Roasted Butternut Squash with Apples

Roasted Butternut Squash with Apples

Fall is in the air and so cool-weather vegetables and apples are ripe for picking. My neighbor just shared with me some of their abundance of squash–butternut, acorn, and spaghetti squash. Yum! Now… to get creative! For years, I simply cooked such beauties, mashed them and adorned them with a little butter and perhaps apple juice for sweetener. I wanted to try something different. Hence, my new creation–Roasted Butternut Squash with Apples.

The recipe is truly easy to make. The squash can roast while you prepare other foods for your meal, so there’s no time lost there. The recipe is below. Read the directions before fixing the dish, as several tasks take place simultaneously (NO, it’s not complicated!). Also, I created a video that shows how simple it really is. The link is below the recipe. Enjoy! Judi

Roasted Butternut Squash with Apples
Makes about 6 Servings (Depending upon the size of the squash)

1 medium size butternut squash, roasted
1 large apple, any type
2 tsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp water
2 Tbsp butter (or amount desired)
2 tsp honey, optional*
Cinnamon to taste

Roast the butternut squash: Preheat oven to 400F. Wash the squash then cut off a thin slice from each end; discard the ends. Split the squash lengthwise and remove the seeds. Coat each half (both inside and outside) with extra virgin olive oil. Place cut side down on an oiled baking sheet or one that was lined with parchment paper. Roast squash about 30 minutes, or until it’s just fork-tender, but not mushy. (Fork test the top half of the squash, not the seed end.) Remove the squash from the oven and leave it on the baking sheet to cool a few minutes.

Meanwhile, while the squash is roasting, peel and core the apple. Cut into bite-size pieces and place them in a bowl. Add the lemon juice and water and toss to coat all pieces. Set aside until squash has roasted.

While the squash is cooling, heat a small pan over medium heat. Add butter and allow it to partially melt. Add the apples AND the juice/water mixture to the pan. Stir in the honey or sweetener, if using it. Sprinkle generously with cinnamon. Stir to combine and allow the apples to stew for 2 to 3 minutes, until they are lightly stewed but not mushy.

While the apples are cooking, remove the squash from the peel, leaving as many bite-size chunks as possible. Place squash in a large bowl. When apples are cooked, pour entire contents of the pan onto the squash. Toss lightly to coat the squash and serve immediately.

*Sweetener is optional in this dish, but does enhance the flavor. If you prefer something other than honey, any sweetener could be used–brown sugar, granulated sugar, maple syrup, maple sugar, agave nectar, or something else your imagination leads you to try!

Sweet Potatoes with Apples

Delicious Sweet Potatoes with Apples

Fall is here and apples are being picked. People are beginning to think of the holidays. One of the things that comes along with the holidays and fall is the warmth of delicious food spiced up just right. Sweet potatoes come to mind here, fixed in too many ways to recount.

I decided to try sweet potatoes with apples. Oh my! It was well worth the effort. I came up with a VERY simple yet VERY delicious and easy way to fix them. And it’s fast too, so no extra time is spent hovering over the stove.

This recipe is totally flexible. It can easily be increased or decreased, and flavors adjusted to fit your family’s preferences. The following meets our taste preferences, but feel free to alter the ingredients as suggested and you can’t go wrong!

Delicious Sweet Potatoes with Apples
Makes 4 to 5 Servings

2 small sweet potatoes (or 1 large one)
2 medium apples, any type
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp water
1/4 cup walnuts (optional)
1 Tbsp raisins (optional)*
1 Tbsp butter
Cinnamon, to taste
Salt, to taste
Cayenne powder, to taste

Heat a modest amount of water in a large skillet with a lid. Peel and cut the sweet potatoes into serving size small pieces. Spread out the sweet potato pieces in the boiling water in the skillet. Cover with lid and allow to cook until they are 2/3 to 3/4 done. (This doesn’t take long, depending upon the size of the sweet potato pieces.) Drain off most, but not all, of the water. Place skillet back on the stove.

As the potatoes are cooking, peel and cut the apples into bite-size pieces. Toss in the lemon juice and water to keep the apples from turning brown.

