Cabbage Dolma

Cabbage Dolma is the ultimate winter food, slow, savory, warming. Here’s how:

Ingredients:

  • 2 large heads of green cabbage
  • 2 lbs. lean ground beef
  • 2/3 cup rice
  • 2-4 Tbsp dried minced onion, or equivalent amount of fresh red onion, shredded.
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbsp. dried basil
  • 2 small cans tomato sauce

Method:

Bring a large stock pot 2/3 full of water to the boil.

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Cut the core out of the cabbage with a sharp knife.  Make sure that you have cut out enough of the core that all the leaves are no longer attached at the center.  Then submerge the cabbage in the water and keep at a simmer while you separate all the leaves from the core and transfer them to a colander to drain.  You are par-boiling the leaves, just softening them enough to pull them away from the head using tongs and a large fork and allow later rolling around the meat filling.  They will cook thoroughly later.  Use any torn leaves and the innermost leaves that are too small to form rolls to line the bottom of a 12 quart stockpot.  If you only have one, you’ll have to re-use it after par-boiling the leaves.  Dump the water out of the pot, but preserve it for later.

Mix the meat, salt, rice, onion and basil thoroughly to create the filling.  Add a little water to make it easier to mix everything together.  When everything is thoroughly mixed together, begin rolling the leaves around the filling, placing about 2 Tablespoons of filling on a leaf with the thick end of the leaf facing away as shown:
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Roll the cabbage leaf around the filling, tucking the sides over as you roll.  When you reach the thick end of the leaf, cut away any part that is too thick to roll.  Some leaves are so large you have to cut them down the middle.  Some are too small.  This one is just perfect and will probably not require any trimming but will form a nice, neat roll.  Place rolls closely packed together in the stockpot as you work.  When the bottom of the pot is covered with rolls, make another layer, and another until you run out of meat.  You shouldn’t run out of leaves.  If you do, you’ve not put enough filling in each leaf.

Pour the tomato sauce over the rolls.  Cover the rolls with any leftover leaves.   Add enough of the cabbage water or fresh water to just barely cover the rolls. Place a sturdy stoneware salad plate upside down over the rolls and gently press down.  This serves as a weight to prevent the rolls from floating around and coming undone.  Cover with the lid of the stockpot.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 1.5-2 hours.  When done, you will have to carefully remove that plate before serving directly from the pot or transferring the rolls and plenty of the cooking juice to a serving bowl or deep platter.  That plate is covered with tomato sauce and looks like it will never be the same again, but a trip through the dishwasher will put things right unless the plate is cracked or chipped in which case it’s time to toss it anyway.

Serve with Bulgur Pilaf, wet Lavash (run your pieces of dry lavash under warm water on both sides, stack on a plate and cover with a damp kitchen towel for 20 minutes) and Greek Style Yogurt (made into Tsatsiki-style sauce if you like) for a real traditional Armenian meal.

Okay, Bulgur Pilaf:

Bring 1.5 cups of water, 3/4 tsp. salt, 1 Tbsp. dried minced onion and 1 Tbsp olive oil or butter to a boil.  Add 1 cup of coarse Bulgur (#4).  Allow to return to a boil.  Stir, cover and reduce heat to a simmer.  Simmer for 25 minutes.

 

 

 

Sewing for the Train Gang

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This t-shirt project is an experiment in 3 ways:

First, it is impossible to find decent t-shirt fabric at local fabric stores so I bought a Men’s XXL T-shirt at Target, washed it, ironed it and cut out these 2 t-shirts, happily using the hems where possible. The only hem I had to sew today was the bottom of the smaller shirt. Plus I re-used the ribbing at the neck on the smaller shirt. So, an experimental fabric source.

