So Fine They’ll Never See Ya Leavin’ By the Back Door

January 17, 2014 § Leave a comment

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The first time I saw this house — and in fact, all the times I saw it before we moved in — I thought the kitchen wallpaper was a rather pretty, if dull, blue and tan pinstripe. After the previous owner moved out (thus removing all the tchochkes from the walls) I was a bit horrified to discover that the wallpaper had apparently originally been blue and white pinstriped. I was full-on grossed out when I found a roll of the wallpaper, dated a mere 7 years earlier. So, painting the kitchen was the third thing we did (changing the toilet seats was the first, painting the closets was the second — I can’t abide a used toilet seat or unfresh closet) after taking possession.

That was 12 years ago, and we decided last month that it was time for a new paint job. This time, I went all out and in addition to painting the walls a sunny yellow with white trim, I painted the dark wood cabinets white. Talk about transformation! Suddenly the kitchen is this cheerful, bright space. The only problem was, the old valances were off-white. Have you ever put off white curtains next to white paint? The curtains just look dirty. So, something new on the windows.

I was browsing Pinterest, like I do, when I came across this pin showing strips of fabric tied as a valance. I love the casualness of it  for the kitchen, and you can hardly beat the price if you’ve got strips of scrap fabric handy. Of course, all of my fabric is in storage, but a quick trip to the local Joann clearance section netted me several fat quarter packs in the right colors for less than $10 all told. With the yellow walls, white cabinets, and accents of red and blue, I decided to use fabrics of the same colors in various prints, with a little orange and green thrown in here and there.  I absolutely adore the way they came out!

I Like Cheesy Buns and I Cannot Lie

January 15, 2014 § 1 Comment

The backstory: Kit has had to go gluten free. Like, extremely gluten free. I like to call him a Gluten Freek. The tiniest eensiest little bit of gluteny goodness — even just from cross-contamination — will double him right over with stomach cramps. So, he’s been missing a lot of his favorite foods, especially stuff we typically get got in restaurants, like burgers and fries. A few months ago, we discovered that the kids’ favorite stop on the way up to Boston, Maggie McFly’s, has an extensive GF menu and a dedicated GF fryer. And for the “bun” on the burgers, instead of the regular GF buns like he’s been getting at the store, they have this amazing GF cheesy flatbread stuff. It’s so good I’ve started ordering my burgers with them, too.

I looked for a recipe for bread like this with no success, and then about a month ago, one came across my interwebs (I think on Twitter, but I’m honestly not sure). I tried it out last month and it came out pretty good, if a little greasy. This time, it’s pretty much perfect. The original recipe I found calls for tapioca flour, which it turns out I can’t use, as even the smell of it triggers my gag reflex (even just the little bit in GF all-purpose mixes). He talked a lot about the fine, silky texture of the tapioca flour, and I thought rice flour might substitute in nicely. Sure enough, it subs right in. Now, mine don’t look all pretty and puffy like in the pictures over at the original recipe, I assume because of the different flour. But, since we really want to use them for sandwiches, that actually works in my favor.

The hardest part about this dough is getting the texture right. It needs to be, once you’ve added everything in, moist enough to hold together but only just. Any moister, and you’re going to end up with the (admittedly delicious) greaseballs I had the first time. The key to this is the flour — the different flours seem to absorb moisture at different rates, even just different batches of the same type of flour. I used the exact same type and amount of flour this time as when I had the too-moist dough last time, and ended up having to remoisten the dough a little by adding more milk at the end.

Gluten Free Cheesy  Buns

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Ingredients:

  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 1 c. milk
  • 1/4 c. vegetable oil
  • 3 1/2 c. Rice Flour (-ish — due to variations in absorbency, you may need more or less flour)
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1 c. shredded mozzarella
  • 1/4 c. shredded cheddar

Preheat oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a dutch oven or other large pot, melt butter. Allow butter to brown slightly but not burn.

Add milk and oil. Bring to  boil, stirring frequently.

As soon as the mixture boils, remove from heat.

Add flour, mixing well. Mixture should be fairly dry and crumbly at this point.

Stir in eggs and both cheeses.  Mixture should be smooth and slightly shiny.

If mixture is too dry, add additional milk in 2 Tbsp increments, stirring well after each addition, until mixture holds together. Do not over moisten.

Form dough into discs 3-4″ in diameter and about 1/2″ thick. Place on parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes. Dough will lose its shininess and you may see errant pieces of cheese begin to brown.

Let cool before serving. These are best slightly warm but quite good at room temperature or even cold for a quick snack.

