Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Custom Orders

I'm working on a name banner and a few bucket liners for an etsy customer...


Little Hannah is going to have her name hanging from a sweet pink upholstered headboard above her bed. What a lucky girl!

Here are a couple of custom mini bags I've been struggling with.


Not the best pattern, so they've had a bit of tweaking. And a big bit of time stuffed into a box. I don't like running into problems I don't know how to solve.


But I LOVE mixing and matching and coordinating fabrics. That's always the best (and most challenging part).


No real risks here with the fabric arranging. They all pretty much "go" together.

I love making things for other people.

There are a lot of things that I have made that I have not listed in my etsy shop. I need to start loading up with fall colors. That's so hard for me. I love spring. It's hard to know what to put out there, and I don't want to make things that I'm not passionate about.

Do you have any suggestions for me? Things I've shown you on my blog that you think should be in my etsy shop? There are some things that I would prefer to take to craft shows and not put online, for various reasons. But let me know what you think, I would love the input!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Meatless Monday - Vegetarian Burritos

This recipe totally shocked me. I didn't expect it to be nearly as good as it was. And I still can't believe that the ingredients worked together to taste so good! I was looking for some way to cook the squash and zucchini I had, and I found this.

Really a lot of these recipes that I am sharing are shots in the dark. I find them, try them, and if there is one that is really, really good, then I share it with you. So there have been hits and misses, but I'm starting to compile a pretty good library of what might become my "meatless standards." This recipe definitely fits the requirements for becoming a standard!

Vegetarian Burritos

2 Tbs olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 zucchini, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced
1 large yellow squash, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
15 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne
shredded cheese
sour cream
soft tortillas

Heat the olive oil in a skillet until warm, add garlic and onion. Cook until onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Add zucchini, squash and bell pepper. Cook, stirring often, until vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Stir in black beans and spices and cook until heated through, about 5 to 8 minutes.
Put mixture into warm tortillas and top with cheese and sour cream.


You could add any taco/burrito/mexico toppings to this to satisfy your tastes. You could also mix green chile salsa in, pre-wrap the filling in the tortillas and bake, covered with cheese, to have vegetarian enchiladas.

Use your imagination, just DON'T USE MEAT!! Just for tonight.

You can have bacon in the morning.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Still Appreciated


I love to smock.


My grandmother signed me up for smocking lessons the year after I graduated from college.


Just what every 22-year-old wants to do on a Tuesday night. Smock.


Those lessons changed my life.


I had no baby to dress, none of my friends had babies yet. But I became addicted.


Smocking led to sewing lessons, because hey, what are you going to do with a bunch of smocked fabric panels lying around? You are going to learn to sew and stick them in pillows if you don't know any children.


And then when people have children around you, even if you don't know them very well, you are going to make those children smocked clothing. By hand.


You are going to spend your money on high quality fabrics and spend a lot of time at Knit One Smock Too and watch a pregnant colleague's jaw drop when she opens your gift at her baby shower.


And then you're going to be embarrassed that you have just given her a priceless gift that took lots of planning and time and ripped seams and covered up mistakes and squinted at grids and counted pleats, but you are just so grateful that someone had a baby so that you had a reason to smock.


Now really, I knew how to sew with LOTS of guidance from when my mom helped me make a flag for my middle school Spanish class. It was one of those big colorful flags that people hung outside of their house during the 90s (and possibly still today). I totally impressed my teacher with my fabric depiction of a quetzal, a spanish bird. But that was not the right way to start my sewing career. It was very tedious and not a very motivating first project for a young teen.


Anna Jane's beautiful face made the smocked bubbles and dresses and swing tops look like a million bucks, even when the handiwork wasn't perfect (and it never was).


And the boys wore smocked clothes as well, and since this is the south, that's okay.


I wish I had taken photos of all of those dresses and outfits and pillows that I made over the years. They could fill several albums.


But I am thrilled to see that Anna Jane's clothes are making the rounds again...


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

We Made It...The Now Annual Post!

A very excited 1st grader!


A very cranky preschooler!


A disappointed sitting-at-homer...


I promise I encouraged him to be in the photograph, he just wasn't up for it. Next year. Sigh. Next year he will join them. Sob.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Meatless....um...Tuesday - Vegetable Soup From Someone Else's Garden

We have deer. And squirrels. And coyotes.

