Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Roast Chicken Pasta Bake

Before going in the oven.
Who doesn't love a roast? Easy to to prepare and oh so tasty. But I hate wasting leftovers and in a house of two adults and 1 ½ children, we couldn't possibly eat an entire roast in one sitting. Last night I cooked butterflied Moroccan chicken (thank you Aldi) but we only ate the thighs, drumsticks and one wing which we let Jack gnaw on. What to do with those beautifully roasted breasts sitting in my fridge? My answer was to adapt my mum's tuna casserole recipe and add a few extra veggies for the little tacker. The result was an easy to prepare meal that feeds the whole family a balanced meal from the one dish. 

Ingredients

150 - 200 grams dry pasta (just see what you've got in the cupboard)
85 grams butter
1 onion
½ cup plain flour
1 tsp salt (optional)
½ tsp pepper
600 mls milk
¾ cup grated cheese
1 tbsp parmesan, heaped
1 large carrot - grated with excess moisture squeezed out
1 large zucchini - grated with excess moisture squeezed out
leftover roast chicken pieces, shredded
bread crumbs for topping

Method

Cook dry pasta following packet instructions and drain. Meanwhile, melt butter in a large saucepan. Add onion and simmer for a few minutes to soften. Add flour, stir to combine and cook for 1 minute. Add milk, stir constantly until sauce thickens. Remove sauce from heat. Stir through cheeses, followed by chicken, vegetables and pasta. Once all ingredients are combined, spread in a lightly greased casserole dish and sprinkle the top with breadcrumbs. Bake at 180° for approximately 45 minutes until the breadcrumbs are golden.

Whilst this dish is a relatively new addition to our family's menu, I think it's here to stay. Top reviews from both my little and big man. What's your favourite thing to do with leftover roast chicken?

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Dummies : Do they really pacify?

I recently visited a cousin with a gorgeous two week old baby girl. She was just precious and I was reminded of all the joy a new baby brings to a household. This darling girl uses a dummy (pacifier for my American readers) to help sooth at different times and I just couldn't let the opportunity go by without opening the can of worms here on the blog. Do dummies really work or are they more trouble than they are worth?

We used a dummy with Jack when he was a baby. To be fair I wish he had used one longer but when I changed to the bigger size at 6 months - we got rejection. We used orthodontic shapes (which I think they all claim to be these days) and enjoyed the easier sleep we achieved from the dummy's use. I also don't like the idea of babies sucking on their fingers and hands. I've become quite a 'whatever works now' type mother so dummies fit with my ethos. And as for worrying about trying to get rid or them later, why worry about something that might not even be a problem? Do you know any school children who still cart a dummy around? 

So let it rip on this controversial issue. Should I be stocking up on dummies for my new baby or just let this one go it alone??

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Pocket problems

I've always hated sewing pockets and quite frankly, avoided them wherever possible. Hidden ones aren't so bad, as any mistakes are usually well contained inside the garment, but my perfectionist self cannot have errors - even if they're on the inside. I also really love the look of external pockets, particularly on dresses. So how do you make the perfect pocket? I think a lot of it has to do with what fabric you're using. I've come unstuck with fabrics that stretch but seem to do well when using quilting fabrics. 

Last year I made my son a polar fleece vest for a bit of extra warmth in the Canberra winter. I have rediscovered the virtues of this versatile fabric now I live in such a cold climate where tracksuits and hoodies are a real necessity. The vest itself was simple enough to sew, but I had a terrible problem with the blessed pockets. The pattern said they should have binding around the edges, but due to their tiny size, I was never happy with two pockets that weren't both exactly the same and perfectly square. I think I made two sets before changing tact.

Seeing as I was using polar fleece I decided to go for an un-hemmed version, stitched on with a simple zigzag. Great in theory, but the reality was - they stretched when stitching on! I couldn't win. The finished product looks great though and unless I pointed it out, no-one would probably notice my dodgy pockets. Its has also proven to be the most versatile little garment. 

Last week I made myself an oversized top/very short dress to add to my maternity wardrobe. This dress had pockets on the front and I am happy to report - they turned out perfectly! This was a light stretch denim with binding across the top. I think the thinner fabric meant they stretched less but also the turned under seam allowance made them sit nicely. The tip I learnt from these pockets in particular, was to do an easing stitch on the corners to make them sit flat. It worked perfectly and I just LOVE this garment. Shame it's a bit too short to wear without leggings underneath - especially with my expanding belly.