Wimpy

January 14, 2014 § Leave a comment

Y’all, I have been under the weather for a good(bad) week and a half now. Yay, sinusitis. I thought I finally had it licked, but  tonight it seems to be rearing its ugly head again and I just don’t have a Tasty post in me along with the submission I need to get sent out. BUT, tomorrow there will absolutely be one, for the delish GF cheesy rolls I mentioned last week. AND there will also be for sure a FIotIF (hint: it’s also something in my kitchen). In other words, to paraphrase Wimpy: I will gladly blog for you tomorrow, for a day of rest today.

PS: I am enjoying the Creativity Challenge I tweeted about last week, but I’m having a hard time really getting it in gear (which I’m also blaming on the sinusitis). So, I’m going to give myself permission to be a day behind (because I already am and trying to catch up will just make it  worse) and do Day 1 today.

Day 1’s challenge was to come up with a one-word theme for your creativity for the year. My one word is: Make. I have a really bad habit of coming up with ideas and even thinking through in detail how to get something done and then just never getting around to it. So my theme for this year is going to be the making itself, getting my creativity out of my head and  into the world in some tangible form. Now I just need to make the project for the challenge (see what I did there?).

Make’n’Tell: I < 3 February

January 9, 2014 § 1 Comment

So, like I said in the first post of 2014, I want to really push myself to get back into creating and blogging regularly. I figure why not try another Make’n’Tell? In case you weren’t around the first time (back on my old blog), Make’n’Tell is a month long fiesta of creating and blogging, with a project and a post every day. There are rules to be followed, but since it’s a creative thing the rules have some flexibility built in. And if you want to play along but something in the rules doesn’t work for you, of course you should change it or throw it out! (If you played along the first time you’ll notice I’ve changed the rules slightly, for exactly this reason.)

Here are the rules, such as they are. If you don’t follow them, we will all point and laugh, just like real Show’n’Tell. Seriously, these are the parameters I’m setting for myself. If something in these doesn’t work for you, feel free to change it so it does. This is intended to help me focus and grow as an artisan, not be some kind of weird refuge for rules lawyers. Without further ado and in no particular order:

  1. The Make can be in any medium, including but not limited to yarn, digital graphics, food, photography, drawing, painting, etc.
  2. The Tell must include at least one photo (note: if I’m working on a design I can’t share yet, it may not be  much of a photo or may even be a photo of something else, but will still be a photo I’ve taken and I’ll try to make it relate in some way to the project. I’ll try to avoid this, but it’s possible it might happen).
  3. The Tell will occur on the day after the Make, unless the blogger gives previous notice (for example, I’ll be out of town January 18th & 19th and don’t  know if I’ll be able to post. I’ll still Make on those days, but will post the Tells on the 20th if I can’t get them up while I’m away.)
  4. The Make may be derivative but may not be wholly unoriginal. For example, the day I originally wrote these rules, I made Indoor S’Mores. I followed the recipe exactly, with no deviation or modification. I would not count that as a Make. I would totally count it if I had, for instance, made little muffin cup portions instead of just throwing it in a pan as directed in the recipe. (Note to self: do that next time. Brilliant idea. Did it, and it was totally a brilliant idea. 🙂 ) Generally, though, I want my Make to be even more original — the idea, after all, is to stretch my creative wings.
  5. There should be a Make’n’Tell every day of the month, except as noted in Rule 3.
  6. The Make should be either a complete work OR consist of at least 30 minutes of work on an ongoing project. I do a lot of bigger projects, and I don’t want to stop doing them, but I don’t always have time or ability to do a big project in a single day. On the other hand, if I have a small project in mind and it only takes me 15 minutes to complete it, I’m okay with that. And some days I might only have time for that one little thing. So I think that should count, too.
  7. The Make can be similar to a previously completed project. For instance, I’ve made several dresses for my daughter. I use an original pattern and modify it pretty much every time. Each instance of dressmaking would count as a Make.
  8. I ❤ February Make’n’Tell will last for the 28 days of February, commencing with the first Tell on February 1 and closing with the last Tell on February 28. (It’s my birthday! Maybe perhaps there will be a little something special and extra, because if you know me, you know I ❤ my birthday just a ridiculous amount.) (Oh! And this year it’s on a Friday! BIRTHDAY WEEKEND! But I digress.) So, start thinking about your projects and get your blogging fingers ready and let’s do this thing!

It May Be Cold Out There, but It’s Chili In Here!

January 7, 2014 § 1 Comment

Snow day lunch

Snow day lunch

A while back, Becky expressed an interest in taking art lessons. I’m certainly not going to discourage that, but we had a tough time finding them at a place and time that would work for us (SaHMs are the rule around here, so most stuff is after-school type hours, unfortunately). I was finally able to find a reasonably local place with a class time that works for us, and she’s been having a great time with it. While she does her art lessons I get to go wander the town, which is quite lovely and chock full of fun little stores (there’s even a yarn store, y’all!).