They eat our gardens. Even the one on the deck.

They eat our tomatoes and strawberries and our herbs and our sunflowers and our jalapenos. Well, I killed the jalapenos. Who knew they needed watering?

As it turns out, other people will grow gardens for you. And if you show up at the Farmer's Market on the weekends, they will show up too! And then you can make vegetable soup from fresh vegetables, which are in a different food group than canned vegetables. TRUST ME.

The only reason to post this recipe is for the secret ingredient, because we all know how to dump veggies in a pot and call it dinner.

Vegetable Soup
Pick your veggies. From the Farmer's Market or your garden or a roadside stand, but just this once, don't use canned veggies. Please. Just try this. You will only be able to buy what is in season at these places. It's hard to tell what season it is when you walk into the grocery store because they have everything all year round. That's not necessarily a good thing, friends!
Here is how I made this week's soup:
I sauteed a 1/2 a leftover red onion in half olive oil and half butter. After a few minutes I added some sliced celery and carrots. I added fresh corn that I cut off the cobb. After you cut it, scrape the back of your knife against the cobb. That juice is so good.
I added that to the pot with chopped up tomatoes and their juice, sliced zucchini and squash, and leftover limas and green peas. I also added a few uncooked, sliced okra.
Let this all heat up in a large pot for 10-15 minutes and then add vegetable stock until it's the right ratio of broth to veggies for your taste. Add salt and pepper and a bit of cayenne. If you like your veggies still crunchy, you can eat it now. If you like them soft, keep-a cookin.
When I serve this soup, I ladle it into bowls and add a dash of light cream. I wish there were words to type on this screen that would allow you to understand how much this adds to the soup. Alas, there are no words that powerful, so you will just have to try it yourself.
And yes, you can afford the calories in the dash of cream. You have eliminated meat for this entire meal, so you have quite a lot of wiggle room. We eat this with some fresh sourdough bread.

When you are at the Farmer's Market, please visit my friend Cary.


She owns Camino Bakery and is such a kind, generous, talented person. Her food is the reason I'm still in a good mood after a long week at work - she delivers our lunches on Fridays!


If you can't find Cary at your Farmer's Market, then poo. That's a real bummer. Look for her bakery/cafe to open downtown this fall. And if your downtown is in a different town than my downtown, then you are really out of luck.

Make yourself some vegetable soup. It will cheer you up.

I'm Not Ready Yet!

A new school year starts tomorrow, and...

The hallway drywall project isn't finished!


We haven't finished painting the playroom!


I'm not even close to finishing the slipcovers on my living room furniture!


This stack of fabric should be hanging in Anna Jane's closet as a few new back-to-school outfits!


And if you had to guess which of these unfinished projects I am working on in my spare time, which would you choose?

This one?


You know me so well.

Monday, August 16, 2010

More on Bham

So really, eating at Chez Fonfon wasn't our main reason for driving to Birmingham this past weekend. Contrary to most of the photos and comments on this post, food in general wasn't the main reason for the trip. Though we did start the weekend with this:


Oh My. That little yummy filled plastic container was good reason to keep us there for the rest of the weekend!

We delivered Will's birthday present, a freshly upholstered armchair that is a bit more reflective of his personality than the previous bright floral fabric was.


We spruced up a bit (well, just me) and headed to Chez Fonfon, a swanky little bistro responsible for last night's Fried Green Tomato dish. And yes, I did hit on Frank Stitt at the bar at Highlands, and it was the best 2 1/2 minutes of my culinary career.

The next day we toured Birmingham and had a really relaxing day without video games and diapers and juice boxes and temper tantrums. But we did miss our kisses and snuggles and storytimes and pancakes.

We moved some furniture around to make room for the new focal point of the den:


And while we were moving the living room couch, we found a chocolate filled Easter egg.

photos (2)

Guess we overlooked that on our indoor Easter Egg hunt this past spring!

I spent most of Saturday evening showing Will how to impress his friends with homemade pasta.


Here Will displays one of my gnocchi noodles:


The intense anger and jealousy you see on his face is due to the fact that his noodle came out like this:


And actually, that's only half of his noodle. He only made one and it was twice that long, breaking with embarrassment when it saw how puny it was next to the ones I made.

