Crazy Easy Cold-Brewed Iced Coffee

French Press Cold-Brewed Iced Coffee

Mmmmm…

This is so simple I almost feel guilty devoting a post to it. But when I was searching for a guide on making iced coffee in a French press, I came up empty handed and had to wing it. So I’m taking the guess work out of it for you – yes, you can make amazing cold-brewed iced coffee in a French press, and yes it is ridiculously easy!

1/2 - 1 C ground coffee

1/2 – 1 C ground coffee

My inspiration came from The Pioneer Woman’s  “Perfect Iced Coffee” post (it’s great, go check it out, I’ll wait). All last summer I followed her instructions (on a slightly smaller scale) and drank iced deliciousness. But with summer rolling around this year, I couldn’t bring myself to go through the hassle anymore (the process involved multiple strainings and containers). That, coupled with the return of my French press to my kitchen, got me wondering why I couldn’t just make the stuff in that. Turns out it works!

Mixed with water

Mixed with water

Ingredients:

  • 1/2-1 C coffee grounds, course is best
  • Water
  • Whatever you like in your iced coffee

Directions:

Measure 1/2 to 1 cup of coffee grounds (depending on type of coffee and your strength preferences) and dump into the French press. Pour in the water. I find it helpful to start with a little and mix, and then add the rest – it helps to avoid air pockets. Mix it well. Put the lid on and let it sit overnight. The next morning (or some 8 or so hours later, timing’s not too important), plunge the press down slowly until it is fully pressed. Pour the coffee concentrate (this is what we’re calling it now) into a container for storage. To serve, pour over ice and add whatever you’d like to it. I usually just use whole milk and a little stevia extract, but it is really amazing with sweetened condensed milk. Use whatever you want.

Over ice

Over ice

That’s really all there is to it. And it’s really really good.

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Simple Squares Vintage Sheet Baby Quilt

Vintage Sheet Quilt

Simple Squares Vintage Sheet Baby Quilt

Another friend, another baby, another quilt!

This one was inspired by this quilt from Katie’s Kitchen (as well as a number of other wonderful quilts around the web). It’s for a good friend from high school’s new baby girl. The mom loves all things colorful and vintage, and I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to combine the two.

I first attempted to scavenge my local Goodwill for sheets, but their selection was very slim (and surprisingly expensive). I next turned to the Internet, and found a great fat quarter set from The Sheet Shop on Etsy. Becky was very helpful in picking out colors, and was kind enough to adapt one of her bundles for me.  I added in yellow and pink solids that I had on hand, and pieced the back with unbleached high-quality muslin.

Quilt Layout

Laying out the quilt

I cut the fabric into 4.5″ squares (to finish at 4″), and laid them out in a 10 x 12 grid.

Rearranging the quilt

Rearranging the quilt

I left them out overnight and my helpers had fun rearranging them for me. Fortunately, I had taken a picture and was able to reassemble them. I have learned the hard way to always take a picture once I’m happy with a layout. It comes in handy when piecing the squares and rows later as well.

Simple Squares Vintage Baby Quilt Back

Quilt Back

The back was pieced with seven rows of muslin interspersed with 1″ rows of the squares. I didn’t have quite enough muslin to cover the back, and the rows of color allowed me to stretch it to fit.

Embroidery Detail

Embroidery Detail

The alternating rows of muslin are embroidered with the baby’s birth date, name, and my initials in a light purple. It’s hard to see from the photos, but the lettering is PreCursive from DaFont, my favorite source for free fonts.

Detail of Initials

Detail of Initials

I also added a pink heart. All of the embroidery was done in a simple running stitch (with the occasional French knot).

Quilting Detail

Quilting Detail

I quilted the whole thing in a simple crosshatch pattern, going through each of the squares. I bound the quilt in the same solid pale pink I used throughout. The finished quilt measures approximately 40″ x 48″, and is on its way to a sweet baby girl in Colorado!

Simple Squares Baby Quilt

Jamming

Apricot, Cherry, Vanilla Bourbon Peach

I recently went back home to Michigan to spend a week with my long-time friend and her family. One of the great things about Michigan in the summertime is the abundance of local fruit. And, at least compared to D.C. prices, that fruit is SUPER cheap!