After the sweet potatoes have been partially cooked and excess water drained from the skillet, place the tablespoon of butter in the skillet and allow it to melt. Add the apples WITH the lemon/water mixture. Add walnuts, if using them. Add raisins or other sweetener (*) if desired. Sprinkle with cinnamon, a pinch of cayenne powder (or amount desired), and a little salt. Stir to combine.

Cover skillet and allow the potatoes and apples to steam for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the potatoes finish cooking and apples are warm, but not mushy. Serve immediately.

*Added sweetener is only optional with this dish (it’s yummy even without it!). However, if sweetener is desired, some choices in place of raisins may be a little brown sugar, maple sugar, maple syrup, honey, or agave nectar. Add according to your taste preferences.

Below is a link to my video showing how to prepare this dish. Check it out! Judi

Quilted Table Runner

EASY Quilt Binding

Quilted Table Runner

Quilted Table Runner

I’ve been enjoying making table mats of all sizes (from long runners to mini mug rugs), including hot pads and pot holders. When I first got started, the big issue was how to sew on the binding. I researched and found most people did all their assembling and quilting on a sewing machine, while finishing their binding by hand. I’m not sure why this trend took hold. It seems odd to me to do everything on the machine while reserving the final touch to hand sewing. I suppose people think that makes their quilt extra special. For me, it’s either all hand sewing or none. After doing one entire quilt by hand, I now opt for no hand sewing (time just won’t allow otherwise!).

So I came up with my own way to secure quilt binding. Since I do all the other work on the sewing machine, I saw no reason not to finish the binding likewise. I add decorative stitches (with the sewing machine) that give the binding a special touch. I’ve sold plenty of them in recent times and literally NO CUSTOMER complained about my not hand sewing the binding. Truly, I don’t think they care! They’re more interested in how the front/top looks…if it’s neat and clean, if the colors will go well with their decor, if it’s the right size for where it’s needed, etc. NOT ONE CUSTOMER has refused to purchase a mat because I didn’t hand sew the binding! So…why bother???

Here’s how I do it…see the steps detailed below. This technique is designed for projects with squared corners. If all that reading isn’t for you, skip to the bottom and view the video I recorded so you can see how it’s done.

Square up your project

Square Up Your Project

Quilt then trim your project. Of course, all the quilting must be done first before thinking of binding your project! Once all the quilting is finished, use a square block board and trim off all extra fabric, batting and backing, squaring your project and making sure all edges are straight.

Cut your binding. For this technique, I cut binding in 2″ strips. If the strips aren’t long enough for any one side, it can be pieced together. Press seam open.

 

finish long edges first

Finish Long Edges First

Finish long edges first. Place the binding fabric face down against the top of the project (right sides together). Using a straight stitch, sew the binding to the front of the project, long edges first. I use a 3/8″ seam allowance. (This is easy as I use the edge of my walking presser foot as my guide line.) Trim your binding to be flush with the edges of your project.

Next, press the binding against the project (right sides together). This step is simply to remove any wrinkles in the binding and to “crisp” up the seam. Then, flip the binding upward and press it, so that you’re pressing the right sides of both the binding and the project.

Press folded binding upward

Press Folded Binding Upward

Now, flip the project over so the backing is facing upward. Fold the binding upward, so that there is about 1/8″ gap between the raw edge of the binding and the raw edge of the project. Press this fold.

Now fold the binding up over the raw edge of the project, covering the seam stitches. Make the fold firm, so there is no gap between the binding and the project edge. Press the binding in place.

While holding the binding in place, flip the project so the top side is up. Pin the binding into place ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE PROJECT.

Change your bobbin thread to a color that will match your binding color. For contrast, use a thread color on the TOP that will nicely contrast with some of your fabric in your project (usually a color you’ve been using for the quilting). I usually have light fabric against a dark, coordinating fabric. I choose whatever thread I want to have the decorative stitching show up on the opposite fabric (dark thread shows up on the light fabric, light thread shows up on the dark fabric).

