Thursday, April 28, 2011

Weekend Reads: Food, Photography, My Passion List

It's no secret that I love food (um, really?)...and photography (seriously?). If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook is definitely no secret that I was as jazzed as jazzed can be when Hélène Dujardin's book Plate to Pixel came to fruition sooner than expected. I've got to say...it is really more than I even expected. She's undeniably talented, hardworking, and about as real as they come but this book...it's a dream come true for me.

At the risk of sounding like a nut I have to be transparent here. For a brief moment I got Hélène and Béa (Béatrice) Peltre confused. Both French expats, both ungodly talented, both food photographers. Their lives are, like all of ours, wildly divergent, but I clung to them...both of them. I found both of them when I needed it maybe more than most...a time of searching, admitted depression, and need for fulfillment. Food fills me up, so does photography - their images, again, so signature in taste, both filled me with sunshine and hope, satisfaction of life and a new lens with which to approach the world.

Since, of course, I have separated and identified. I can tell their lives and photos apart. But when they both announced books to be within mere months my heart nearly exploded.

You have to understand these are women who gave me hope and light when I couldn't see any. Again, I don't want to sound like some crazed fan but at the same time I wept when reading the first few pages of Hélène's book - the introduction, only a few pages, is compact with passion, drive, gratitude, and adoration of life...in so many ways, the woman I've become and am becoming. For me, it is yet another gift, at the perfect time...the writing is absolutely her (perhaps polished, here or there, but please, we all need an editor)...but as I've begun to be ever stronger in myself, to pursue my passions, I feel reassured and whole in having this solid piece to hold on to, having this bit of mentor-like guidance within my grasp.

So, sure, I'm a bit biased.

There are people who's influence makes up a little bit of who you are...big or small...knowingly or not. Consider this my thank you note, I suppose. I am indebted.

And I am anticipatory of Béa's book..but so, so, cuddle up with a great drink (tea, wine, depends...), a superb blanket, and some quiet time thrilled with Plate to Pixel. I have so much to learn and by god, is that awesome? Life is one wildly fantastic journey.

Some other "brought me fire" links this week?

These blogs:

3191 Miles Apart

Green Kitchen Stories

The Dew Drop Inn

And Ira Glass...oh my...so...so...yes...

Other things I live for? May 13. When Penny de Los Santos presents her *free* class, streaming via web, (info) here. A National Geographic photographer...giving us her knowledge, free. Headshakingly awesome.

More transparency? There is actual documentation that my goal in life, in second grade, was to be a National Geographic photographer, and writer. While I have not given that dream up, persay, I am happy to pursue it in my own small, not-so-published way.

Life is but a dream, non? Cheers!


Tutorial: Quick & Easy Coffee Cozy (or Sleeve) from a Repurposed Sweater

CoffeeCuff8

When my daughter was born an old friend sent one of the most amazing gifts: 2 old sweaters repurposed into a dress and pants. The pants were one of those magical pieces of clothing that managed to fit for two solid years of fast-paced growth and it pained me when they were passed along. The dress, however, didn't find a new home in time for the change of seasons and has been tempting me for months. Finally I realized how to repurpose our already repurposed sweater...

My sister in law is a coffee addict. Scratch that. Caffeine addict. Diet soda guzzling, sixty-five word long fancy coffee drink ordering caffeine addict. Naturally, I've been wanting to make her a coffee cozy for some time. Old sweater turned dress turned coffee cozy? Indeed.

As you know I'm pretty no-talent in terms of the sewing arena, but this was another quick and easy project that needed little more than a needle and thread to complete.

Things you'll need:

Old Sweater - wool is best, I think but it's up to you. Remember, thinner fabrics with more cotton or elastic will have the edges roll. I liked a cable knit because I could cut along the pattern and have it be pretty unnoticeable.

Needle and thread  - I used embroidery floss, per the usual.

Coffee cup or sleeve - I used a reusable cup since that was what we had, but a cardboard one would be easier to use for a pattern. I'll explain more below.

Felt balls or flowers for detail (optional)
 
Repurposed Coffee Cup Cozy/Sleeve

CoffeeCuff9

Begin by selecting your sweater and section you would like to use.

CoffeeCuff5

Cut a strip the width of your preference, or the width of your template. In my case I used a reusable mug we already had but you could, perhaps more easily, use a cardboard sleeve from a coffee shop.

To use a cardboard sleeve as a template go ahead and peel it open and use as a template, just like you did when making envelopes!

CoffeeCuff4

Cut down length-wise to the right size (either by wrapping around your mug to measure, or using your template).

CoffeeCuff3

Determine where the ends meet (again, on your mug or with the template). Pin together to secure (and indicate your seam placement).