I carted bushels of cherries, blueberries, apricots and peaches back with me to the city, and had to quickly find things to do with it all. I decided on a marathon jam session, and roped my cousin Ben in to help me. It was pretty easy, as he had no idea how much work would be involved – I bribed him with dinner (and jam!).

We settled on tart cherry, apricot, vanilla bourbon peach, and blueberry sauce (for Ben, we had accidentally made it before and he really wanted more). I sent him to the store for bourbon, vanilla beans, and pectin, and we were off!

My pectin is Pomona’s – it’s super flexible and you can use as much or as little sugar as you’d like. Plus, one box is enough for a few batches of jam. It’s kind of difficult to find around here, but I was able to locate it at the MOM’s Organic Market in Alexandria.

Pomona’s Pectin

The cherry and apricot recipes came directly from the box directions. The vanilla bourbon peach was one I had pinned a while ago.

You can see the cherries suspended in the jam

Tart Cherry Jam

Ingredients:

  • 4 C. Tart cherries, pitted and slightly mashed
  • 1 C. Sugar
  • 2 t. Pomona’s Pectin
  • 2 t. Calcium Water (from Pectin package)
  • Canning Jars

Directions:

  • Sterilize jars and rings (I ran them through the dishwasher on the hottest setting). Let lids sit in very hot water while preparing fruit.
  • Combine fruit and calcium water in a pot. Bring to a boil.
  • Mix sugar and pectin in a separate bowl. Add to boiling fruit mixture.
  • Boil mixture and stir vigorously for 1-2 minutes.
  • Pour into jars, top with lids according to manufacturers directions, and process in boiling water bath for ten minutes.
  • Remove from water bath and allow to cool. The jars should seal (and pop). If any don’t seal, store them in the refrigerator and eat within a few weeks.

Smooth Apricot Jam

Apricot Jam

Ingredients:

  • 4 C. Apricots, pitted and slightly mashed
  • 1 C. Sugar
  • 1/4 C. Lemon Juice
  • 2 t. Pomona’s Pectin
  • 2 t. Calcium Water (from Pectin package)
  • Canning Jars

Directions:

  • Sterilize jars and rings (I ran them through the dishwasher on the hottest setting). Let lids sit in very hot water while preparing fruit.
  • Combine fruit, lemon juice and calcium water in a pot. Bring to a boil.
  • Mix sugar and pectin in a separate bowl. Add to boiling fruit mixture.
  • Boil mixture and stir vigorously for 1-2 minutes.
  • Blend with an immersion blender (or in a regular blender) until it is your desired consistency. Ours was very smooth (Ben really likes the blender).
  • Pour into jars, top with lids according to manufacturers directions, and process in boiling water bath for ten minutes.
  • Remove from water bath and allow to cool. The jars should seal (and pop). If any don’t seal, store them in the refrigerator and eat within a few weeks.
Bourbon Vanilla Peach Jam

Vanilla Bourbon Peach Jam – note the vanilla bean visible in the jar!

Vanilla Bourbon Peach Jam
Adapted from Blondie’s Cakes & Things

Ingredients:

  • 6 lbs. Peaches, peeled, pitted and chopped
  • 4 C. Sugar
  • 6 T. Lime Juice
  • 1 Vanilla bean, split in half and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 6 T. Bourbon
  • 1.5 t. Almond extract
  • 4 t. Pomona’s Pectin
  • 4 t. Calcium Water (from Pectin package)
  • Canning Jars

Directions:

  • Sterilize jars and rings (I ran them through the dishwasher on the hottest setting). Let lids sit in very hot water while preparing fruit.
  • Mix sugar and pectin in a bowl.
  • Combine peaches, sugar/pectin mixture, lime juice and calcium water in a pot. Smash with a potato masher or blend with an immersion blender.
  • Add the vanilla beans and bring to a boil. Boil mixture and stir vigorously for 1-2 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and add the bourbon and almond extract.
  • Pour into jars, top with lids according to manufacturers directions, and process in boiling water bath for ten minutes.
  • Remove from water bath and allow to cool. The jars should seal (and pop). If any don’t seal, store them in the refrigerator and eat within a few weeks.
Blueberry Sauce

See the floating blueberries?