Align your project in your machine so when the needle is in the center, it’s aiming directly at the seam where the binding meets the main fabric. Using a decorative stitch on your sewing machine (or even a zigzag stitch will do), stitch the entire length of the binding, removing pins as you sew. Do this for both long sides. If this was done correctly, you should see very little of your stitches on the back of the project. The front stitches will look decoratively nice and enhance the character of the project. Trim the ends of each binding piece to be flush with the short sides of the project.

Finish Short Ends of Project

Finish Short Ends of Project

Finish the short sides of the project. Place binding fabric right sides together with the top of the project. Allow about 1-1/2 inches of fabric to overlap each end. Fold under to the back of the project the excess binding at the end where you will start sewing. Hold this in place as you sew down the seam. Stop sewing about 4 inches from the end of the project. Fold under about 1-1/2 inches of binding at the end of the project so that it snugs up against the project. Hold this in place (or pin it) as you finish sewing the seam.

Return to the ironing board. Flip the binding upward and press it flat. Now turn the project over so the backing is facing upward. Press the folded pieces of binding slightly inward so there is a slight angle inward along the edge. Fold and press the binding as was done earlier on the long sides.

pin binding on the top

Pin Binding on the Top

Flip the project over and pin the binding in place as before, ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE PROJECT. Align your project in the sewing machine so when the needle is in the center position, it will be aiming directly at the seam where the binding meets the fabric. Sew all the way across the binding, securing stitches at both ends.

DONE! I realize all this reading makes it seem complicated. But, it’s really not. Watch the video to get the idea of what I do. You’ll be glad you did! Judi

Handmade Quilted Table Runner

I’ve been working on boosting my inventory for the holiday season. I presented my things at a number of craft shows over the summer and a lot of inventory was adopted. Yea!

Handmade Quilted Table Runner in Fall Colors

Handmade Quilted Table Runner in Fall Colors

Here is a really pretty “fallish” table runner that captures the seasonal colors of rust, cream and brown. It’s EXTRA THICK with a double layer of batting plus it has flannel as a backing. It will certainly provide plenty of protection for your cherished table or even piano top. (Inventory number 31-40-22) Click the thumbnail to see an enlarged picture.

 

 

 

Hot pads (fall colors, #13)

Matching Hot Pads (#13)

There is also a set of matching hot pads that can be purchased separately.  Click the thumbnail to see an enlarged picture. (Inventory #hotpads-13)

All can be found at my website, HandMadeInIowa.com.

Happy shopping!

Judi

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Crochet Dishcloths

crochet dishcloths

Crochet Dishcloths

I grew up knitting and crocheting. I made all sorts of things, from scarves to sweaters. Once I even attempted to make a sweater for the family dog. I had no pattern to follow so we had a huge laugh when I finally finished it. Our dog was somewhat small. Well, the sweater could have fit a Great Dane!  When we put the sweater on him, poor Ralph’s ears went back and his tail went between his legs. He couldn’t understand why we were rolling on the floor laughing so hard! It was hilarious! That was the one and only time Ralph got to wear his sweater. It went in the trash. Since then I’ve certainly improved my skills!

I’ve recently discovered crochet dishcloths. If you haven’t tried them, let me encourage you to give them a try! They’re wonderful for scrubbing dishes, yet are so gentle that they won’t scratch anything, including your hands. They’re gentle enough on skin to be used for washing your face and whole body too!

I’ve developed an entire line of crochet dishcloths for my website. Whenever I take them to local craft shows, ladies grab them up quickly. They last a long time, make great gifts, scrub dishes, pots and pans, and counters extremely well, and are easy to wash and dry. How great is that?

Check out the crochet dishcloths at my website, HandMadeInIowa.com.

Enjoy!
Judi

Review of Premier Home Cotton Yarn

 

Premier Home Cotton Yarn

Premier Home Cotton Yarn (Water Lillies)

It all started with a catalog in the mail from a major yarn supplier. I’ve been making (and selling) crochet dishcloths, facial scrubbies and dish scrubbies to sell locally and online. I usually purchase cotton yarn locally, whatever and wherever I can find it. Living in a very small town forces me to travel to buy practically anything, so my local choices have been rather limited. I make my share of online purchases, but I strive to buy locally first, if I can.

