Becka's blog rotating header image loading ... please wait....

Birthday month

September is a big birthday month in our family. I've been wanting to post a few things about our recent family birthdays and finally decided to write about them individually rather than to write about all three.

Our daughter Megan has the first birthday of the month on the 17th. We were not able to celebrate with her in person but we did talk with her on the phone and we sent her a package with a few items. Her husband and children came up with some fun activities to help her celebrate. Megan teaches first grade and has an apple theme in her classroom. She suggested that she would like some different pillow covers so she could have a themed pillow to place on the rocking chair she has in the reading area of her classroom. She sent me a picture of one that she had seen and I did a little research and found instructions for something similar that I thought I could create.

Here's a picture of the finished product:

It was fun to look through my fabric scraps to come up with all the colors for the apples. I also tried a new technique for appliqueing the apples and leaves onto the pillow cover called raw edge applique. You machine stitch around each piece twice in contrasting thread.


I have tried free-motion quilting in the past and wasn't very good at it, but this was much easier on such a small project. I did have a bit of trouble with the giant rick rack edging on the pillow. I think smaller rick rack would have been easier to maneuver around the corners of the pillow.

In my next post I will chronicle little Renny's first birthday party.

Barley Lentil Soup


Here is a soup recipe that you can make from ingredients that you keep on hand in your pantry and freezer. It is pretty quick to pull together and makes a nice lunch with some fruit and crackers or good bread. The original recipe is from the Iowa Housewife blog which is one of my favorite recipe sources. The following is my adaptation of their delicious recipe.

Barley Lentil Soup

4 cups chicken broth
2-3 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 1/2 cup sliced or chopped carrots
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/4 dried lentils (I prefer the green French lentils du puy, but any lentils will work)
1/4 cup quick barley (this keeps well in the freezer)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
about a cup of fresh spinach or kale, chopped or some frozen chopped spinach
2 Tbsps. tomato sauce or catsup (I often use a little jarred spaghetti sauce if some is lingering in the fridge)
salt and pepper to taste
Grated Parmesan for garnish if desired

Heat oil in soup kettle and then saute onion and garlic briefly. Add broth, herbs, carrots, and lentils. Simmer about half an hour. Add barley and cook 10-15 mins. longer. Add tomato, salt and pepper, and greens. When greens are wilted serve with grated Parmesan.

Quick Cookies


The other day I wanted to bake some cookies but was running short on time. I remembered this recipe and we had three dozen cookies in less than an hour. This recipe is highly adaptable. Use any flavor cake mix you prefer and choose add ins which complement that flavor. A friend once gave us some she had made with a Butter Pecan cake mix and toasted pecans. They were delicious. Here is the version I made recently:

Cake Mix Cookies

1 package German Chocolate Cake Mix
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup rolled oats (I used Instant Oats)
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup oil
2 eggs, slightly beaten

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl combine all ingredients. Blend well. Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto cookie sheets. Bakes at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Cool briefly and then remove from cookie sheets. Makes about three dozen cookies.

Even Better Burger Buns


For several years I have been making hamburger buns using a recipe I found on the King Arthur Flour website. These buns were quite good and we have enjoyed them very much.

A few months ago I bought a bag of potato flour and used a small amount of it in a recipe that I wanted to try. Since I had most of the bag left I was on the lookout for other recipes using this ingredient so I could use it up. In a recent King Arthur Flour catalog they included a new recipe for hamburger buns which calls for potato flour. I tried the recipe earlier this summer and both Rob and I have declared it to be our new favorite. I do add a couple of extra ingredients so I will post the recipe as I make it. I also usually double the recipe since they freeze well and I don't like to run out too quickly. If you do not use hamburger buns these would also make great dinner rolls.

Hamburger Potato Buns

2 1/2 to 3 cups bread flour
1/4 cup potato flour
1/4 cup dry milk powder
2 Tbsps. sugar
1 1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsps. yeast
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup lukewarm water
1 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. dried onion

Combine ingredients and knead about 4 minutes to form a soft dough. Let rise about an hour or until doubled. Divide into 8-10 pieces, depending upon how big you like buns or rolls. Roll the dough into balls and then flatten to a bun shape on parchment lined pans. Let rise about 60 minutes. The buns should be light and puffy. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Brush with soft butter. These freeze well and are delicious.

Some new summer recipes

Are you looking for a good side dish for your next cookout? I tried a new pasta salad this summer which turned out to be very attractive and tasty.

Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad

2 cups broccoli florets, cooked and cut into bite sized pieces (I used 1/2 bag of the MW steamable kind)
a few slices of bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
1 cup cherry tomatoes cut in half
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup peas, cooked (I added these the last 2 mins. of pasta cooking time)
1/2 cup chopped red onion or sliced green onions
2 cups dry pasta (I used elbow macaroni but small shells or rotini would work well)
2/3 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup milk
2 Tbsps. dry ranch dressing mix (about 1/2 a packet)
1/2 tsp. salt (or to taste)
1 tsp. Johnny's seasoning (optional)

Cook pasta according to directions. I cooked the elbows about 10 minutes and added the frozen peas the last 2 minutes of the cooking time. Drain and rinse with cold water to cool somewhat. In large bowl combine the mayonnaise, milk, dry ranch dressing mix, and Johnny's seasoning. Add the broccoli, bacon, cheese, tomaotes, peas, onion, and pasta. Taste and see if it needs salt. Chill before serving and enjoy. I often find pasta salads dry out after a day int he refrigerator. To remedy this add a little more milk and stir gently before serving.

Here is a picture of the Johnny's Seasoning. I get it at Costco.


I served this salad one night with another new menu item. I wanted to try this recipe because we had eaten some similar burgers that were a frozen product from Costco.


Turkey Spinach Feta Burgers

1 pound ground turkey or ground chicken (I used ground white meat turkey)
2 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
2 cloves garlic,minced
about 4 oz. fresh spinach
1 egg
1 1/2 Tbsps. olive oil
3/4 cup bread crumbs

Saute spinach in olive oil until wilted and then add the minced garlic and cook briefly. Set aside to cool.
In a large bowl mix together the turkey, cheese, egg, crumbs, and cooled spinach mixture. Form into 4-6 patties. Chill or freeze until ready to cook. Grill the thawed patties 7-9 minutes on each side or until well done.

We really enjoyed these and I plan to make them again.