Eat & Drink

Culinary themes are the pattern as quilters stitch together food and fellowship

A cake block from the Grandma’s Kitchen quilt created by Eula Lang at Quilting Bits & Pieces in Eudora, Kan.
A cake block from the Grandma’s Kitchen quilt created by Eula Lang at Quilting Bits & Pieces in Eudora, Kan.

Wherever quilters gather, good food and great recipes get stitched together.

Eula Lang, owner of Quilting Bits & Pieces in Eudora, Kan., understands the seamless connection between quilting and food — and the sense of fellowship both can foster.

Five years ago she taught a class based on a food-themed quilt known as Grandma’s Kitchen. Designed by Lori Holt of Bee in My Bonnet, a quilting blog and pattern company in Riverton, Utah, the quilt portrays items typically found in bygone American kitchens.

The colorful fabric blocks feature a classic hand mixer, cast-iron skillet, cookie cutters, canning jars and crockery bowls. The quilt still hangs in the shop and remains just as popular today as it did when it was first made, in part because the images whisk you back in time, to a place where you can almost taste the cake or smell the pie as it bakes.

Making Grandma’s Kitchen is certainly one way to get a food fix, but quilters also use food terms to describe their craft. These days the shelves of quilt shops are stacked with Layer Cakes, Jelly Rolls, Snack Packs, Candy Squares and Honey Buns — just a few of the delicious names of pre-cut fabric squares and strips that make assembling a keepsake quilt faster and easier.

Designers at the fabric companies select complementary colors for each bundle, which is less expensive than buying yards of cloth and stressing over a multitude of pattern choices.

“More young people are coming into the shop,” Lang says. “There is a trend toward faster quilting and at the same time a trend toward hand skills and more details. They start out faster, then evolve to more skills.”

Gone are the days when quilters sat in a circle and pieced by hand. Today’s quilters still gather for camaraderie, but now they meet in busy rooms strung with power cords, the hum of sewing machines a constant background noise.

And again, food plays a part. At the center of these gatherings there’s always a snack table laden with breads, cookies, cupcakes, coffee cake, a lemon pie and snacks galore, many of which are homemade.

When Quilting Bits & Pieces sponsors a quilt camp and late-into-the-night quilting sessions, everyone brings snacks and sets up a tempting buffet, and Lang, a skilled quilter who is also recognized as a good cook, shares both sweet and savory snacks.

“Food is associated with everything we do,” agrees Judy Brennan, leader of Stitch ’n Tyme, a quilting group affiliated with the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, which sponsors several off-site retreats that run nearly continuously for two to three days.

Stitch ’n Tyme recently met in Parkville for a retreat. Group members also meet quarterly at a potluck to celebrate their artistic creations, their ministry and their friendship. Their upscale potlucks include linens, china and dishes — outward signs of how important these gatherings are for the members.

One of the pastors of their church joins them for the meal and leads the prayer that blesses the quilts and their recipients. When pressed about a favorite dish at the potluck, members unanimously praise Diane Tolin and her lasagna, a recipe that is prepared in a slow cooker.

Tolin first made the recipe when she was traveling by RV because it was easy to make and transport. It serves large numbers of people and can be made ahead of an event, so she began taking it to quilting potlucks.

The group started in 2009 when Tolin moved to Kansas City. She began with a Quilting 101 class and followed it with a mother/daughter summer program. Now there are 36 members. Anyone is welcome to join, whether skilled quilters, novices who want to learn or those who just long for fellowship. The women range in age from their 30s to 80s — there’s even a teen who joins in on school breaks.

Their finished charity quilts — they make about 80 each year — are given to the Congregational Care Ministers, who distribute them to anyone in need: the ill, hospitalized, home-bound or those in hospice care. Recipients do not need to be a church member to receive a quilt.

When a fellow member is facing a difficult or challenging time, each member makes a quilt block that they piece into a quilt. That quilt is wrapped around a fellow member, surrounding them in love and support during times of need.

So the next time you hear a quilter raving about a Layer Cake or Jelly Roll, don’t forget to ask if she is creating a beautiful and timeless quilt or a delicious recipe — or both.

Kathy Moore and Roxanne Wyss are Kansas City-based professional home economists and the authors of several cookbooks featuring small appliances, including the slow cooker. After working on this story, Roxanne decided to get back quilting and joined Stitch ’n Tyme.

