Saturday, April 30, 2011

Do It Yourself: Veggie Markers

I have been so ready to plant in my new garden beds. I stand out on the deck and look longingly at the pine boxes, imagining them full of leafy greens and onions and tomatoes. But it has been an unusually cool spring, or so the weather pundits say. Finally, the sun is coming out and the soil is getting warm and I decided I needed to plant the onion starts and kale and swiss chard seeds asap.
Now we have friends that have a giant garden and plan everything out way back in January and grow everything from seed in a greenhouse. I am not that motivated. Most of the items I like to plant, like the tomatoes, and onions, and shallots, I buy as starts. It is not warm enough to plant tomatoes, but the onions are good to go. I actually bought them a few weeks ago and put them in the potting shed and now I am worried I will lose a good deal of them since they are looking a little scruffy. But better to get them in the ground and see what happens than let them all rot.
I didn't need fancy plant markers, just simple ones to remember where I planted the rows. I started a new trick this year of laying perlite right over my furrow of seeds so that I will know exactly where to water them. I have an alphabet punch set that I rarely use. I wish the lettering was a tad larger, but you can read them a lot easier in person than in the photograph, so they will do the job! They are a little rustic looking, but I think I will make some more and see if my designs evolve!

Now I am going to run to the farmers' market and get some of their veggies and maybe some more starts.

Freedom with Felt

I love working with felt because it allows me to do anything I want. If I can think of a shape or a critter, nothing is stopping me from making it except myself. I am still playing with fairly basic shapes and designs as I want to learn the process completely before frustrating myself with a gigantic projects. I have made a few scarves now and they seem so-so, but I especially love my pillow minions and my needle felted tweets.

Don't they look like they are having a conversation? All of these tweets and the owl pillows are being delivered to Tasty Gallery in Seattle next week.
I am actually starting a big project this week, a bonsai tree. I bought a ceramic pot that is use for growing bonsais and I am making a heavy base to fit inside the pot and then using wire to create the tree and then covering it with needle felting and wet felted leaves. I am still trying to figure out the best way to weight the base; I don't want the tree to tip out of the pot. I may need to glue it in place as well.

Friday, April 29, 2011

What I Ate: Fried Halloumi Salad and Pomegranate Molasses Glazed Pork Tenderloin

I have this great cookbook I bought in Dubai called When Suzanne Cooks. My sister is a big fan of this woman, who I guess is like the Paula Dean of Arabia or something and her cookbook is really lovely and accessible.

The photos are fantastic and makes my mouth water and makes me want to jump into the kitchen asap. I think my sister and I are the only ones that have reviewed this on Amazon; if you click on the photo, it will take you to the Amazon website.
The fried Halloumi salad is really delicious, only I can't sprinkle it with lovely pomegranate seeds right now as they are quite out of season.

One of the main ingredients Suzanne uses over and over is Grenadine Molasses (Pomegranate Molasses). This works great in salad dressings, cooking with veggies, and as a glaze over meat. I am already half way through my bottle that I bought in Dubai so I need to get myself to a Middle Eastern grocer pretty soon or I might start going through withdrawals.

I have made chicken thighs using the molasses with olive oil and lemon juice and garlic and it was delicious. And then I tried it on pork tenderloin and was even more satisfied with the results!
Of course you won't be finding any pork recipes in When Suzanne Cooks but I like to adapt freely and consider myself a bit of a fusion cook. I know that is an overly used phrase, but I think it is an accurate one. I don't like to confine myself to one region but would rather take great ideas from lots of regions and then put it together with what I can buy locally.

If you are at all interested in Middle Eastern cooking, this is a great start!

New Tweets on ETSY!

Well, I keep making things to take to other shops but I figured it was high time to update some work on my Etsy shop, Raven Meets Crow.
If you click on an individual picture, it will take you straight to the listing!
I have so much fun making these Tweets, it is hard to keep them in stock! All of the tin is hand cut, filed, and riveted. Thanks for taking a look!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Owl of an Idea

This is my latest wet felted endeavor: owl pillows. I made these yesterday and now I will stuff them and finish the details on them today. I really like the one on the right. I think the one on the left needs more contrast but I might be able to fix that with some needle felting.

Going to try out a plastic versus fabric resist today for 3D felting, we'll see how it works out!

The Hunger Games Made Me Crave Hot Chocolate

Last week I blasted through the entire trilogy of the Hunger Games. I have been hearing for a year now how good these books were and I was not let down. If you have been living under a rock (which apparently I was), these books are set in the far future where the U.S. and possibly the rest of the planet has nearly destroyed itself through war and global warming. A new country, Panem, took over much of North America and was brutal to its people, who rebelled and then were repressed and lost the war. The book starts 75 years after the war and the various districts are forced to contribute kids to play in gladiator style combat with one another in tribute to the Capitol of Panem.