As I scanned through the catalog I noticed Premier brand cotton blend yarn (85% cotton, 15% polyester). I had never heard of this brand of yarn before. After reading numerous VERY positive reviews about it, I decided to give it a try. It was on sale with the yarn supplier, so I placed a sizable order. The box arrived yesterday. I finished a crochet dishcloth this morning and was SO impressed I decided to share an extensive evaluation of the yarn.

Note that I have no formal connection with the Premier company, so I have not been prompted to do this review.

Finished Dishcloth

Finished Dishcloth

Easy to work with and soft. First of all, right away I noticed the yarn was much softer to work with than the usual cotton yarn I’ve used all along. It slides easily on the crochet hook and in my hands. It FEELS much softer than the other cotton yarn I’ve been using. The softness alone makes me believe it would make a nicer facial scrubbie…doing the job well while being even more gentle on the skin.

More flexible. While crocheting, I noticed the dishcloth had more “swing” to it, swaying around as I was making it. The usual cotton yarn makes a somewhat stiff cloth, whether I’m working in a double crochet stitch or half-double crochet stitch.

Size of finished cloth

Size 8-1/4″H x 7-1/2″W

Size. My finished cloth (worked in a half-double crochet stitch, and bordered by one row of single crochet) measured about 8-1/2″ high x 7-1/2″ wide, the same size as my cloths worked in traditional cotton yarn.

 

 

Weight 33 grams

Weight 33 grams

Weight. The weight came out to be the same as my traditional cotton cloths, 33 grams. This is important to me because it tells me how many cloths I should get from a skein. The Premier Home cotton small skeins of variegated yarn have 60 grams (2.1 ounces) of yarn, meaning I can get one dishcloth per skein. No worries, as I can make facial scrubbies with the rest, or combine it with yarn from a second skein of the same color to make more dishcloths. The skeins of the other cotton variegated yarn I’ve used have 2.0 ounces (slightly less).

weight of traditional cotton dishcloth

Weight of traditional cotton dishcloth (same size)

Note also that the small skeins of the Premier solid color yarn have 2.8 ounces (80 grams) whereas the small skeins of the other cotton yarn I’ve used have 2.5 ounces (70.9 grams). The slightly more yarn in the Premier skein is a bonus to me, as more yarn equals more product.

 

 

No color loss

No color loss in hot water!!!!!

Color fastness. No color loss–no embarrassment. I was TOTALLY impressed here. I placed my finished washcloth in a bowl of hot water. There was absolutely no color loss! Doing that with a freshly made cloth in my traditional cotton yarn would result in a major color loss. In fact, I’ve turned to giving my customers instructions on how to set the color in their dishcloths and scrubbies BEFORE they ever use them. Not setting the color with that yarn results in dingy looking cloths after only one use. Even though it’s not a reflection on ME, it’s still a source of embarrassment to have to hand out such instructions.

No dye loss in water

No dye loss in water after cloth was removed

As you can see, the water had NO color to it when the dishcloth was removed from the bowl. YES!!

To me, a product should look nice after being used and hold up well without the customer needing to do anything special to it before it’s used. The Premier cotton yarn meets that need, hands down. Way to go, Premier!

Washing dishes. Next I washed dishes with the new cloth. It was flexible, soft and very easy to use. It didn’t feel overly bulky in my hands and was easy to wash whatever I needed, from silverware to glasses, to pots. Also, it was very easy to wring out–not overly dense or thick feeling. Removing excess water from the cloth was no struggle at all.

Machine drying. After washing the dishes, I rinsed the cloth very well and placed it in the dryer with a damp bath towel. After all, I’ve found that clothes and such dry much better with a little company in the dryer. It dried easily and looked nice and fresh afterward. No dinginess or “worn” look like the traditional cotton dishcloths have after being washed and dried. Furthermore, it maintained its softness and flexibility. Nice!

Shrinkage after being dried

About 1/4″ Shrinkage After Being Dried

Shrinkage. I measured the cloth after being dried and noticed it shrank about 1/4″ to 3/8″ in both directions. I consider this to be normal, and about what the traditional cotton cloths would shrink. No issues with that.