Blueberry Sauce

This uses less pectin, and results in more of a liquid sauce, which is great on pancakes/waffles/ice cream/oatmeal/etc.

Ingredients:

  • 4 C. Blueberries, smashed
  • 2 C. Sugar
  • 1/4 C. Lemon Juice
  • 1 t. Pomona’s Pectin
  • 1 t. Calcium Water (from Pectin package)
  • Canning Jars
  • Sterilize jars and rings (I ran them through the dishwasher on the hottest setting). Let lids sit in very hot water while preparing fruit.
  • Combine fruit, lemon juice and calcium water in a pot. Bring to a boil.
  • Mix sugar and pectin in a separate bowl. Add to boiling fruit mixture.
  • Boil mixture and stir vigorously for 1-2 minutes.
  • Blend with an immersion blender (or in a regular blender) until it is your desired consistency. Ours was very smooth (Ben really likes the blender).
  • Pour into jars, top with lids according to manufacturers directions, and process in boiling water bath for ten minutes.
  • Remove from water bath and allow to cool. The jars should seal (and pop). If any don’t seal, store them in the refrigerator and eat within a few weeks.

Our hands-down favorite was the Vanilla Bourbon Peach. Also, my neighbors now think I’m somewhat crazy – after spotting me taking pictures of jam nestled in our flower boxes…

La Petit Rouge – Quilt for a Baby Girl

I made this a year ago for a friend back in Michigan who was having her second child. Since it was also her second girl, I didn’t want to go over-the-top with pink. Her house is already full of glittery princess stuff, and I think she’s probably over it.

Quilt Front

The pattern is Pure Baby Boy from Moda Bakeshop. I used a jelly roll of Aneela Hoey’s “A Walk in the Woods” fabric, which I’m a little in love with.

Quilt Back

I didn’t follow the pattern for the back, and instead pieced it with three “framed” fussy-cut squares.

Fox

La Petit Rouge (Little Red Riding Hood)

Bow

The baby arrived a bit early, and I didn’t have a chance to add her name before quilting. My initials and the year are embroidered in light pink.

Embroidered Initials

I didn’t pre-wash any of the fabric, which was a first for me, and it crinkled up nicely after washing (the other photos were taken before it was washed):

Quilt Back Folded

I quilted it with simple straight lines, approximately 3/4″ apart (very approximately, as I’m terrible at maintaining a straight line, even with a guide).

The only issue I had with the pattern is that, if you have directional fabrics, they all will face sideways when pieced the way the pattern instructs. It took me a while to figure it out, but the example quilt was not pieced according to the instructions. It didn’t bother me enough to change it, but I could see it being a big problem if you have a lot of directional prints.

As a follow up – she LOVED the quilt! And ended up buying more of the fabric in order to make other things for her daughters. And I used some of the leftovers to make this quilt!

Summer Watermelon Sorbet – with a Hint of Mint

Watermelon Sorbet - Ready to eat!

I’ve had a watermelon languishing in the refrigerator for, well, too long. When I cut into it, I noticed that its texture was somewhat mushy. On further inspection, the flavor was still good, but it had lost that “crunchy” feeling. I also just *happened* to have the ice cream bowl chilling in the freezer.

So what to do?

Sorbet!

Pureed and ready to go

Pureed and ready to go

I’ve made watermelon sorbet a few times in the past, and it’s one of my favorite summer snacks. I used a few recipes to get started, and have tweaked it to my taste. This version included mint, peach schnapps, and stevia (instead of sugar).

Make too much? Drink the rest!

Make too much? Drink the rest!