CoffeeCuff2

Flipped inside out go ahead and stitch the two ends together. Just like with felt bows and flowers you can stitch nearly all the way through the sweater to make the seam invisible from the front, or use small stitches and a like-colored thread. Trim thread ends and fabric, if necessary.

CoffeeCuff1

Flip outside-right again. In my case I left some extra fabric to fold under and create a detail flap. You can omit the detail and sew the two ends together or, flip the bit of extra under and sew to the seam.

CoffeeCuff10

CoffeeCuff11

At this point I decided to play around with some felt details.

CoffeeCuff6

If you decide to add a detail go ahead and find something you like and secure it!

CoffeeCuff7

There you go - a repurposed coffee cozy - perfect for giving...or taking with you!

Bonus, with the same pattern/idea you can make cozy cuffs as well:

CoffeeCuff

Happy repurposing!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

52 Pickup: Be a Dish

Remember, all 52 pickups are open to interpretation. My interpretation might not be the same as yours - make it yours, make it a mantra, make it life lived well.
This week the pickup is:


A fun one this week!

What's your favorite food? Your very favorite? The one you come back to time and again? Pasta? Ice cream? Something a family member made? Something you had in a far-away land? A late night snack at local pub?

Is it greasy and fried, served in newspaper cones? A warm and soothing soup, cradled in your hands on a cold day? Maybe a sweet pop, cold and unexpected, a summer treat?

This week try to find your favorite dish. Maybe you have more than one. Then be that dish. Own it!

Is your dish dramatic, classic, earthy, savory, messy, comforting, sweet? Does that sound like you?


If it makes you feel better I've been thinking about this same question for weeks and I still don't know what my favorite dish is. I think though, that it's red beans and rice. A classic cajun dish, for sure.

Red beans are rice...pretty much everything I love. It's warm, it's comforting, you can eat it hot or cold, the heat slowly builds, it's simple as can be, maybe even minimalist but it's got depth. Red beans and rice...layers of simplicity that intertwine to become indistinguishable, one part from the other. Made slowly, blending and thickening with time, becoming ever more complex, yet oh-so-naturalistic and earthy.

Am I that dish? Could I be red beans and rice? Certainly on some days. I've got a bite sometimes, I'm complicated but actually pretty simple, I love comfort and classics, and yet, I'm pretty earthy. This week, I'm red beans and rice. Next week though? I'm going for something really unexpected! :)

What's your dish? There's got to be a homemade mac and cheese out there in the crowd - who will speak for it? Who's the spicy guacamole? The simple perfection of vanilla ice cream - where are you?

Of course if you are at a loss you could always use Mable for help ;)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Recipe: Mushroom and Truffle Tremor Chevre Crêpes with Dijon White Wine Sauce

Crepes2

Recently my friend Rachel, fellow cheese lover, started working with Cypress Grove Chevre. Chevre, as in oh-my-goodness-yes goat cheese. You might know them from their infamous (read: one of my favorites) Humbolt Fog. Rachel asked if I might consider working on a recipe using one of their cheeses.

Not that there needed to be a question.

When we have off days and my daughter wants to eat nothing but gummy snacks and yogurt we always have one thing in common: goat cheese. She loves goat cheese. Remember the fig, goat cheese, walnut and honey spread a while back? She ate it all. She also kept walking up to me throughout the day yesterday and saying, "More cheese?" Fingertip by fingertip half a small log of goat cheese disappeared off my counter.

Chevre

Luckily, coinciding with my cheese procurement was one of the first farmers markets of the season. Now this isn't a "real" market yet - more of a warm up, but I knew there would be one thing I wanted for sure: mushrooms.

We get our mushrooms, whenever possible, from River Valley Ranch. During the off-season we used their kits and grew our own abundance of mushrooms. This summer we're hoping to visit as well. So, cheese: check. Mix bag of mushrooms: check.

Mushrooms, to me, are the perfect season filler. They fill that space between meaty gourds and sweet, dripping berries. They are transitional and hopeful - leading me through that space between seasons, where I need hope for spring or yearn for warm loaves of pumpkin bread cooling in the changing breezes of autumn. While I know mushrooms aren't everyone's favorite they are, unquestionably, one of mine. (Don't worry, I have some other ideas below if you abhor the fungi)

CrepesFillingIngredients

What's a more perfect to bridge the space between seasons than something light but filling, savory and full of flavor, yet delicate? Crepês. Of course crêpes. Light, fluffy, oh so special crêpes.

Crêpes. Perfect for picnics or brunches en plein aire, al fresco, outside.

Crêpes, my perfect medium.

Crepes3

Yes, I had these for lunch. Yes, I'll have them for dinner too. There is no shame.

