip this step. Should you want to try the piping watch this video for a how to.

Continue in the same manner as above. For this one I cut my side pieces in different sizes. The yellow linen right side piece was cut about 4″ wide as I wanted to add some flowers and leaves. These were free hand sketched and appliqued. The stems were done with DMC floss in a simple stem stitch. The flowers and leaves can be sewn by machine using a zig zag stitch or a blanket stitch if your machine holds that stitch. I did not make these covers with a removable back as I wanted them for year around use.These rabbits make me smile and feel good about life.

These two little pillows are good for a new creative addition one week or one month at a time. Enjoy!

Oven Sun Dried Tomatoes

Yes, Sun Dried Oven tomatoes is maybe something new for some and a fun new recipe to try and share with others. But first can anyone believe that is March; the holidays are over and spring is around the corner. When I started needle and spoon my goal was to post 3-5 times a week and that remains my goal. So, back on track and ready to pursue the creative life with one new creation a week or month. It is what motivates me and fun to share with others.

Today I want to share my recipe for sun dried oven tomatoes. We love them and use them the same as we do regular tomatoes. Should you try this recipe in your home I think you will agree that they taste so much better than the ones you buy in the store. Doesn’t everything!?

Our local Sprouts store had Romas on sale…. 2 pounds for $1.00 and I purchased almost 8 pounds and only using a few for a regular lettuce salad. I cleaned about 7 1/2 pounds, cut them in half and half again. Keep all pieces under 2 inches. Remove the seeds and place in a large bowl.

A mixture of 1 teaspoon of basil, 2 teaspoons of oregano, thyme and salt are added to the large bowl of tomatoes. These herbs can be measured to your taste. I prefer fresh basil to dried so I add it later. As the TV chefs have often said “The food is about your taste”. When cooking adjust the herbs and spices to what you like, when baking follow the recipe exactly. Also add a tablespoon of olive oil and mix all of this.

I prepare my tomatoes in my oven set at 170 degrees. It generally takes 10 to 12 hours. I have no idea about a dehydrator as I do not own one but have read it takes 3 – 4 hours.

Place the tomatoes in non aluminum pans. I use a broiler pan and a baking pan with just a tad bit of olive oil on the pan. Set timer for 3 hours and leave oven door open a bit to allow moisture to escape. Every 3 hours check and turn tomatoes. A heavy spatula comes in handy to smash and turn them. Between 6 and 9 hours you can merge tomatoes to one pan as they have shrunk that much. Mine our generally done to our liking in about 10 hours. Allow them to cool and place in a clean canning jar and cover with olive oil. I always use a quart canning jar and keep fresh in refrigerator.

The jar yields about 27 ounces of dried tomatoes and this will vary each time you make them. This is at least 3 times more than the small jar from the store and that small jar is gone in well under 2 weeks at our house. So, I love making these when the Romas are on sale at such a good price. What a great taste they are on sandwiches, pasta, all kinds of salads, cooked with chicken and wherever your creative food taste takes you.

Recipe

7-8 pounds of roma tomatoes
1 tsp basil, 2 tsp of oregano, thyme and salt.
1 Tablespoon olive
Olive oil
170 degree oven, 10-12 hours.

Clean, seed tomatoes and place in large bowl, pieces no bigger than 2 inches. Add the herbs and olive oil. Place on non aluminum pans and into preheated oven.

Check every 3 hours, smashing and turning tomatoes.

Leave oven door ajar to allow moisture to escape.
When done, cool and pack in canning jar and cover with olive oil. Then refrigerate.

Hope you enjoy them and stop back as next time we will use the needle.

Cutting Boards Useful Tool for a Creative Home

When living a creative life we have  tools that aid our efforts. It does not matter what hobby you have that tools are always essential. One of my favorite tools is the wood cutting board. Did you know that wood has been used in the preparation of food since the prehistoric ages.