So what are your pocket sewing tips? There are so many types of pockets I guess there are specific tips for each one. Let me know!

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Big Mama: An Inspiration.

Though she would swear black and blue it's not true - my mum is the most creative person around. If you'd asked me five years ago whether I was into quilting I would've laughed at you. Yet now it has become one of my greatest passions and I owe everything I know to Big Mama and her passion for perfecting new techniques.



Whilst I feel I have appliqué skills down pat, hand embroidery is something I still need to master. Mum made this little girls cot quilt years ago and I'm hoping to finally be able to use it this year. It's been carefully stored in my linen cupboard and taken out for a loving perusal every now and then. It's a bit hard to see the detail on the picture, but the complexity of embroidery is impressive. I love the little duck in the second frame which is all fluffy with hundreds french knots. Amazing.
Jack and the Beanstalk Growth Chart

It really is very difficult for me to choose a favourite piece of mums work. But one of my favourites is the personalised growth chart she made for Jack. With a name like Jack, nursery rhymes abound from which to choose an appropriate theme. Jack and the Beanstalk seemed like the perfect choice and she designed this entire chart herself. The details in the quilting really enhance the story being told in the appliqué and I just LOVE it. Jack also loves playing 'Where's the cow?' and quickly showing Mama where his cow is on the bottom of the chart.

The last Big Mama project I wish to feature is something quite remarkable. Whilst attending the Adelaide Craft and Quilting Fair in 2012, we were both taken by the amazing Gollyville 2 design from the Craft Cubby and with a rush of blood, bought the last kit they had onsite. Well if only Big Mama had known what she was getting herself in for. The detailed appliqué in this quilt really is amazing. The hours and hours she spent working on the quilt makes this piece priceless and a real family heirloom. The finished quilt hangs in my son's room and he loves picking out the various animals etc depicted in the vast landscape. Whilst I do feel my life could be in danger if I ever suggested she attempt a similarly enormous project, she did such an amazing job, it's a real complement to her dedication and amazing skills.
Gollyville 2

So as you can see - I have a high standard before me when I attempt my various quilting projects. However, this has only served to make me into a better quilter as I have gained an appreciation for attention to detail and love the challenge of perfecting new techniques along the way. My biggest problem, is that I just don't see how I will ever complete all the projects I have lined up in my lifetime. Too many quilts, not enough time. Happy Sewing Blog Readers and get that inspiration flowing!

Saturday, 18 January 2014

...and one makes four!

Pregnancy Announcement
That's right blog world, Mama is back and she's expecting again. Baby number two is 20 weeks in the oven and I'm very happy to be past that half way mark, though if my past pregnancy is anything to go by, this little one will come early too.

It shocks me that I have not written a post since Mother's day last year. How on earth could so much time have passed? Well I guess I was busy finishing off ½ a Masters degree and once that was done, I was so sick with being pregnant, every day revolved around looking after my now very busy toddler and not being sick on him. This meant not much creative cooking has been happening and my darling husband has been excellent at taking up my slack. Nevertheless, I have still found lots of time for sewing and other crafty pursuits. I made all my Christmas cards again this year and have been making the most of the summer uni recess to crack into some sewing. Here are some pants I made Jack last week and just yesterday I finished a cute maternity top/dress out of the same stretch denim fabric. We've also been having a very successful testing of Jack's egg allergy and he seems to be able to handle cooked egg. We've had lots of chocolate cake and he has even had quiche a few times. Very exciting. 

Hubby and I are very excited that we will soon be a family of four. But honestly, this pregnancy feels  like it couldn't be more different from my first. First of all I didn't think I was pregnant whereas last time I knew straight away from how I felt. Then once things got going, I was much sicker than last time. I never even vomited with Jack but during this first trimester, I could barely keep down my prenatal vitamins until my Doctor introduced me to my new friend maxolon. My body has also hit the changes hard, unlike last time. I already have enormous breasts and my tummy popped out within the first 10 weeks - at least my body knows what its getting itself into. 

So I have loads of pictures of my various craft projects waiting to be turned into blog posts. I hope to write them up over the coming weeks as I doubt I will have much time once the semester starts on the 6th March. It shall be interesting trying to fit an entire masters subject in before baby arrives early June! Shout out if you have any questions for little Mama and I hope 2014 finds everybody well.