The whole concept is pretty chilling, but sadly believable. This is not high-brow reading; it is meant for young adult without much to grapple with besides the action but I was sucked in nonetheless. I was rooted to the couch for several days drinking copious amounts of hot chocolate. Sometimes tea will just not cut it: especially when you are reading about teenagers destroying each other, you need something a little richer.

I refuse to drink the add water, fake flavor nastiness that comes in powder. It makes me gag. It is so easy to make really yummy hot chocolate from scratch and much cheaper than the instant.

Jennevieve's Homemade Hot Chocolate
serves 1

1 1/2 Tablespoons cocoa (not Dutch cocoa)
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
pinch salt
pinch cinnamon
pinch chile powder
1/4 cup water

6-8 oz milk (nonfat, 2%, whole, milk substitute, whatever you prefer)

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Combine first 6 ingredients in small sauce pan and bring to a boil, stirring to combine for 30 seconds. Add milk and heat until just starting to simmer. Remove from heat, add vanilla and pour into a nice big mug. Serve with whipped cream, if desired.

I guess now they are making the Hunger Games into a movie and I shouldn't be too surprised. I went and saw the newest adaptation of Jane Eyre last night (at least the 18th version!) and was pretty impressed. Michael Fassbender and Mia Wasikowska have great repressed sexual tension between them. It also builds suspense a bit like a horror film which left me a little freaked out at certain points but I walked away very satisfied and will probably see it again. Some stories are just worth revisiting.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

What I Ate: Multigrain Pasta with Peanut Sauce

I love to read cookbooks like novels and fantasize about what I should make. Lately, I have been wanting to cook both lunch and dinner every day in order to eat healthier and save money. This might get old and pretty soon I will be craving the steak salad at Maxwell's. But for now I am cooking up a storm.

I am trying to cook on the healthier side especially since our half marathon is this Sunday. So no drinking and no fried foods for us this whole week!

I already have my own, in my head, peanut sauce recipe I make but I got the idea to put edamame in a salad from Women's Health magazine. (Or something like that: ever since we rejoined Bally's, I get some random health magazine in the mail every month. And Trevor keeps getting all these men magazines full of dude stuff like car racing.)

I can't really give you a recipe for my peanut sauce because it is different every time. But basically I blend creamy peanut butter, soy sauce, red chili sauce, ketchup, apple cider vinegar, sesame oil, garlic, and enough water to make it nice and creamy in a food processor. Heavy on the peanut butter and soy sauce and lighter on the other ingredients. Easy to play with and if you have to make a ton of it to get the portions right, oh well, guess you'll just have some yummy leftovers!

The rest is just multigrain pasta (but could be rice noodles or regular pasta), red cabbage, carrots, shelled edamame, cilantro, and green onions. We never get sick of this. Sometimes I will add chicken or chicken sausage too. And 3 Bean Munchies are a must when I can find them.

It's one of those wonderful dishes you can multiply easily so that you can eat it for a couple of days or bring to a potluck.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Picturesque at Longshadows

We only visited a couple of tasting rooms on our little road trip last weekend to Walla Walla, but Longshadows was definitely one of my favorites. It actually might be one of the prettiest wineries with the yummiest wine with the nicest guy managing the tasting room that I have ever been in!

A solid 20 plus minute drive outside of Walla Walla on a small winding road off the beaten path, Longshadows is not necessarily private, but you do need to know about it and you do need to make a reservation. They don't really need to cater to the drunken masses stumbling around on Main Street in Walla Walla; their wines are pretty pricey but pretty delicious and unique as well.

It is not one winery, but a sort of incubator for top wine makers to come and make their own label. It has had the same small selection of wine makers for years now and each one is from all over the world and brings to the table a different style and flavor in their wines.

We loved the Poet's Leap Riesling, but just when we thought we were done with the tasting, we were offered a sample of this special Botrytis Riesling. It was served with apple pie at the White House state dinner in January for Chinese president Hu Jintao. (Fun note: two of the three wines served at that dinner were from Washington State!) The only way I can describe it is liquid ambrosia and honey; it was pretty fantastic.

My favorite of the bunch was the Pedestal Merlot. It is one of the pricier ones ($55) so we only bought one for ourselves to save for something special. But it was fruity and rich and had that unmistakable Eastern Washington mouth feel that I love so much. OK, that sounded pretty wine snobby, but trust me, this stuff is good!
The guy that started Longshadows, Allan Shoup, is a pretty big mucky muck in the wine world--he helmed the wine group that owned Chateau St. Michelle and Columbia Crest, among others for 20 years. So, of course, when he made his tasting room, who else but Dale Chihuly would provide the artwork?

I love how these bowls look like they are glowing from within while they just have a tiny spotlight on them!

And the color combinations never get old for me. I love that lime green with the aqua interior.