The patterns were traced from the Kwik Sew book, Sewing for Toddlers. Yes, this book is wildly outdated, but the patterns are basics and toddlers generally don’t care if their clothes are up-to-the-minute stylish, they want simplicity and comfort. And trains. I traced the T1 size for DGS2 and the T3 size for Big Brother but used the T4 length. My experience with these patterns is that they run a little wide, but nothing like the usual Big 4 patterns for kids and babies. The shirts look about right, but they haven’t been tried on yet. So, experimental patterns.

About the trains. We were wandering through Beverly’s Fabrics a while back after an unsuccessful hunt for zippers for the fleece jackets that are all finished except the closures and suddenly this rack of embroidered appliqués appeared many aisles removed from the sewing area. Full stop, back the train up and choose one for the upcoming t-shirt project…ooh, they have TRAINS. I wasn’t looking forward to sewing these appliqués on so imagine my delight when I took a closer look today and realized they were IRON-ON. Sweet. They seem well adhered, but who knows how they will wash. I suspect they will curl and pull away and eventually fall off. But babies and toddlers do not wear their clothes for long. So, experimental appliqués.

Tomorrow I deliver them and we see how they fit and find out if there will be more in the pipeline. I am considering using Men’s XXL t-shirts for fabric to make my own tees.

Serger Thread Storage


You can buy these Closet Maid over-the-door organizers at Target as of 7-2016. Aisle C-41 in my Tarhet. Are the aisle numbers consistent from one Target to the next? 

Serger cones fit perfectly in this pitifully easy to assemble and install rack. Lots of them. And who has a serger and doesn’t have lots of cones of thread? This is not my original idea. I found it on the forums of Patternreview.com while desperately searching for ways to organize my sewing room. I am merely passing it on. Paying it forward if you will. It’s a great idea, so thanks to the original poster, whoever you are.

Easy Orchid Centerpiece

  • Just buy Orchids in small pots. 
  • Buy some cloth napkins that coordinate with your event theme or color scheme or make your own out of quilting cotton. You want napkins with a little body. Batiks are a nice complement to orchids.
  •  These I made with a rolled hem using bulky nylon on my serger. They are small for napkins, only 14″ square. I think I was trying to get 3 napkins across the selvedge-to-selvedge width of my fabric. For these small pots they are perfect. 
  • Use rubber bands like they use on broccoli bunches at the grocery store. Start saving now if you’re having a big event. Hope you like broccoli!
  • Place a pot on the center of a napkin, gather the fabric up and around the base of the orchid, stretch the rubber band up and over the pot until it settles around the base of the orchid.
  • Find the corners of the napkin and gently pull and shape them to your satisfaction.

So quick and easy yet festive and fun!

Artist’s Bridge DIY Hack


You can buy a manufactured artist’s bridge from Blick, or you can stop by your nearest hardware or home improvement store and get a paint stirring stick. Attach some erasers with rubber bands. Please use new rubber bands and unused erasers. Alternately, get 2 sticks and cut one down to make 2″ long risers to glue in place on the underside of your stick. Stick felts or other surface protectors on the bottom.

Lemon Boy Cucumber

Here is a photo essay showing the progress of my latest Botanical Illustration:



Things I learned on this drawing:

  • Polychromos pencils smear like mad, leaving a green haze over the white areas of the drawing. This necessitates new strategies to protect the paper, including wiping newly sharpened pencils with a cloth, using an artist bridge and blowing fine particles off the drawing rather than brushing.
  • It’s probably best to do a few small studies after a long dry spell before jumping in to a complex composition with a deadline.
  • Using Prismacolor Black Grape in shadows on botanicals is not for the faint of heart. Best to stay with the Polychromos Indigo.  Changing mid-drawing is a really bad idea.
  • Irojiten Mulberry has potential as a replacement for Black Grape, needs further investigation and sampling. Save this for a few of the deepest darks. Nasco sells Irojitens open stock.
  • The adult coloring book craze has decimated the colored pencil market and replacements from open stock are going to be hard to get until the fad runs its course.