One of my favorites is the local butcher who, in addition to having amazingly delicious hot dogs and all kinds of German specialty items, offers exotic meats including venison. So this year for Christmas Eve I decided to revive a tradition from my childhood: Venison Chili. For as long as I can remember, my dad made his chili for Christmas Eve. The beans were soaked overnight, and then the chili cooked all day. In the evening, friends and family would come over and we would all have chili and then gather around the tree and open presents.*

Once, years ago, I asked for the recipe for the famous chili and received a copy…but the chili came out nothing like I remembered it. My dad did tell me that he used cubed up pork and beef in addition to the venison, and so I did that, too, but what I ended up with bore only the vaguest resemblance to the chili of my youth. I strongly suspect that this is because after years of making it, Dad didn’t follow the recipe much anymore.

This time, with years more experience and confidence under my belt, I decided to follow Dad’s lead and just wing it. And — with the exception of the beans, which didn’t soften quite enough for some reason — what I ended up with was pretty much exactly what I remember. The only thing that was missing was the traditional flour tortillas we always served along side it to cut the heat (heaven help the guest who tried to doctor Dad’s chili with ketchup to make it a little milder!), but we had some nommy gluten free cheese bread (next Tuesday’s recipe!) that worked just fine as an alternative.  As an extra bonus, the chili stores and reheats really well — the picture is from  a few days later, alongside some cheese grits (recipe for cheese grits: Make grits. Add cheese to taste.).

* Yes, we opened presents on Christmas Eve. That’s when everyone could get together. Santa came Christmas morning, and he brought mostly small gifts that fit in stockings and oddly shaped things that would have been a pain to wrap. Santa didn’t wrap presents.

Dad’s Christmas Eve Special Venison Chili

Hot chili may be an oxymoron, but it’s a delicious one!

Ingredients:

  • app. 1lb sirloin tips, cubed
  • app. 1lb pork, cubed (I used a loin)
  • app. 1lb venison, cubed (I used a shoulder )
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 large cans whole tomatoes
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 32 oz. beef broth
  • 2 cans pinto beans OR 1lb dry beans, soaked overnight
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • Handful fresh herbs: sage, parsley, a little oregano

In a large pan, brown sirloin tips, then pork, then venison (leave the fat in the pan to use when browning the venison).

When finishing up the venison, toss in the garlic to soften.

Puree tomatoes.

Transfer all meats (and the garlic) to a large stockpot. Add beans.

Sprinkle chili powder over meat and beans.

Add tomatoes, tomato paste and half the broth to the pot. Toss in herbs.

Simmer gently over low heat, stirring occasionally, for at least 3-4 hours (the longer the better). Much like spaghetti sauce, if you need to run out for something, just turn off the heat under the pot and then start it up again when you get back.

Add broth as needed, then water if necessary after you’ve added all the broth. You want a nice, thick consistency somewhere between soup and stew.

Serve warm.

Starting the Year Off Right

January 6, 2014 § 1 Comment

Hey, there! How’ve you been? I’ve missed you! Seriously, I really have missed blogging and sharing all the fun stuff I get up to (and okay, having somewhere to whinge when projects aren’t working out quite right). So, even though I haven’t had a chance to do the big visual overhaul I’ve been wanting to do here, I’ve decided to start the new year as I mean to continue: with regular blog features, interspersed with the occasional off-the-cuff post.

I’ll be bringing back Tasty Tuesdays (something yummy and the recipe so you can make it yourself) and Found It on the Internet Fridays (a craft project I discovered on the internet — usually Pinterest), and introducing Inspiration Wednesdays, which will be all about the things and people that are inspiring my creativity.

I’m also going to try to get back into Fat Mum Slim’s Photo-A-Day Challenge…I did get an awesome new camera for Christmas, after all. I’m not sure I’ll be up to posting every day this month  (or every month — I’d like to continue doing the challenge all year long!), so I might do a weekly or monthly roundup of the photos I take instead. We’ll see how this one shakes out.

Last but not least, to really get myself back into the groove of creating and blogging about it, I’m bringing back Make’n’Tell in February. In case you don’t know or remember what this is, here’s what I wrote the first time around: Make something every day AND blog about that thing. Remember when you were in grade school and you had Show’n’Tell and you brought your whatever in and told everyone a little bit about it? Pretty much the same thing here, except the whatever has to be created by me and the telling is done with pictures on this blog instead of in a classroom full of snot-nosed kids. I’m going to follow the rules pretty much as they originally were set out, with the added challenge of keeping the aforementioned feature days intact — I’ll be doing a full post on this later in the week.

It feels good to be back!

First selfie of 2014! (Not taken with my new lens.)

First selfie of 2014! (Not taken with my new lens.)

Where Am I?

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