Since wood was readily available it was the material of choice for cutting boards. Due to modern technology these boards can be cut in any size and shape. I have several sizes of boards that are handcrafted by both my husband and me. We use them for food preparation, serving ,eating from them and as centerpieces. We love the look and feel of wood and enjoy using them to create a meal–to serve and beautify our home.

Wood is somewhat self-healing and has some anti-septic properties. Taking proper care of hardwood is important. Everyone wipes their boards after every use but I also rinse them in warm water and dry them thoroughly. Often, I will rub half a lemon over it and use coarse salt as a rub to cleanse. Then rinse again and dry thoroughly. This is something I do when I feel it is needed. Every 2 months or when it appears dry I use a food grade mineral oil  or some other good food based product for wood. Most contain bees wax with mineral oil and some an essential oil with a citrus scent.

Knife marks will appear- especially if using a serrated knife to cut bread or tomatoes, etc. These marks seem to add beauty and age. I like to think that many a happy meal or celebration has been created with this beautiful board.  Mine is always on the counter, is yours?

Good choices for  types of wood to use is walnut, cherry and hard maple. Below is a picture of my cutting board that is used daily. As I enjoy making the biggest share of our meals from scratch is does get a good workout. This one is is cut on the edge grain which makes it a little more stable than when cut on the flat grain.  Edge grain makes it easier for modern woodworkers  to make a thicker board. Wood is also easy on one’s knives and with proper care the board can become an heirloom to pass down to another who enjoys creating in the kitchen.my cutting board

Here is a picture of our rolling butcher block which my husband also made. Although not a true butcher block so  we refer to it as our pastry center. It is made of solid hard maple and we use it mostly for rolling pie crusts, cutting out cookies, bread making or anything pertaining to flour. When not is use it holds a wine opener with the base designed and made by husband. He is a talented man and a good cook. It also holds a large bamboo salad bowl.

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Another type of cutting board made uses the end grain. This one is comprised of walnut, cherry and hard maple. If you are interested in one for yourself or as a gift please check them out here.  img_3233

A favorite board for us are our round serving boards that we use for pizza, serving and cutting cheese with crackers, serving fruit and cheese as a dessert, finger foods, to hold little lettuce cups of condiments or what ever idea that comes to mind. I have 4 sizes and use all of them. Mine are made of cherry but again they can be done in any hardwood like hard maple and walnut. Yes, we do sell our boards and they can be custom ordered to the size and wood of your choice. Check them out  on my etsy site or contact me with any questions.

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Our sandwich boards are great and used daily. They are lighter weight and thinner. Whatever is served on them is easily rinsed away. We love using them for lunch…….. sandwich and some chips. or a cupcake or most any snack. View them here.

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I featured cutting boards today because presentation adds so much to a meal you have created for family and friends. The boards can be formal or informal for family and friends. Make a creative presentation for you and your family or friends once a week…… see how it feels. Enjoy life with a touch of something new. Make your preparations fun and tasty.

 

Meyer Lemon Tree Very Pretty Recipe

The lyrics to the song ‘Lemon tree very pretty and the flower is sweet but the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat.’

Don’t tell that to my young granddaughter. She loves lemons…even sipping the pure juice from a lemon. Yes, indeed, we have told her to beware of your teeth and take care.

She enjoys going to our backyard and picking beautiful Meyer lemons from our tree.

It started years ago when I purchased a Meyer lemon potted patio tree from our local nursery. Meyer lemons were new to me then and I just had to try one. The plant was growing nicely on my patio. Then we were going to have a large patio party and on a whim I decided to plant it our yard not knowing that any potted plant or tree will grow larger when planted in the ground.

What a surprise when this plant turned into a beautiful tree producing wonderful sweet tasting lemons almost year around. The leaves are a deep shiny green which blossom twice a year. The blossoms are so fragrant it is hard to believe I live in the desert and not in some tropical local.