We left Will and his birthday chair and sped along to retrieve our children who missed us not a bit. Can't wait for our next road trip. And fancy meal!


Meatless Monday - Chef Inspired

Dave and I returned last night from our first weekend out of town without the kids. We were a whopping seven hours away in Birmingham visiting cousin and fellow foodie, Will.

We arrived at Will's house Friday evening and made a beeline to Chez Fonfon, a French-inspired bistro owned by our good friend, Frank Stitt.


Really, we have admired Frank from afar as one of our favorite cookbook authors and icon chefs, but he wasn't our friend. Until Friday night when I charmed him at the bar. Believe me? Only Frank and I know the truth.

We are saving our pennies to eat at his adjacent restaurant, Highlands Bar and Grill. That will motivate us even more to return to the straight-out-of Southern Living town.

The food at Chez Fonfon is pretty casual, but very chic. My dessert was my favorite part of the meal. It was a chocolate pot de creme that came in a cute little ramekin but should have come in a much larger bucket. My appetite for sweets is insatiable!

My appetizer was a classic fried green tomatoes with a very strong supporting cast of arugula, goat cheese, avocado and tomatoes. I found the recipe in my good buddy's cookbook and will share it with you for Meatless Monday. I made a few changes to the recipe to reflect the way I enjoyed it this weekend.

Fried Green Tomato and Arugula Salad

1 large egg
1 cup buttermilk
3 very firm green tomatoes, cut into 1/3 inch slices
3/4 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
salt and pepper
dash of cayenne pepper
2 cups oil for frying (corn, peanut, or canola)
1/2 cup balsamic vinaigrette
12 grape tomatoes, halved or quartered
1 large bunch arugula
1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1/2 avocado, cut into bite sized pieces
1/2 log goat cheese

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Lightly beat the egg in a shallow bowl and stir in the buttermilk. Place the tomato slices in the buttermilk mixture, turning to coat. In a shallow pan, combine the cornmeal and flour and season with 1tsp salt, the pepper and the cayenne, stirring well.
In a large cast iron or other heavy skillet, heat the peanut oil over high heat to 360 degrees.
Meanwhile, dredge one tomato slice at a time in the cornmeal, turning to coat and gently pressing into the cornmeal so it adheres. Transfer each prepared slice to a rack set over a baking sheet.
Using tongs, carefully ease the breaded tomatoes into the hot oil in batches of about 4 at a time so that the oil does not cool down. Cook for about 2 minutes, then turn and cook on the other side until the coating is a nice even golden brown, about 2 minutes more. Transfer the fried tomatoes to a baking sheet lined with paper towels and put them in the oven to keep warm while to fry the remaining slices.
Ladle or spoon 2Tbs vinaigrette onto each plate. Stack the fried tomato slices on the plate, with a 1/2 Tbs of goat cheese between each slice. Toss the cherry tomatoes, avocado, and arugula with the olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Arrange the mixture on the plate.

This is definitely satisfying for dinner, especially if you serve it with pot de creme! And if you have a recipe for that, let me know because Frank and I are not close enough yet for him to share those secrets!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Meatless Monday - Coconut Rice and Beans

Eating less meat does not have to mean eating all carbs and not getting enough protein. There is protein in vegetables, whole wheat pasta, nuts, beans...

And of course we all know (don't we?) that when eaten together, rice and beans make a complete protein. It is a perfect main dish for a family dinner, my kids ate 2 plates of it last night (which is why there are no photos!).

I cook with coconut milk for quite a few of our favorite recipes. I always buy the lite coconut milk in the asian section of our grocery store.

Coconut Rice and Beans

2 cans red kidney beans

1 1/2 cups long grain basmati rice

1 can lite coconut milk

That's it. 3 ingredients. A totally satisfying entree, super cheap and super healthy!

Drain and rinse the kidney beans and place in a medium pot. Turn the heat to medium and add rice and coconut milk to the pot of beans. Simmer with the lid on for 20 minutes. Check the rice. You may have to add water if the milk is absorbed but the rice is not completely cooked. On the other hand, if the rice is soft but there is still milk in the pot, raise the heat and boil uncovered until the rice is creamy but no longer soupy. Season with salt and pepper.

We eat this with corn spoon pudding and some sauteed spinach. It's a filling meatless meal without overloading on the carbs. Easy enough to pull together tonight!