One of the big issues when making sorbet is texture. And, in typical recipes, the sugar helps to create the smooth texture. I’ve omitted sugar here, because I really don’t need any extra, and so this will freeze harder than what you may be used to. It is important to add in a little alcohol to help lower the freezing point an keep from getting too solid. I typically use vodka as it’s more taste-neutral, but I ran out. The schnapps made for an interesting, only slightly peachy, flavor. I’ve also used Cachaça, and wouldn’t recommend it.

Watermelon Mint Sorbet

  • Seedless watermelon chunks (equivalent to approximately 4 blended cups, about 1/2 a watermelon)
  • 2 sprigs mint (optional)
  • Juice from one lime (or to taste)
  • 1 oz. Liquor (vodka is the most neutral, but feel free to experiment)
  • 1 dropper liquid stevia (to taste)
  • Ice cream maker, chilled

Put all ingredients into a blender and puree until smooth. Refrigerate until cool, or use a pre-refrigerated watermelon. Start ice cream maker and pour mixture into reservoir. Process according to your machine’s manual. My Cuisinart requires about 20 minutes run-time. Eat right away and freeze any remainder. Defrost a few minutes before serving from the freezer to soften.

Enjoy!

Enjoy!

La Petit Rouge – Take 2

Image

It’s baby season in my world (I have four friends due in December alone), and I’m trying to make something for each of them. I am currently unemployed (turns out it’s not a good idea to work for a government contractor when sequestration hits), so I have quite a bit of time available, but no real income. For this quilt, I used leftovers fabric from a jelly roll of Aneela Hoey’s “A Walk in the Woods” fabric that I used for a quilt last year. The pattern is super simple (I have an excel chart of everything, if anyone’s interested, I’m not sure I can call it a “pattern” per se, just a guide).

Image

The squares finish at 2″, with 4″ of white space in between. I quilted the whole thing in a grid, which looks great from afar, and slightly wonky close up.

Image

I had other plans for piecing the back, but ran out of the Moda Bella white and had to improvise. I like how it turned out in the end though.

Image

I waited to finish the quilt until the baby was born this time, and embroidered the center square with her full name and birth date (which have been partially blurred to protect the innocent).

It’s fairly simple, but sweet. Now I just need to get it in the mail and off to Seattle!

P.S. Here’s a link to my first Petit Rouge quilt.

Hiatus: Over?

I took a slightly longer blogging break than I expected, but I’m back!

A few things have changed since 2007 (wow that was a long time ago!) – I’ve finished grad school, got a second cat, moved hundreds of miles, made amazing new friends, turned 30, online dated (ack!) and learned a bunch of new things.

And I figured that, with so much life change, a blog change was in order as well. I am no longer solely focused on my knitting endeavors (although my knitting days are certainly not behind me) and it seemed a knitting-titled blog was no longer inclusive enough.

So here I am – at Stitches & Dishes – which covers most of my activities. Though paint/glue/blood/tears are also occasionally included.

I’m looking forward to the next stages of blogging adventure!

Image

New scenery!

Hiatus

While I’ve never been a very good blogger, it seems as though I’ve gotten substantially worse these past few months. I’m just too overloaded with work and school to be able to keep up with this as well. Instead of feeling bad about it, I’m officially going on break, and will be back when things settle down more. I realize I don’t have a great following or anything, but I don’t want to disappoint those of you who do stop by. I’m still hanging around Ravelry – my name is cherry1123 – and trying to stay sort of up-to-date there.

I’ll be back with more exciting things, and hopefully a Birthday Purse pattern (I haven’t forgotten), as soon as I can.
Thanks so much and see you soon!
Megan