The care of our Meyer lemon tree is simple. As many know it is a cross between an ordinary lemon and an orange. It can reach a height of 6-10 feet but pruning will keep it more manageable. It does need 6 hours of sunlight and morning sun and afternoon shade is best for those in the hottest summer areas.

Allow soil to dry out slightly between waterings and fertilize regularly with a high nitrogen fertilizer. Anyones local nursery can give them more precise details as I seem to do the minimal and mine produces abundantly most years.

Then enjoy the fruits of your labor. Below is a picture of our lemon tree and  and one with a large bowl of picked lemons and a grocery bag full. I have also included a favorite recipe of mine that I use for salads, grilled vegetables, cooking fish and marinating and basting chicken.

img_0873img_0773Ingredients:

1/4 C olive oil

1/4 C fresh squeezed lemon juice

1T honey or more to taste

2 t minced oregano

1-2 garlic cloves minced (opt)

pinch sea salt and ground pepper to your taste

Whisk all ingredients in small bowl and adjust seasonings to your taste. I often add a little more honey. Let set awhile and whisk again before serving.

Great with any salad, grilled vegetables, or use with fish or marinate your chicken with this before baking or grilling.

Enjoy!

 

Introduction

Hi, my name is Cathy and Needle and Spoon is about my lifelong interests and my attempt to craft each one…… sewing, cooking, gardening into the basis of living a creative life one week at a time. I say one week because one day can put a lot of pressure on each of us to produce the best of everything everyday. One week seems more manageable…….. at least in my mind. Doing this seems to fill my days with great pleasure and a sense of well being.

My first interest or passion came about by watching my grandmother sew. I loved sitting at her feet (starting at the age of ten) and watch her feet move the treadle of her Singer sewing machine. It was total fascination on my part and pure magic to me.  Even more so when I saw the completed garments….. evening gowns, coats, everyday dresses……. all with this machine and some fabric. Then she added beautiful details with needle and thread in hand.. How did she do it? I believe I am still learning and that is the beauty of it for me. So many beautiful and fun things to do and so much to learn at any age.

My mothers’ skills were also ace. She made many beautiful school clothes for my sister and me. When my cousin was married she made the bridesmaid dresses and I was one of 6 that benefitted from this. The dress was so beautiful that I was able to use it for a high school choral performance. It was very unique at least to my eyes. So, both of these women taught me to sew. My first big accomplishment was being able to make my going away outfit for my wedding. I wish I still had that dress and matching coat………. better yet I wish I could still fit into it.

Now my sewing seems to center on making items for the home. In future postings I hope to share some of those patterns and ideas with you. I may at times direct you to my etsy site where I sell some of these items. Below is a picture of a vintage singer sewing machine that actually works. I know very little about it other than it is either a child’s  toy or a salesman sample. Please contact me if anyone knows about this. I have had it a very long time.

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My mother had 3 sisters and all of them were good cooks but I always considered my mother to be a great cook. She could improve any recipe when she didn’t agree with the ingredients or as she said to make it her own. Our family always appreciated the food she prepared and we were not allowed to state a dislike of an item at the dinner table. We had to sample everything and I must say there was very little I did not like. I can remember walking home from school on blistery cold Midwestern winter days and entering our house to be met by the scent of homemade vegetable soup………my grandfathers’ recipe….. or chicken and noodle soup and a favorite was saurkraut and spareribs which my own children never did come to like. I still make it about once a month. She always had fresh baked bread and cookies of all types. The scent and aromas of winter meals were among the best. I learned much from watching her and I knew she enjoyed making tasty meals for us. I carry on her love of preparing tasty, healthy meals. I will write much, much more of this in future posts.img_1273My own children all enjoy cooking so it does make for great family get togethers. Any day can become a holiday as we all seem to enjoy cooking and eating together.

Please continue to return to my site. I will offer recipes on a weekly basis. One new recipe a week can break a rut we might find that we have entered. Then we can say we do live a creative life one week at a time. Enjoy.

Thought for today:

“Follow your Bliss”

Joseph Campbell