"Things won are done,
Joy's Soul lies in the Doing."
- William Shakespeare

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Looking Good

Check it out!  What do you think?

I so absolutely cannot pat myself on the back for this one.  The Mister gets all the credit for designing the new look.  Isn't he awesome?

I just spent a wee while jumping up and down, shouting at the Mister:  "You are so good!  You are so good!"  And so forth.
If I looked cooler jumping up and down, I'd post a photo of that.  Alas, I do not.  So use your imagination.  And maybe picture me looking cool.

Leave me a comment, tell me what you think of the new layout.

See you soon!

Gifting Handmade

Devin was recently invited to a birthday party for her wee friend, and when I asked what she'd like to give her, she decided:  "I'm going to sew her a stuffed kitty."  Right.  Well, I figure if my six year old is gifting handmade things, I'd probably better rise to the challenge myself.  Let's get to work.

I think this gal may turn out to be quite the seamstress.  Already she's showing a good deal of patience with a project (far beyond what I am capable of), and quite an aptitude for designing bits and bobs to sew.  I love that.  I wish I had that gift.  But I'll settle for watching her, and seeing where the creative spirit takes her.

So, one kitty coming up. Designed, hand sewn, and accessorized, all by Miss Devin.  (I did help sew on the beaded eyes, but the rest is a Devin original.)

She's so cool.  I dig this girl of mine.

For the other birthday gift, I opted for the Lazy Days skirt, a free pattern available from oliver + s.  It's a super simple, my kind of sewing, straight lines only, no way to mess it up, sort of pattern.  And it turned out pretty cute.

The fabric is from the Oddesea line, by Moda.  And I just so happen to have enough left over to make my gal a skirt too. Perhaps once she outgrows a few of the several I've already sewn for her.  Just to keep it practical, you know.
And since we were on a roll here, and I hadn't messed anything up for a change, I got inspired to finish a project that's been sitting in the to-do basket for months.  The Mister had a pair of pajama bottoms that were out of commission, and I love the beachy stripes, therefore couldn't get rid of them.  So, new pj's for the boy!

With some sound technical advice from Mom, I managed a pretty easy remake.  Not bad, not bad at all.

Great for lounging, on a sunny morning...

Or for doing that sweet kickboxing move you've been working on.

You know how it goes.

Have a lovely rest of the weekend.

Friday, July 29, 2011

All in a Day's Play

Despite the lack of heat we've been experiencing this summer, let's admit it, lazy summer days are the best.  No mad rush in the morning, no school, no kid pick-ups and drop-offs, ahhhh.  Marvelous.  Morning lie-ins.  Late nights.  And an entire day to fill with whatever sounds most fun.

Peach smoothies for breakfast, anyone?  Oh, heck yeah.  In our pajamas?  Even better.

Dance party at the lake?  Don't mind if I do!

And a pre-bedtime jam session involving the kiddos, the Mister, and a didgeridoo?
But of course.

Which may or may not have degenerated into making fart noises on the didge...

Ah well.  Bless them anyway.

All in a Day's Play.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

It Doesn't Have to be Profound

Racking my brain...wracking my brain?  Either way.  I think I've been engaging in a little of both. The gist is this:  trying to come up with a good enough recipe to post is sometimes tricky.  Or rather, I tend to make it tricky.  Testing, tasting, measuring, sharing tastes for confirmation...general prep work that, let's be honest, I don't necessarily always enjoy.  Nor have time for.  (Wow, my mom's grammar-alert just flew off the charts there.  Sorry, Mom.)


I have a couple of planned recipes up my sleeves, but have a little tweaking, testing, tasting, etc, before they're ready to share.  And I do so hate to leave people hanging.  And more importantly, I hate feeling like I'm being incredibly slack by missing several days of posting.

And so, here I sit, all blessedly by myself, while the Mister is off at the skate park with the kiddos, trying out their new sweet helmets, a la Nana.  (Note to self...inquire into applying for sainthood for the Mister...)  While enjoying a wee glass of rosé, waiting for the gang to return for dinner, some beautiful cherries from our neighbors (Thanks Chris and Ashley!) caught my eye.  I opened a cherry, pulled out the pit, and tossed it into the wine.