Conclusion. After my evaluation of the cloth made with Premier’s home cotton yarn, I can honestly say I’m extremely impressed. With that, I’m sold! I have no intention of ever buying the other cotton yarn again. I will finish using what I have on hand and will purchase only Premier’s cotton yarns in the future. To me, the color fastness alone is reason enough to continue with the Premier yarn. However, the other properties such as flexibility, softness and ease of use (from crocheting to washing dishes) makes it a far superior choice for me.

Thank you Premier, for offering such a fine yarn! You now have yet another loyal customer. Judi

 

 

Fast and Easy Steamed Spinach

Yep, I know what you’re thinking…Eeeewwww! Cooked spinach–yuk! Well, I agree that it’s pretty nasty when it’s been boiled to death, as cooks used to do. The standard routine was to bring a large pot of water to a boil, dump in the veggies, whether they be fresh, frozen or canned, and boil them to a mush. Then drain them and add a mound of butter or margarine and serve. Yum.

Times have changed and we’ve learned that less is best. Less water, that is. Also less cooking time too, as this helps to preserve nutrients, flavor and texture. Years ago, I came up with a REALLY easy and fast way to steam spinach. No special gadgets required.

Simply wash your spinach. Yes, wash it, even if it came in a cello bag that says it’s been prewashed. Why do this? Because the water that clings to the leaves will be the water that does the steaming–that’s why. So…wash your spinach and place it in a colander. Allow any excess water to drain off, but to not place it in a salad spinner nor pat the leaves dry with a paper towel.

Place the wet spinach in a clean dry large pot that has a tight-fitting lid. (DO NOT add any oil or water to the pan.) Sprinkle the wet spinach with whatever seasoning you want (again, no oils at this time). Toss the spinach to distribute the seasonings if needed.

Place the lid on the pot and put it on a large stove burner. Turn the burner on high heat. Yep–high. As SOON as you notice steam rising out of the pot turn off the burner. Leave the pot on the burner for a couple minutes, then it’s ready to serve. It will be lightly steamed and seasoned. Now is the time to add any fats (oil or butter), if you want.

This trick is very easy to do when you’re preparing a meal, as the spinach takes care of itself. You can wash the spinach first and place it in the pot with the lid on. Turn the burner on high about 5 minutes before everything else should be done. That’s more than enough time for your spinach to steam and it will be nice and hot when you eat it! It’s THAT simple!

To see this in action, check out the video below. Enjoy! Judi

Pineapple Green Tomato Stir-Fry (soy free)

Here’s yet another something different to do with those extra green tomatoes from

Pineapple Green Tomato Stir-Fry

Pineapple Green Tomato Stir-Fry

the garden. I’ve been hungry for a stir-fry and this one fit the bill. It includes pineapple, green tomatoes, cabbage, and other stir-fry veggies. It’s made WITHOUT soy sauce for those who need to stay soy-free. Yet, it’s as tasty as any stir-fry should be.

This is a real “convertible.” It can be used as a side dish served over cooked rice. Or, easily transform it into a hearty main dish by adding chicken, beef or pork. Or keep it vegetarian by adding cannellini beans, cashews and sesame seeds, as I did in the video below. Here’s the recipe. Enjoy! Judi

Pineapple Green Tomato Stir-Fry (soy free)
Makes about 6 Servings

1 to 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped yellow onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup shredded carrot
1/4 cup chopped bell pepper
2 cups chopped green cabbage
2 cups chopped green tomatoes (about 2 medium tomatoes)
1 (20 oz) can pineapple chunks, packed in juice
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar (or balsamic vinegar)
Salt to taste

Optional ingredients:
1 (15 oz) can cannellini beans, rinsed, drained
1/3 cup cashews
Sesame seeds

Drain pineapple, reserving liquid. Set aside.

Heat wok or a large skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil, chopped onion and garlic. Saute about 2 minutes, until the onion and garlic begin to get translucent.