Next time you get out to Walla Walla, call ahead and see if you can get into Longshadows!

Monday, April 25, 2011

37 Things: Road Trip

Now when I put down "Road Trip" on my list of 37 Things I Want to do Before I Turn 38, I didn't have anywhere specific in mind. As we just got back in February from a trip to the Middle East, I knew we weren't going to go on any other fancy trip any time soon.

But my good friend lives in Walla Walla and when we heard one of our favorite wineries was hosting a wine dinner at the Fat Duck Inn, very spontaneously, we decided to go visit her last weekend. It was a 5 hour drive getting out there on Friday. Between one of my contacts popping out of my eye while I was driving and then a giant one lane backup over the pass, we were more than a little tired and hungry and cranky once we rolled into town.

But Walla Walla is not a town to stay hungry in for long. (Or thirsty for that matter.) The above photo and the two below were taken at Brasserie Four, a delightful little French restaurant on Main Street that serves up generous, elegant portions and has some of the most reasonably priced wine that I have ever seen in a restaurant.
Their service can be a tad slow, but what else do we have to do on a lazy, sunny Saturday? Hanging out and drinking Rose and chatting is not such a bad thing. My Croque Madame was fantastic!
After lunch we hopped into a few wineries downtown for tasting and then to an antique mall for me to look for some cool tins to cut up. To finish the afternoon, we went to Longshadows and the photo below is just a glimpse; I am going to post a longer bit about this place later.

We ended the evening at the Fat Duck with the Otis Kenyon dinner where we drank way too much delicious wine and ate some really fantastic food.

This is a pear eclair with prosciutto.

And here is wild Alaska Salmon with pea shoots and sorrel and radishes.
Everyone had a great time.

The cheese plate was my favorite. That is a "shot" of cheese fondue with a pretzel. Also included was a mini croque monsieur, a stuffed date, candied pecans and in front is an "apple gastrique"--a fancy name for an apple infused gelatin. That apple gastrique was actually my very favorite item of the night. If you took a tiny bite of it with a pecan, it would just melt on your tongue and was refreshing and flavorful.

Our hoard of wine to take home with us. Don't worry, this wasn't all for us. We bought a lot for some friends of ours too!

I was very tired when we came home the next day and spent most of the afternoon lying on the couch and reading the second book in the Hunger Games trilogy. More on Walla Walla tomorrow!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Playing with Garden Design

The one thing I have learned with gardening and garden design is there is no right answer. I am constantly moving plants around or re-doing beds or just plain killing plants. A lovely garden is never grown in a perfect, over night attempt. Sometimes the plant you think would be perfect never grows to its promised full size or maybe something that was supposed to be small suddenly took over the whole parking strip (I am talking to you, Purple Aster.) So you dig it up and move it or throw it in the compost pile and start over.

You typically get better results if you start with a plan in the beginning and maybe a few goals. Do you want a veggie garden? Do you get full sun? Do you like to have cut flowers in your house? Do you like to entertain? Do you have pets? There are a lot of things to think about.

Our front yard is pretty much an ongoing disaster because I never had much of a plan or color scheme until several years into it and now it is a constant busyness of digging up, moving, replanting, etc. trying to get it to where I want it to be.

The back yard, on the other hand, is looking much better because we had a plan and put (mostly) the right plants in the right spots and thought about functionality for veggies and herbs and entertaining.

Now I am branching out and helping my friend Rosie design her garden. She is starting with a clean slate and it is pretty fun to walk around the neighborhood with her and see what kind of plants she likes and then go home and start drawing. This is the sketch for her yard. It looks a little on the busy side but it really isn't. Her yard is fairly shallow so it allows for some fun plants without having to worry about a boring old lawn.
I can't wait until we actually get to go to the nursery and then start playing with the placement of the plants! While it is still cooler than usual here, the sun has been out, and that is getting me into the spirit of full garden mode!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Productive and Sunny Weekend

Wow, it was actually sunny this weekend for the first time since I think at least last fall. Maybe I exaggerate a bit, but barely. This has been one of the wettest springs on record for a while! The kitties can barely stand the sun; they were staggering around on the porch with their eyes at a squint.

We took that little bit of sun and ran with it by filling our new vegetable beds with new Tagro potting soil and mowing the lawn. I still need to figure out how exactly I want the fence around it. And it turns out the fig tree that I thought may or may not be dead is actually alive and forming new buds. Now if it would only form a fruit or two this year, then I would be really happy.