And voila!  A mini-revelation struck.  It doesn't have to be profound to be blog-worthy.  (And most likely, even when deemed blog-worthy, really isn't profound anyway.  I mean, seriously, I'm pretty sure I'm not up for any awards these days.)

So, yeah.  That brought me back to a good place.  My sort of place.  That I may indeed sometimes lose sight of.  The place that says:  "Chill out.  Simple is best.  Isn't that what you're always shouting from the rooftops anyway?"  Who do I really need to impress? 

Have a glass of nicely chilled rosé, garnished with a perfectly ripe, perfectly sweet cherry.  Freshly picked if I know my lovely neighbors.  Drink in the sweetness, and ponder the Sweetness that is Life.

Life is, after all, a bowlful of cherries.

At least, that's what I've heard.

And I must, to put it simply, agree.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Weekend in the Sun

Well, it was good while it lasted, wasn't it?  The sun, that is.  This gang had the good fortune to be out in the woods, enjoying the fine weather, with fine friends.

And fine food, of course.

Did not quite manage any food photos, however.  You try getting a camera in front of a bunch of hungry campers...dangerous stuff, I tell you.

I did get a fantastic recipe from our weekend though, which will be posted soon enough.  Stay tuned on that one.

Here's a bit of what we got up to:

A stunning lake.

A fair bit of boating.

A bit of relaxing, and enjoying the view.

And a decent amount of goofing off.

As you do.

When all was said and done, we had some tired, but happy campers.

Good stuff.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Camping Weekend

Off for the weekend, camping with some of my very favorite people. 

The kiddos are pretty excited.  As you may have guessed.

Have a great weekend!  I'll be back next week.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Out of the Box, Take 3

Never have I, in all my eating/cooking/lusting after food years, thought of turnips as electric.  But listen, kids...turns out...they can be.

This week's treasure trove from our CSA box, a la Helsing Junction Farm, contained some gorgeous Tokyo Cross turnips.  As well as a few bulbs of my latest food addiction (one of many):  green garlic.  *Insert massive sigh of utter contentment here.*

As an extra special perk from Helsing Farm, these lovely folks arm their shareholders with recipes, appropriate to that week's produce.  How cool is that?  And helpful.  While browsing through the latest suggestions for their beautiful food, this caught my eye:  A Rich Root and Cheese Soup for a Cold July Day.  May as well make the best of the bad weather with some good food, right?


Without further ado, I share my adaptation of Helsing Junction Recipes' adaptation of Nigel Slater's Tender...um...recipe.  Right...lost myself for a minute there, how are you all doing?  Still with me?  Good, carrying on, then.

The vibrant hue of this soup will restore your faith in brighter days to come, I tell you.

Electric Turnip Soup - adapted from Helsing Junction Recipes, etc.
 - aka - A Rich Root and Cheese Soup for a Cold July Day
 - serves 4, generously

4 Tbs unsalted butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 or so pounds Tokyo Cross turnips, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
1 bulb of fennel, chopped, fronds removed and set aside for garnish
4  to 5 cloves green garlic, or 3 cloves regular garlic, minced
2 Tbs flour
pinch dried red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp turmeric
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1/4 cup cream
2 Tbs grainy dijon mustard
4 oz gruyere or extra sharp cheddar, grated

Over medium low heat, melt 4 Tbs butter, and saute onion until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic, chopped fennel, and turnips, and season with salt and pepper.  Cook for 10 minutes.  Add red pepper flakes, turmeric, and flour, and cook for 3 minutes.  Add stock, partially cover pot, and simmer 20 to 25 minutes, or until all vegetables are fork tender.

Add half the chopped fennel fronds, then, using an immersion blender, blend soup until smooth.  Alternatively, puree the soup in a blender, in batches, covering the blender lid with a tea towel.  Pour soup back into pot and add the cream, grainy mustard, and cheese.  Check for seasoning, and add salt and pepper.

Ladle into four bowls, and garnish with remaining chopped fennel fronds.  Serve with fresh bread.