Slow Cooker Lasagna

This recipe can be assembled in a removable crock the day before. Cover and refrigerate overnight; cook as directed, but increase cooking time by 1 to 2 hours on low.

Makes 8 to 10 servings

2 pounds bulk Italian sausage, ground beef or ground turkey (or a combination of ground meat)

1 medium onion, diced

2 jars spaghetti sauce (a total of 40 ounces)

Salt and pepper, to taste

2 to 3 teaspoons Italian seasoning, or to taste

1 (10 3/4-ounce) can condensed cream of mushroom soup

16 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese

1 (15- to 16-ounce) container small curd cottage cheese or 15-ounce container low-fat ricotta cheese

12 lasagna noodles (about 3/4 of a 16-ounce) package, uncooked

Cook ground meat and onion in a large skillet, over medium high heat, stirring to crumble, until meat is brown and onions are tender. Drain. Stir in spaghetti sauce and season meat with salt and pepper and Italian seasoning, to taste. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, stir together soup, mozzarella cheese and cottage cheese.

Spray a large slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray. Spoon about a fourth of the meat-sauce mixture in the bottom of the slow cooker. Top with about a third of the lasagna noodles, breaking to fit, if necessary. Top evenly with about a third of the cheese mixture. Repeat layer two more times. Top with the remaining meat-sauce mixture, spreading to cover the top evenly.

Cover and cook on low setting 5 to 7 hours or on high setting 2  1/2 to 3 hours, or until hot and bubbly throughout. Turn off and allow to stand 15 to 20 minutes before serving.

Per serving, based on 8: 978 calories (56 percent from fat), 61 grams total fat (24 grams saturated), 142 milligrams cholesterol, 63 grams carbohydrates, 45 grams protein, 2,296 milligrams sodium, 6 grams dietary fiber.

Source: Diane Tolin, Stitch ’n Tyme

Dill Veggie Dip

Makes about 1  2/3 cups

1 cup sour cream

2/3 cup mayonnaise

1 teaspoon dry minced onion

1 teaspoon dry parsley flakes

1 teaspoon dried dill weed

1 teaspoon seasoned salt

Vegetables for dipping, including celery sticks, radishes, cauliflower florets, broccoli florets, cucumber slices or others as desired.

Mix together sour cream, mayonnaise and seasonings. Blend well. Cover and refrigerate several hours to allow flavors to blend. Serve with vegetables.

Per 1-tablespoon serving: 77 calories (95 percent from fat), 8 grams total fat (2 grams saturated), 7 milligrams cholesterol, 1 gram carbohydrate, trace protein, 111 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber.

Source: Eula Lang, Quilting Bits & Pieces

Special K Bars

Makes 24 servings

1 cup sugar

1 cup corn or brown rice syrup or honey

1 cup creamy peanut butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

6 cups Special K cereal or lightly toasted rice flake cereal

6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

3 ounces butterscotch chips

Butter a 9-by-13-inch pan, or spray pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Combine sugar and syrup or honey in a large microwave-safe glass bowl. Microwave on high (full power) 60 seconds. Stir well and continue to microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring after each, until mixture is hot and sugar has dissolved. Stir in peanut butter and vanilla. Stir until peanut butter has melted and mixture is smooth. Stir in cereal, stirring until all of the flakes are evenly coated. Pour into prepared pan and press to cover pan evenly.

In a medium microwave-safe glass bowl melt chocolate chips and butterscotch chips on high (full power) in 30 second intervals, stirring after each, until melted and smooth. Spread chocolate over cereal layer. Chill 2 to 3 hours or ready to serve. Cut into bars. Store extra bars in a covered container in the refrigerator.

Per serving: 213 calories (31 percent from fat), 8 grams total fat (2 grams saturated), trace cholesterol, 36 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams protein, 128 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber.

Source: Eula Lang, Quilting Bits & Pieces

South African Crunchies (A Traditional South African Oatmeal Cookie Bar)

The longer the cookies are baked the crunchier they will be. If you prefer a chewier bar cookie, bake for about 25 minutes.

Makes about 60 bars

4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (not quick cooking)

3 cups unsweetened shredded or sweetened flaked coconut

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 cup salted butter

3 tablespoons golden syrup or honey

2 teaspoons baking soda

1/4 cup low-fat milk

Position the oven rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Spray a 10-by-15-inch jelly roll pan with nonstick cooking spray.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together oats, coconut, flour, sugar, salt and cinnamon.