And to top off a nice sunny weekend, this is my second week of getting the New York Times Sunday delivery. I was reading too much online to go much further without paying for the digital package and the paper itself on Sundays with all access digital is only $7 a week so I had to sign up. So far I can only think, why on earth did I wait so long to do this?
Sunday mornings in bed with coffee and the kitties and the paper is pretty much heaven. Until I had to get up to run 6 miles and then I didn't feel so warm and fuzzy anymore. Our half marathon is in just under 2 weeks now and this was the last long run until the race. The run was fine except for some soreness in my calf but I have been resting it and iced it and I think it will be just fine. I was actually feeling pretty good with my 6 miles until we ran into a friend tonight that is preparing for the full marathon and just ran 20 miles yesterday. Sniff, sniff. Oh well, it's all small steps to get to where you need to go.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Eew, There's a Slug on My Purse!

Not content with just slug pillows, I am making a slug bag. I created a "prefelt" of the slug which I laid on top of the wool roving before felting to secure the image. It is laying on top of the resist pattern and you can see how much it shrunk! I am still going to iron it to smooth it all out (I don't want a lumpy bag!) and then sew in a lining and some chunky round black handles. I might even needle felt some eyes onto the slug too!

The back of the purse.

Here's how the back of it looked before I started felting it.

And here is the fabric I picked out for the lining and the handles. Still a lot more work to be done!

My Dad is Very Helpful and I See Hard Labor in my Future

Last time I showed you the veggie garden area, it was looking pretty nicely weed free, but still needed new raised planters.

I don't have a big truck so I called my dad and he took me over to Home Depot where I was able to buy enough wood to make 2 large planters for just $25. I actually had a little wood left over too. I just used 2 x 8s for the planters themselves and 2x2s for the corner braces and cross pieces. I needed to make room for my fig tree, which may or may not be dead, so I designed "L" shaped planters.

I originally saw a raised planter tutorial over on The Pioneer Woman and I thought it was a little silly how complicated she made the instructions. My dad and I are cut from the same cloth: we are not slaves to detail when something is as simple as a raised planter.

With me on the Skil saw and him manning the drill, we were able to whip out these babies in about a half hour. Not too shabby. And no wasting time predrilling or measuring out where to put the screws!

In place but looking pretty empty. I need to dig up that rosemary plant that is in the way.

To complete the project I needed dirt. So the next day I called my dad again and we went and picked up his dump trailer over at my stepbrother's. Now this task of getting dirt ending up taking all afternoon because Brett left the trailer full of grass so we had to go all the way back to the Tacoma landfill to dump off the yard waste and then all the way back to the port to get Tagro potting soil and then we couldn't dump it in my alley because the battery on the dump trailer died. So dad had to go home and charge the battery and then come back 2 hours later to leave this pile of 2 yards of deliciously stinky soil in the alley. Sheesh.

Looks are deceiving. That is a pretty darn big pile of dirt.
And on this I am on my own. Dad said, "Have fun moving the soil." My husband wasn't too interested in this either since I am the one that out of the blue decided I needed raised planters now. So this weekend is supposed to be nice and it is going to be me with a shovel and a wheel barrow. And I still can't plant anything because it has been so cold out but I will be satisfied with my work!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

37 Things: Make Crepes

Besides "Throw a Dinner Party for 20", this is my last cooking item on my list of 37 Things I Want to do Before I Turn 38.

When we were in Paris a few years ago, my favorite thing besides the museums was the all the crepe stands scattered through out the city. We ended up eating many, many ham and Swiss crepes during our short trip. Grab one in the morning and they would keep you full all afternoon as you walked from museum to museum. Sometimes I see crepe stands at farmers' markets here, but they are not really mainstream. Last weekend I drove up to Seattle and my friend Jenn took me to a new cafe in Ballard called the Ridgeback Cafe and their specialty is crepes. (Good crepes, but slow, slow service!) It reminded me that making crepes was on my to-do list.

As you can see below, I can't ever just follow one recipe. Crepes are pretty easy to make but they take a lot of prep work to get the fillings and the batter and any sauces to be done all at the same time. Of course you could just make crepes and fill them with jam or Nutella but I prefer savory crepes to sweet. I used a crepe recipe out of The Silver Palate New Basics cookbook, and two Gourmet magazine/cookbook recipes for my bacon mushroom filling in a Bechemel sauce and a roasted poblano creme sauce.
The batter is easy to make, especially if you have a food processor, but it is the pan that it the tricky part. I used my new flat cast iron skillet and the crepes turned out delicious but mostly deformed looking and misshapen.

I finally figured out that it was easier to just pour more batter in and fill the whole pan to get a nice round shape.

Here we have the roasted poblano creme sauce on the left. (I indeed roasted the peppers first.) The crepes were looking pretty good by the end and the mushroom, bacon, and onion filling in Bechemel sauce had a lot of steps in the making, but tasted great. And it is not as bad for you as you think; I used over half nonfat milk and it still turned out delicious and creamy.
Assembled crepes waiting to be devoured.

It took nearly 2 hours and a zillion pans to make this and we finished them off in less than 15 minutes. Maybe next time I will just whip out some crepes and spread some jam in them!