Homey, nutritious, and absolutely electric.


Cheap & Cheerful

A feature wherein I share a good deal I happen upon...be it wine, food, or just something fun...If you have something Cheap & Cheerful you'd like to share, leave a link or suggestion in the Comments section at the end of this post!  Enjoy!

Here's a good one, fine people:

A new (at least to me) cheese, at good old Trader Joe's.  Cheddar and Gruyere mélange.  For the bargain price of $6.99 a pound.  Super Cheap, and most definitely Cheerful.

If you're at all like me, which is to say, desirous of the good things in life, but without the trust fund to support them...this is your cheese.  I always like to keep a couple of decent cheeses on hand, for a quick lunch or dinner of bread, cheese, and olives.  Or for some Gougeres, risotto, you understand.  And when a well-stocked grocery store is a fair distance away, it's best to be prepared for an impromptu dinner party, or glass of wine that suddenly is in need of a quick appetizer.  Problem is, unless I have a specific plan for a more spendy grocery item, I hesitate to keep it in stock, just in case.  Feels a little too much like a luxury item, than a necessity.  Until now.

So, this delicious, and I mean seriously delicious, Cheap and Cheerful cheese has got me all sorts of stoked.  Now I am prepared for any good cheesy dish, without feeling guilty about my laissez faire cheese addiction.  Ha!  Score one for this gal!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Our Daily Bread

It is true, what they say, that man cannot live on bread alone.  I'll tell you something, though.  This gal cannot live without bread.  I love the stuff.  The more rustic, the better.  Dense and chewy, light and airy, crusty and sour...you name it, odds are that I'm going to dig it.

And so, when I happened upon yet another tasty looking recipe in Dorie's Around My French Table cookbook, obviously, I had to get on with making it.  Well, eventually, anyway.  Thank the Bread Gods I did too, this stuff is amazing.

May I introduce...Provençal Olive Fougasse.

Okay, so for starters, the name, you know, called to me.  Provençe...olives...and a word I really don't know how to pronounce (but for sure will fake it).  Why hello, let's make some of that!

This is rather reminiscent of focaccia, but in my humble opinion, better.  Oil-cured olives (you can find these at your grocery store olive bar) give the bread a lovely, salty richness, orange zest and rosemary keep it fresh, and a wee sprinkle of coarse sea salt on the top...why, what's not to love?

On top of those bits of wonderful-ness, it's a make ahead bread.  Meaning, the dough takes only a few minutes of your time (unless you are truly hard core, and opt to make it by hand), you pop it into the fridge for anywhere from 6 hours to 3 days, and bake it right when you're ready for it.

And it's a social food.  A throw-it-on-the-table-with-some-wine-and-olives, share-it-with-friends, kind of food.  You form the dough into a leaf shape, before baking, and tear into it, casually, nibbles here and there, whilst chatting with your favorite people.  What could be better?

So, the directions that follow are going to be rather on the long side, but don't let that deter you.  Bread recipes tend to be fairly wordy, and I promise you, it's not one bit difficult.  Dorie's recipe, in the book, uses a stand mixer to make the dough, but as you may already have heard, I am lacking in that department, so I adjusted things a bit, to suit my bread machine.  Since those are the directions I can personally vouch for, that's what I'm including.  I'll also tack on the stand mixer directions, for those of you who want to give that a go.  Leave a comment for me at the end of this post, sharing how it turned out!

Provençal Olive Fougasse - adapted from Around My French Table
-makes 2 loaves

1 2/3 cup warm water
1 3/4 tsp active dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
4 1/2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil, plus 1 Tbs for brushing bread
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 tsp salt
1 cup oil-cured black olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
1 Tbs minced fresh rosemary, or 1 tsp dried rosemary
grated zest from 1/2 an orange
coarse salt for sprinkling - I used a Himalayan pink salt

For the Dough - Bread Machine Style

Into the bread machine pan, put 1 2/3 cup warm water, sugar, 4 1/2 Tbs olive oil, salt, and yeast, and let proof for about 5 minutes, until the yeast looks bubbly and creamy.  Add the flour, salt, rosemary, and zest, and turn your bread machine on the dough setting.