In a small microwave-safe glass bowl, combine butter and syrup. Microwave on high (full power) 60 to 90 seconds or until butter has melted and syrup is bubbly. Set aside to cool 5 minutes.

Stir the baking soda into the milk, stirring until it dissolves completely. Pour the cooled syrup-butter mixture and the baking soda-milk mixture into the dry ingredients. Mix well, with a large spoon or clean hands, until the mixture is combined. (Be sure to stir to the bottom of the bowl and incorporate all dry ingredients.) Spread the mixture evenly in the prepared pan. Press down well, using the back of a flat spoon or a rolling pin. Press down the edges and corners firmly with your fingertips. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown. Rotate the pan midway through the baking. (Watch carefully so they do not over-brown. If browning too quickly, loosely cover with aluminum foil during the last few minutes of baking or reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees during the last 5 to 10 minutes of baking.)

Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack for 10 to 12 minutes. Cut, using a sharp, serrated knife, into 1  1/2 -inch squares while bars are still warm. Allow to cool completely before removing them from the pan.

Per bar: 101 calories (42 percent from fat), 5 grams total fat (3 grams saturated), 8 milligrams cholesterol, 13 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram protein, 101 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber.

Source: Anne Gundry, Stitch ’n Tyme

Chocolate Chip Cream Cheese Monkey Bread

Makes 10 to 12 servings

2 (16-ounce) tubes refrigerated large biscuits

1 cup dark chocolate chips or semisweet mini chips

8 to 12 ounces cream cheese, cut into 32 (1/2-inch) cubes

1 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 cup butter

1 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 10-inch Bundt or tube pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Cut each biscuit in half. Flatten the biscuit to form a 3 to 4-inch circle. Spoon about 1 tablespoon chocolate chips into the center of the biscuit circle. Place 1 cream cheese cube over the chips. Fold the biscuit dough around the chips and cream cheese, then form into a ball, sealing the chocolate and cream cheese tightly inside the ball. Set aside.

Combine the granulated sugar and cinnamon in a zip-top plastic bag. Seal and shake to combine. Add 6 to 8 dough balls to the bag; seal and shake to coat evenly. Remove the coated dough balls from the bag and set aside. Repeat with the remaining dough balls.

In a small microwave-safe glass bowl, combine the butter and brown sugar. Microwave on high (full power) 30 seconds. Stir well. Continue to microwave 30 to 40 seconds or until it is hot, bubbly and the consistency of caramel.

Sprinkle half of the walnuts in the prepared pan. Top with half of the dough balls. Drizzle with half of the caramel glaze. Repeat with the remaining walnuts, dough and glaze.

Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven. Immediately, using caution, invert onto a deep, large platter. Let the hot pan sit on the monkey bread for 10 minutes, then carefully remove the pan. Serve warm.

Per serving, based on 10: 728 calories (48 percent from fat), 40 grams total fat (18 grams saturated), 50 milligrams cholesterol, 87 grams carbohydrates, 40 grams protein, 1,069 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber.

Source: Diney Uhlig, Stitch ’n Tyme

Lemon Meringue Pie

The USDA does not recommend eating raw or undercooked eggs. If desired, substitute pasteurized eggs for the eggs in this recipe.

Makes 1 (9-inch) pie

1 cup graham cracker crumbs

1/2 cup melted butter

1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice

3 eggs, separated

4 tablespoons super fine or bakers sugar

Lightly butter a 9-inch pie plate.

In a small bowl, stir together graham cracker crumbs and melted butter. Pour into the pie plate and press to cover the bottom and sides evenly. Place the crust in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours to set.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sweetened condensed milk and lemon juice. Whisk in the egg yolks, whisking until the mixture is smooth. Pour filling into the crust.

In a medium mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the sugar. Continue beating until the egg whites form stiff peaks. Pipe or spoon the meringue onto the filling. Bake 10 to 15 minutes or until the meringue is lightly browned.

Cool pie, then refrigerate several hours or overnight before serving. Store in the refrigerator.

Per serving: 361 calories (46 percent from fat), 19 grams total fat (11 grams saturated), 127 milligrams cholesterol, 43 grams carbohydrates, 7 grams protein, 270 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber.

Source: Anne Gundry, Stitch ’n Tyme