    Jalie 2787

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    Here we are stash-busting with fabric AND pattern today. I’ve had this fabric and pattern in their respective stashes for a long time. The fabric is a tissue thin knit but surprisingly firm given how sheer it is. The only thing preventing this from being a see-through shirt is the ink of the print and the overlay design on the front. Definitely a cami is in order when wearing this top since there are no overlays on the back. I made my usual size T in Jalie knit tops and it is snug, but not unwearable. If I made it again I would size up if the knit was similar. For a stretchier knit, I would sew the size T again.

    One comment on the design: the layer under the crossover portion is not stitched to anything at the top, this makes the design suitable for nursing, but I felt that the elastic that is stretched across the top of the piece before stitching it to the side seams could be a bit shorter to prevent possible sagging. I’m not convinced it’s going to hold up, but don’t want to risk tacking it to the under layer because I fear that would be unsightly.

    Another comment on the instructions: they are not clear on step 6, figure 8, pre-sewing the partial side seams. Here is where you create the over/underlap and they make no mention of how it’s accomplished. It’s not hard, but neither is it obvious until you think about it. I had to pick out my first side seam attempt because I left a layer out. There are 3 layers going in to this partial side seam, the back, the underarm portion of one top front and the side (lower) portion of the OTHER top front. It’s not until the next step you finally add the bottom front, which is attached only at the side seams and then you can serge everything for a clean finish. They don’t say it, but you are basically basting the upper tops and then the front to the back with zig-zag stitching before making a final (optional, really) pass with the serger to clean finish everything. Here’s a picture of the front from the inside prior to the final pass with the serger, note that you can see more layers on the right side:

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    This is a first for me: I am going to leave this top un-hemmed. I can see why RTW is doing this more these days with the very lightweight knits. The fabric resists hemming, wanting to curl and puckering when stitched. I could fuss with the settings on my coverstitch machine in the hope of getting a more successful hem, but I really want to move on and am not sure how much I’m really going to wear this top, so I think I’ll just roll with it. Literally.

    Gone fishing 

      
    On a recent Monday, Logan and I strolled down to the water hazard on the golf course to catch fish. Reputedly, there are trophy size bass to be had but all we possessed for catching fish was a repurposed butterfly net. Happily, it was more than adequate for scooping up the teeming gambusia affinis which inhabit the shallows.

    Incidentally, we also encountered a Great Blue Heron. 

    So on any given Monday, if you can’t reach us, we may just be gone fishing!

    Bocce beautification project

      
    This is the view from my kitchen window. It’s a lot of unrelieved green and gravel and the roots of the shrubbery are so thick there is no planting anything under it, so I decided to add a little interest with pots. This project started last spring with bulbs. Ranunculus foliage is irresistible to whatever pests are lurking in those Cherry Laurels and the bulbs were mowed down as soon as they popped up. Next up: bacopa plants. They were not eaten alive, but neither did they thrive. Round 3: our one remaining helpful local nursery man says “I know just what you need.” And he may be right! Poppies, violas and Carex grass. That sparkle of white is just what I wanted. It makes me happy to look out and see this view.

    Shirt tales

    Butterick 6026
    This shirt pattern by Katherine Tilton is my new favorite pattern. I made this version first, earlier this summer. Loved it, wore it once, washed it with a new dress that bled dye in the wash and only this and another linen top picked up the red dye. I have since used Synthopol to get most of the offending dye out but it will never be the same crisp white and green that it was the day I finished it. Sigh. It’s been a long time since something bled out in the wash and colored everything pink. I’d forgotten that could happen.

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    Here’s the next version of this pattern. Ms. Tilton very kindly drafted a second front and back to use with the sleeves. This is a drafting detail most patterns skip and it makes all the difference. The sleeveless version has a lovely design line over the shoulder that is not too revealing, but neither is it too wide. It looks like a sleeveless top that was meant to be sleeveless, not a shirt without it’s sleeves.

    Butterick 6026. Fits like a dream, goes together easily, a winner in every category if you love a nice shirt with some feminine detailing.