Mushrooms in a savory crêpe? Indeed. Mushrooms in a savory crêpe with a truffled soft-rind goat cheese and a dijon white wine sauce? Yes, please!

Crepes1

For those of you who aren't fans of mushrooms have no fear - a bit of goat cheese, some spinach, a bit of sundried tomato relish (oh yes, that recipe is coming too). So good. A few fresh berries, a bit of plain chevre, a drizzle of honey. Please. A grilled peach, a touch of goat cheese, a bit of agave nectar. Mmm hrmm.

See? With crêpes the possibilities are endless. Same with goat cheese. And mushrooms. And who doesn't love endless possibility?

Well, not I, obviously.

Truffled Goat Cheese, Mushroom Crêpes with White Wine Dijon Sauce

A few notes before beginning:

The crêpe batter can be made the night before - this is recommended, especially if you are having issues with lumps (just give another good whisk in the morning and get cooking). Also, consider sifting your flour to make whisking out any lumps from batter easier. Crêpes can be stored, in a well sealed container, for a week and made in advance as well, if you like. For sweet crepes omit the salt, pepper, and herbs and add a teaspoon of sugar.

If you don't happen to have Herbs de Provence you can use Italian seasoning instead. The taste is different, yes, but I've tried and both impart a lovely savory flavor.

If you don't want to use wine for the sauce you can try using broth instead, chicken or vegetable and a squeeze of something citrus.
Serves around 6
Crêpes:
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 cup flour - whole wheat or unbleached, all-purpose
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 cups milk (preferably whole)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Herbs de Provence or Italian seasoning
Filling:
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 16 ounces (1 pound) mushrooms, minced (I used a mix of shitake, baby portabella, and oyster)
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Herbs de Provence or Italian Seasoning
  • 3 slices bacon, sliced in 1/2 inch pieces (optional)
  • 4-6 ounces Cypress Grove Truffle Tremor. If you can't find Truffle Tremor try Herbs de Humbolt or plain Chevre.

White Wine, Dijon Sauce: 
NOTE: Small batch sizes noted in parenthesis on right of ingredients, for 2-3 servings
  • 1 large shallot, minced (1 small)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (1 clove)
  • 1 cup white wine (1/3 cup)
  • 6 tablespoons dijon mustard (just a bit less than 1/2 cup) (2 tablespoons)
  • 1 tablespoon honey (drizzle, about 1/4 teaspoon)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2-3 tablespoons butter (1 tablespoon)

 For the Crêpes:
  1. As much as 24 hours prepare crêpe batter. Melt butter in a small dish. Measure out milk and pour in butter (if still hot, if not you can add directly to the bowl). In a large bowl crack egg, whisk slightly, then add flour, salt, pepper, herbs and milk mixture. Whisk thoroughly, getting rid of as many lumps as possible. 
  2. Heat an 8 inch (or larger) pan on medium-low. If you pan is non-stick you probably won't need to use cooking spray, but if not then try a test to see if your batter will stick (if so, use a cooking spray or a touch of olive oil to prevent sticking). 
  3. Pour batter into pan - about 1/4 cup or so. Quickly swirl pan so that batter covers the whole bottom surface - like you might when cooking omelets, for instance.
  4. As the crêpes cook they will change color slightly (to a lighter color), and the edges may peel up. Just like a pancake the edges will loosen and you'll be ready to flip the crêpe over. 
  5. Flip and cook on the other side for a minute of so longer. I prefer to cook my crêpes on a lower temperature for a longer period of time but that will be up to you and what works best with your stove. Don't worry too much about tearing - you'll get the hang of it, I always tear my first one :)
  6. Set aside and work your way through the batch of batter. Depending on your pan size you'll get about 6-10 crêpes. 
    For the Mushroom Filling:
    1. Heat a larger pan on medium heat. Add in the olive oil, minced shallot, minced garlic, mushrooms, bacon (optional) salt, pepper and herbs.
    2. Sauté, tossing often, until the mushrooms are cooked through and have a slight browning to them. If you are using bacon make sure that is cooked through as well.
    3. At this point you can add in your goat cheese and stir/toss to melt, or, you can add it later. No issue either way. Set aside.
    For the Dijon Sauce:
    1. Once mushrooms are done and set aside use the same pan on medium heat. Add in minced shallot and garlic. If you did not use bacon consider a touch of olive oil.
    2. Sauté until onions soften a bit. Add in wine (or broth) and scrape any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
    3. Add dijon mustard, honey, and a bit of salt and pepper to taste. Stir/whisk thoroughly.
    4. With the heat off or on low, add in butter, stir well to integrate.
    Assemble Crêpes:

    To a crêpe add a hearty spoonful of the mushroom filling. Add a crumble of Truffle Tremor (or other goat cheese) if you haven't already done so. Fold in ends. Spoon White Wine Dijon sauce over. Enjoy!