Anatomy of a Purse Part I: The Knitting, Roughly

I posted this purse on Craftster, and got some great feedback and requests for a pattern. I’m going to write a general description here of how I went about making it, and then will (eventually) put together a comprehensive tutorial. The tutorial requires me to start over from the beginning and document the whole process, as well as streamline it a bit. What follows is just a description of what I did – some of which I would(will) do differently the second time around. If you’re an inexperienced or unadventurous knitter, I would recommend waiting for the full-blown tutorial. Otherwise, feel free to use this as a guideline, and have fun!
  • I spun my own yarn. The fiber is a merino/tencel blend from Chameleon Colorworks, in the Indian Wedding colorway. I’m not going to tell you how to go about spinning, because there are far more experienced people than I who can do a much better job. I think the resulting yarn was approximately worsted weight.
  • Gauge is not terribly important for this project. Make a swatch in whatever yarn/needle size you’d like to figure out stitches and rows per inch. The purse is started as sort of a tube. To determine how many stitches to cast on and how many rows to work, figure out what you’d like your dimensions to be (or just wing it), and figure out the perimeter measurement (if you want a 3×9 bag, it would be 2(3)+2(9) = 24″). Multiply this measurement by the stitches/inch, this is how many stitches you’ll cast on.
  • I used a provisional cast-on for this purse. Next time I will do it differently, but I’m not going to discuss that now. I think there are better ways to do it, but the provisional cast-on is what I used in this case.
  • Cast the number of stitches you want onto circular needles. They should be approximately the same length as you want the perimeter of your purse to be, so you’re not pulling or trying to cram on too many. Join to begin knitting in the round, being careful not to twist the stitches.
  • To get the basket weave effect, I did *k5/p5* for I think 8 rows, and then switched to *p5/k5* for another 8 rows. For me, the 5st/8rows yielded approximately 1″ square. If you want the squared look, be sure to pick stitch and row counts that result in a square, otherwise you’ll have a more rectangular look (which is perfectly fine too).
  • Repeat in the pattern until your purse is the desired height. Bind off.
  • The bottom is where the tricky part is, and where I made it more difficult than it needed to be. Take the stitches from the provisional cast-on, and place the number of stitches you want for one long side on your needles. It helps to put the stitches from the short sides onto another set of needles of the same gauge. Continue knitting in the same basket weave pattern as the sides. As you go, knit the first and last stitches of the row together with the stitches on the short sides. This can be tricky as there may be a different number of side stitches than you have rows. The point is to try and join the bottom to the sides evenly, so the squares line up and you end up with a solid fabric. When you’ve knit to the end of the bottom, seam two long sides together using your preferred hidden seaming method.
  • Break the yarn, and you’re done with the knitted portion!

I’m going to post directions for how to construct it in a little bit. And again, this isn’t a very good or complete tutorial. I am planning on putting together a comprehensive set of directions with pictures/diagrams/etc., so if this is too confusing (which it probably is, this is my first attempt at creating a pattern) hold on, there will be better instructions as soon as I can write them.
Thanks so much!

Blockages

I spent most of June in and out of the hospital. I’m just fine, but, as turns out, my dad was not. What seemed as though was going to be a routine cardiac catheterization (with the possibility of angioplasty) ended up resulting in major bypass surgery.
This was a shock, as my father seems to be a fit and active man. Apparently he’s been having (and ignoring) chest pains for at least a year. He’s also been only occasionally checking his blood sugar and taking his diabetes meds. And he decided that an herbal alternative to his cholesterol medications would be a fine substitute, though didn’t have his blood levels re-checked to make sure it was working.

Anyway, this was all shocking for me, who thought he was taking care of himself.
His arteries were 95-99% blocked in five places. The surgeon said he shouldn’t have been alive, let alone mobile.

He came through the surgery well, I took him home a week later and spent another week settling him in and arranging his care before returning home myself.
All this would have been bad enough, but was made exponentially worse by the behavior of some of his close friends. It’s not worth going into here, but let’s just say it’s very frustrating when educated adults act like jealous, petty children. I expected more.
While sitting in hospital waiting rooms, I had time to work on and finish the Clapotis. It’s a blend of reds and pinks, fitting for a cardiac unit. I’m happy with it – the color and size are perfect. The yarn was a little hard to work with, as the 100% wool didn’t like to be dropped, and I had to pick at each stitch to get them to unravel.

I had time a couple of weeks ago to block both the Clapotis and the Print O’ the Wave Stole, which has been finished for months. The Stole is my favorite thing I’ve made up to now. I look at it and realize how much time and work went into this one thing. I didn’t really notice while I was making it, but in hindsight, it was an extremely time and labor intensive project. But so beautiful!

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