Add carrot, bell pepper, cabbage, green tomatoes, (drained) pineapple chunks, vinegar and salt to taste. Stir to combine ingredients. Cover and allow to steam about 2 minutes, until vegetables start to get crisp-tender, or to your desired texture. Flavor may be adjusted if needed by adding more vinegar, pineapple juice, and/or salt.

If using this as a side dish, sprinkle with sesame seeds, if desired. Serve over cooked rice of choice.

If making this into a vegetarian main dish:
Stir in the rinsed and drained cannellini beans and cashews. Continue cooking only until the beans are heated through. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, if desired. Serve over cooked rice of choice.

Note: This stir-fry would also be delicious served with (especially) chicken, and also beef or pork.

Green Tomato and Herb Pasta Topping

Green Tomato Pasta Topping

Green Tomato Pasta Topping

Like many people right now, I have an abundance of green tomatoes on hand from my cleaned up tomato plants. Fried green tomatoes are always good. But, I was wanting something else for a change. I always love pasta dishes, so I got creative with those green goodies. I concocted the following recipe.

It’s amazingly simple and FAST to prepare. So fast, in fact, you could start the water for the pasta as you’re cutting up the tomatoes, onions and garlic for the topping. Everything should be done about the same time. It’s THAT quick!

If you’re wanting something different to do with those green tomatoes, give this a try and let me know how it works for you! Judi

EASY Green Tomato and Herb Pasta Topping
Makes 2 to 4 Servings

2 cups chopped green tomatoes
1/2 cup diced yellow onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
1-1/2 tsp dried basil leaves
2 Tbsp lemon juice
Salt to taste
1 to 1-1/2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Cooked pasta of choice

Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil and allow it to heat up very briefly. Then add onion and garlic and allow them to saute for about 1 minute. Add tomatoes and remaining ingredients. Stir; place cover on skillet. Allow it to simmer 3 to 5 minutes, until tomatoes are at desired consistency. Serve immediately over cooked pasta.

Note: This topping would be excellent capped with grated Parmesan cheese.

Honey Apple Beets

Beets are one of those vegetables that you either love or hate. Interestingly, I’ve been in both categories in my life. When I was young, my mother would open a can of beets and boil them to have with our supper. I’m sure she just topped them with a mound of margarine and called them done. I never at them because I couldn’t get past the smell. ANY time she cooked them, I had to quickly leave the area because the smell made me gag. Really!

Hence, beets never made their way onto my taste buds until well into my adult years when I dared to try pickled beets on a salad bar. Amazingly, I loved them! That was the only way I ate beets for years.

A few times in recent years, I was given beets by friendly gardeners. With that, I began to get more daring with the little beauties. Cooked plain, they smelled and tasted like dirt to me–reminiscent of my younger years when mom cooked the canned beets. This time, I actually ate them, but can’t say I really enjoyed them.

Most recently, a neighbor shared some of her garden beets with me. I got brave and decided to experiment to make them actually taste like something wonderful that they truly are. I developed the recipe below. I made them two days in a row and they were so delicious that I ate everything I cooked! Now…If I can dare to try them, I challenge YOU to do the same. Even if beets are not your favorite vegetable, this recipe just might turn you around. A video link follows the recipe so you can see how I prepared them. Enjoy! Judi

Honey Apple Beets
Makes about 2 servings

1 cup sliced peeled beets
1/2 of a fresh apple (any kind), peeled, sliced
2 slices yellow onion (about 1/4 cup)
2 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp honey
1 to 3 Tbsp water*
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp butter

Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil and butter. Add remaining ingredients (see note about how much water to add). Cover and allow everything to simmer/saute over medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until beets are at desired tenderness. Add more water if needed, but only in small amounts at one time. The liquids should form a delicious sauce that keeps vegetables moist as they are served.

*Note about water: If beets were frozen, allow them to partially thaw before cooking. One tablespoon of water should be enough to cook them, leaving them with still some “chew”. If you like them more soft, one more tablespoon of water and a little more cooking time may be needed.

If beets are fresh, more water will be needed to cook them to desired tenderness. Start with 2 tablespoons of water and increase from there (in one tablespoon increments) and allow them to cook to desired tenderness.