Bread makers tend to have a beep announcing time to add extras, well into the mixing cycle, so they don't get obliterated.  If you can, unlike myself, manage to be in the room at the time this goes off, add your olives in at the beep.  If, like my distracted self, you miss the beep, just add it in toward the end of the mixing cycle, the later the better.  If the olives don't get fully incorporated in the machine, no worries, just give the dough a quick stir, by hand, when the rising is done.

Oil a large bowl, place dough in the bowl, and oil the top, and cover with plastic wrap.  Skip to the Rising and Refrigerating step.

For the Dough - Stand Mixer Style

Pour 2/3 cup water into measuring cup and sprinkle the yeast and sugar over the top.  Stir with a wooden spoon, or rubber spatula, and let the yeast dissolve for about 5 minutes.  When the mixture bubbles and looks creamy, add 1 more cup of water, plus 4 1/2 Tbs olive oil.

Put flour and salt in the mixer bowl and stir to combine.  Pour in the yeast mixture, attach the dough hook, and beat at medium low speed for 2 or 3 minutes, or until flour is moistened.  Turn the speed up to medium and beat for 10 minutes more, or until the dough cleans the sides of the bowl.  The dough will be very soft and sticky, almost a batter, and it will pool at the bottom of the bowl, but that's fine.  (You can do the preceding by hand, with a wooden spoon, should you be crazy...kidding, I mean, so inclined!)

Mix the olives, rosemary, and zest together, add to the mixer, and beat for another minute or so.  The olives won't blend into the dough completely, so finish the job with a spatula or wooden spoon.

Lightly oil a large bowl and place dough in it, and oil the top of the dough, &/or plastic wrap.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and put it into a warm place to rise, until doubled in volume, 1 to 2 hours, depending on the warmth of your room.  Stir the dough, cover it again, and proceed to the next step.

Rising and Refrigerating

Refrigerate for at least 6 hours, up to 3 days.  Dorie prefers to let the dough rest overnight.  I've also split the recipe, and made one batch after a rest overnight, and the second batch the next day.  The dough will probably rise to the top of the bowl, you can punch it down, or just leave it be.

Forming the Loaves

Remove the dough from the refrigerator, stir it down, and divide in half.  The Mister was kind enough to photograph the following process, so here's a little photo-tutorial, of the steps:

 Turn one piece of dough onto a floured surface, and flour the top of the dough.

Roll the dough into a rectangle (ish) shape, that's about 12 inches by 7 to 9 inches.  Precision isn't important here.  As you're working, lift the dough and flour the counter again if it's sticking.

Using a very sharp knife, single-edged razor blade, or an X-acto knife, cut about 4 slashes, about 2 inches long, at an angle down each long side of the rectangle, rather like the veins on a leaf.  Make another vertical slash near the top of the rectangle.  Again, don't worry about precision.

With your fingers, gently push and pull the slashes open, tugging the dough a little as you go.  Try to get the holes to open to about an inch wide.  As you cajole the dough, you might want to tug a little more at the base than at the top, so you end up with a bread that's flat at the bottom, and tapers toward the top, like a leaf.

 Transfer the dough to a large nonstick baking sheet or one lined with parchment paper.  (Alternatively, you can do this step before cutting your slashes and opening them, if it's easier.)

Repeat with the second piece of dough, or cover it and return to the refrigerator to bake later.

Cover the dough with a kitchen towel, and let rest 15 minutes.

Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.  (If you're baking just 1 bread, bake it on the lower or middle rack.)

Mix the remaining Tbs olive oil with 2 tsp water in a small cup.  Prick the dough all over with a fork and, with a pastry brush, lightly coat the fougasse with oil and water mixture.  Sprinkle the bread all over with coarse salt.

Slide the baking sheets into the oven and bake for 10 minutes.  Rotate the sheets from top to bottom, and front to back, and bake for another 8 to 10 minutes, until bread is golden - it won't get too dark.  

 Let cool for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

How about that?  Enjoy!