    Divine with a simple spinach salad and a bright citrusy wine!

    Enjoy!

    Note: I've told you before I would be open about compensation, etc. I was not compensated for this post. I was given the variety of cheeses you see above though - with which I tested and worked on recipes...and ate. Mostly ate. Happily.  

    Tuesday, April 19, 2011

    Tutorial: Felt Flowers and Bows

    BowFinal 

    Making felt flowers and bows couldn't be easier - a little time, a little patience, and you've got yourself accessories as fit for a broach as a headband, or a flourishes for a jacket or purse.

    Things you'll need:

    Felt - you can use the thick kind, or the cheap (like twenty-five cents a sheets cheap kind). I'll show you projects using both (the bow is thicker, the flower thinner).

    Felt balls - you can buy these pre-made at places like Hobby Lobby (in the US at least) or online (Ornamentea). OR, if you can't locate them you can cut a round of felt, stuff with dryer lint (no reason to buy batting when you've got stuffing in the trash bin!), and sew closed to form a ball.

    Needle and thread.
    I prefer embroidery floss for previously mentioned reasons. Again, you can do these projects with hot glue, but I prefer to keep the bows/flowers as soft as possible for use on little heads.

    Felt Bows
    Bow1

    Cut a length of felt - in this case about 8 inches long by 1-ish inchs wide, but you can go longer/shorter, thicker or thinner depending on the bow you want. Cut a small section from the end and reserve. You'll also need two more pieces (not shown) (about 2 inches long for this example) - same width as your bow.


    Fold the two ends toward each other to meet in the middle.

     Bow3

    Pinch the middle where everything overlaps. Make sure to pinch the ends that you folded inward toward each other to give that nice dimpled effect. Tie off with thread and stitch once or twice to secure.

    Bow4

    Using your reserved section (cut to the width you like), wrap around the pinched section and sew closed at the back.

    Bow5

    Working with the two other reserved pieces decide how you want the "ribbon" ends to look. For this case I liked the "v" snip - fold the pieces in half length-wise, snip on an angle from the fold up to the end - unfold and you'll have a v-shaped sniped section.

    I should note here - you can make your ribbon all in one piece but I prefer this method because it uses the least amount of felt and lies flat.

    If you do not want "ends" simply omit this and the following steps.

    Bow6

    Position to "ends" on your ribbon.

    Bow7

    Sew the ends on - like in the headband tutorial make sure to not go all the way through so that the stitching can't be seen on the front side.

    BowFinal3

    Your bow is complete!

    BowFinal2

    To make into a headband use the directions found here - be sure to stitch the "ends" onto the headband as well if you want the bow and ends to wrap flat against the head.

    Felt Bows

    First, go ahead and download the template for the flowers and leaves here.


     Determine the type of flower you want and go from there.

    SampleFlower1

    For this kind use the flower on the bottom right of the template. Finish by cutting a felt ball in half, then sewing onto the middle of the flower.

    Felt Flower Headband

    For these flowers use teardrops (4 total) and a full, small felt ball. Secure the center and two teardrops, then add the opposite, bottom teardrops. You can also use a small circle shape if that is easier for you.


    For this kind use the teardrop shapes (5 total). Fold each inward and stitch, then stich together. Again, use a half a felt ball to finish. (Note: this is made with thicker felt)

    SampleFlower4

    For this flower do the same as above (5 teardrops) with bigger teardrops, or circles, pleat twice if possible. Use a half a felt ball to finish. (Note: this is made with thinner felt)

    SampleFlower3

    This flower is the same as above on top of the basic flower in the first example.

    FoldedFlowerCombo

    This is another layered flower. I'll show you how to make the center below - but I like the center all on it's own. Made in a few colors, then clustered it makes a beautiful decoration.

    Folded Flowers - How-to:

    FoldedFlower1

    Using either of the flower shapes on the left side of the template page cut out 4 flowers. Note: this is the "cheaper felt" in action - still looks great when done!

    FoldedFlower10

    Fold the flower in half.

    FoldedFlower11

    Fold in half again the opposite way.

    FoldedFlower2

    Stitch to secure.

    FoldedFlower3

    Repeat for 3 of the flowers/discs.

    FoldedFlower8

    For the center and final flower/disc: fold in half, then roll from one end to the other (on a slight angle, if possible). Stitch to secure.

    FoldedFlower7

    Lay completed folded petals/flowers next to the center.

    FoldedFlower9

    Stitch on to secure.

    FoldedFlower5

    Finish with a knot, trim thread ends and the folded flower is complete!

    FoldedFlowerFinal

    There's really no end to the types and styles of flowers you can make - cut out some shapes and have fun playing!