And because posts are no fun without photos, here is what happens when you ask 3 kids of mine and one of my sister's to smile for the camera:


Sunday, August 8, 2010

Shattercake and Asian Food

Last night we joined some very good friends for an incredible night of Asian food. The last time they came to our house for dinner, Elizabeth made the mistake of telling us that James made a pretty mean Moo Shu Pork. We begged them to invite us for dinner and yes, the Moo Shu Pork was mean.

We had pork dumplings that were to die for...


And while James was slaving over a hot wok, Elizabeth, Dave and I rolled some California rolls.



They were big and lumpy and....delicious!


We saw very little of the children, but once Anna Jane realized that the adults had different food than the kids, she had to try everything. She popped dumplings in her mouth until they were all gone.

She tried to eat her third piece of sushi with chopsticks...





Oh, forget it!


We love having friends with adventurous appetites, so I tried out a new dessert. It's from Stirring Performances, the Junior League of Winston-Salem's beautiful book. Everything I've tried out of this book has been super-yummy. Buy one here!

The title of the recipe is Chocolate Torte Caramela, but James renamed it "Shattercake" for a soon-to-be obvious reason.

4 oz semi-sweet chocolate
1/2 c butter, soft
1/2 c powdered sugar
2 egg yokes
1 tsp vanilla
1 loaf pound cake, frozen
1/3 c granulated sugar
1/2 c whipping cream

(Before I start the how-to, let me address a few things before you start. The egg yokes incorporated into the ganache are not cooked. They will be raw in the final product, so do not eat this if you are pregnant or elderly, or in any other population that should not eat uncooked eggs. We never eat uncooked eggs. Dave is over-the-top wary of food-bourne illnesses. However, while I was building the cake, Dave was eating the chocolate mixture with a spoon. Apparently it was worth the risk. We've eaten it and we are still alive.
I used a large pound cake and ended up making another batch of icing to cover it. If you use a small cake, one batch of icing should do.)

Melt chocolate in a double boiler. Let cool to room temperature.
Cream butter until fluffy. Gradually add powdered sugar. Add egg yolks one at a time. Beat until smooth. Beat in vanilla and cooled chocolate.
Slice the top crust from a lightly frozen pound cake and discard (or eat). The pound cake doesn't have to be frozen, it just makes it (a lot) easier to slice.


Slice remaining loaf horizontally into six or seven thin layers. (My biggest obstacle in the kitchen is cutting cakes into layers, yet I continue to make layer cakes. My theory, which has been proven countless times, is that as long as it tastes good and you cover it with enough icing, you can hide any aesthetic mistakes.)


If you saved the top of the cake instead of letting your husband eat it, then you can patch up any mistakes.


Reserve one layer and set aside. Spread chocolate icing between cake layers and restack into a loaf. Reserve 1/2 to 3/4 cup of icing for sides of cake. (It was at this time that I wished I had more icing. I would have put more in between the layers, and I didn't have enough to cover the sides.)


Place reserved cake layer on a piece of aluminum foil. Heat sugar in a heavy saucepan until melted and amber, not too dark. Pour sugar quickly over reserved cake layer to coat evenly. This cools so fast, that you have to spread the sugar as soon as you can. You really need three hands for this. Place this layer on top of the cake.


Ice the sides of the cake with reserved frosting.


Whip cream and use as garnish.


I chose to plop the cream rather than piping. I prefer more of a rustic look because then my messiness doesn't matter. If you have a steady hand, cut your layers evenly and pipe the whipped cream. Very elegant.

The original recipe instructed you to heat a knife on a burner and use it to slice through the caramel on top. Had we stuck with that, we would still be there, 24 hours later, trying to melt through the caramel.

Instead, Elizabeth cracked shattered the top with a spoon, which gave it a pretty look and made it easier to slice.



Beautiful? Yes. Perfect? Nope. Delicious? OHMYGOODNESS.

I may or may not have had some for breakfast this morning, straight out of the fridge. And if I did, I will tell you to serve it cold. It's actually more delicious that way. No joke.

After an evening full of food and fun, I waddled upstairs to Elizabeth's craft room where I snuck something out of her stash.


Really, she gave me this ring and she had a bedspread covered in beautiful jewelry. Please visit her shop and see all of the beautiful things she makes!


Meatless Monday tomorrow!