Wednesday, December 21, 2011

New ideas? or Repackaged?



Someone once told me there are no new ideas...only repackaged ones.
Really?
Doesn't that seem hard to believe?
But the more I think about it, it's probably true.

It certainly is in how we (and by that I mean I) cook.
One recipe morphs into another and yet another until the original is a mere memory of its kin.
but it all started somewhere
and I love that.
{although this particular recipe is more like a fraternal twin, than a distant cousin}



I also love getting back to the basics and rediscovering old recipes made from basic ingredients.
Except ones with Crisco.
I just can't jump on that bandwagon.
no matter how light and crispy it makes your pie crust, or how perfectly it fries your chicken.
or fixes that creaky door hinge...
...or smooths your rough elbows...
Enough about Crisco.

I posted a Tuscan Bean Soup recently that was so tasty that I have made it several more times.
each time with slight variations.
Like here...with leftover chicken.
See?
Repackaged.
no Crisco.


It's all good.


Friday, December 9, 2011

My New Etsy Store

I've been busy at work setting up a store on Etsy.
I am offering 10x10 canvas prints of some of my favorite photos I have taken over the past year.
Here is a sample of what I have, and I will be adding more as I dig through my archives.
Enjoy!
Baby Shoes

Chocolate Milk

Linens
and thanks for checking it out :)
Stephanie

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Tuscan Style Kale Soup


 I feel awful. My head is foggy and my nose is competing with my leaky faucet for most annoying tool.



 I can't help but wonder how my kids can function like this....because they do. The little ones are currently enjoying what I affectionately refer to their glazed doughnut phase. Their faces shiny and shellacked.


 Yes, it's gross.
But lots of things they do are.

So I do the only thing I know how...and make soup.
And I feel better...at least for a little while.


Tuscan Style Kale Soup
Saveur-The New Comfort Food

1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
6 ribs celery, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 onion, chopped
salt & pepper
1 28oz can while tomatoes, undrained
2lbs trimmed, roughly cut kale
3 14 oz cans cannellini beans
10 cups water
4 cups chicken stock
stale ciabatta

Heat 1/4 cup oil in large stock pot and add parsley, celery, carrots, garlic, onions and salt & pepper. Sautee until soft and golden (about 15 minutes)

Dump the can of tomatoes in a bowl and squish them with your hands then add to pot and reduce heat to a simmer for about half an hour. {side note: I could not get Lucille Ball stomping grapes out of my head while I was doing this....and now neither will you}

Add kale, 2 cups of beans (you drained them, right? Although I'm not sure how much that really matters aside from the yuck factor of bean juice) water and stock ( I know I specified chicken...that's what I had on hand, but beef or vegetable would also be fabulous).
Bring to a boil.
Reduce heat and simmer until kale is soft... about 30 minutes.

Smush the remaining beans with a fork. Remember when I said bean juice is yucky? Well, I take it back. It comes in handy when smushing beans. Add this to the pot and cook until the soup thickens the way you like it.

Break up the stale bread and place in bowl just before serving.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Nibble...nibble



Who doesn't love little things to nibble on?
...baby toes...
...baby ears...
...baby brisket...

Maybe not the brisket, but I can never seem to hold myself back from scooping up one of my kids and nuzzling them on their neck : that perfect place between the soft delicate ear and the hard poky collar bone. I call it a machine gun kiss.
Yup, I had to rename 'kiss' 'machine gun kiss' or else I'd never get to love on them.
It's all in the packaging.

Speaking of which, my 9 yr old, J, has become a formidable package himself, and so is no longer scoop-up-able.
Bummer.
I suspect the younger ones are jealous because I've noticed them eating a lot more these days in the hopes to grow bigger faster so as to avoid the embarrassment affection of their mawma.
I've caught them religiously measuring and marking each other along the doorpost in their room checking on their progress.


I know that I'll have to find a substitute at some point so I have started looking for an equitable replacement...and waiting for the grandchildren to come will take too long.
So I found a snack that reminds me of my kids: 
it's sweet and crunchy with a little kick on the back end.
That about sums them up.

Spiced Pecans
adapted from Alton Brown

1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1lb pecan halves
4 tbsp butter
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 tbsp water

Start off by mixing together all the spices.
Then toast the pecans in a large skillet being careful not to scorch them. (You will want to stop right here because the smell is so divine. Go ahead, poach a few, but carry on to the end...you'll thank me)
Add the butter and stir to coat.
Next, sprinkle in the spice mixture that has been patiently waiting.
Then toss in the brown sugar and water and stir until all the pecans are covered with spicy sweet goodness.
Pour onto parchment paper making sure to break up the clumps and let cool...
..but only a little, these babies (like all babies) are most delicious warm.









Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Painted Bra Art Project

I little while ago I was asked to photograph some art.
Which seems redundant now that I think of it.

Let me rewind and start at the beginning...it's a great story: My friend Anna Braden, a painter, found herself in her studio one day, paint brush in hand, engaged in a staring contest with a blank canvas.
The canvas won.

Unable to find inspiration there, she whipped off her bra and decided to paint that instead.
She posted it on FaceBook and a movement was born.

The Painted Bra Art Project.

People from all over the world followed suit; painting their own undergarments and posting them on FaceBook.
The response was overwhelming. You can view their work here. Anna then organized an online auction and was able to raise $10,500 for the Liz Hurley Cancer Fund at Huntsville Hospital.

In a continued effort to raise money to find a cure for breast cancer Anna and I collaborated with a few of these artists and are happy to offer these Christmas inspired note cards.

They are available through Etsy.
Ten percent of the proceeds will go straight to the Liz Hurley Cancer Fund.

I hope you like them!


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

What inspires YOU?

What moves you?
What makes you feel alive?


These are questions I ask myself.
all.the.time.



But really, all I have to do is look in my metaphorical backyard.
The people I gravitate toward;
my closest friends.
and others, not so close, have one thing in common:
They are entrepreneurs.
and I draw so much inspiration from these women.

At some point they stopped making excuses.
stopped complaining.
stopped waiting for someone else to fix things.
stopped saying I can't.


They understood that unlocking their Universe was as simple as saying I can.

The vast majority of my friends have broken out from traditional corporate roles or as stay at home moms and have started businesses of their own.
Some have found work with tremendous flexibility like consulting, property management and clothing sales, and others with much more time demanding responsibilities like running art studios , computer studios and writing for publications.

And some make cheese...

Tasia Malakasis- Head Cheese, Belle Chevre

Enter: my dear dear friend  Tasia Malakasis.
Hers is an inspiring story that showcases letting go of the I can'ts in life and embracing possibility.
It turns out that I can't is a choice.
and so is I can.

She has invited me to be a part of her vision.
Part of her team.
A member of her family.

and I love her cheese :
Pizza
Roasted Tomato Sandwich

grilled portobello mushroom
Onion Tart
I have taken many of the photographs you see on her website.
My passion for art is fed, as well as my love for food and I strive to be better.
to learn more.
to grow.
Plus, I get to eat what I shoot.

Here's what I mean:

this was one of the first photos I took.
At the time, I thought it was pretty good.
cheese? Or astronaut ice cream?
(Cheese, of course, and we enjoyed the most delicious salad with this cheese crumbled atop.)

and here's a photo from our latest project:

two words: Learning Curve

(This bowl of grits barely made it through the photoshoot...a set of twins diving in face first after 10 minutes.)
a working lunch, so to speak.

Tasia's excitement over these photos was palpable.
and contagious.
I want to learn more
push more
be better.

I also want to see her reach
and learn
and grow.

And she has!

Tasia's company, Belle Chevre, has now outgrown its current facility and she is reaching out to the community, both near and far to get involved and help her grow.
Take a minute to view her KickStarter video and help out if you can.




then ask yourself what makes me feel alive?



Wednesday, October 5, 2011

For My Guests: Onion Tarts


butter.
flour.
eggs.
cheese.
What's not to love?


This I make when I have guests over.
Not because it's impressive.
Although it is.
But because my children will find them infinitely more interesting than their mother.
(the guests, not the tarts)


And I can actually pay attention to what I am doing.
Which is not a standard I hold myself to on regular days.


Onion Tart

3 onions, thinly sliced
6oz goat cheese
1/2 stick butter softened
1/2 cup greek style honey flavored yogurt
3 large eggs
refrigerated pie crust

Saute the onion until golden brown. Let cool.
Blend together goat cheese, butter and yogurt until creamy. Then whisk in eggs until smooth.

Press dough into tart pans.
I used little ones, but a large one works just as well.
Plus it's easier to clean.
{Note to self: use large size in future}
Poke holes in bottom, add rice or pie weights to prevent bubbles. Cover with foil. 
Bake for 10 minutes. 

Spread onion in bottom of cooled tarts.
Pour egg and cheese mixture over onions.
Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Forgiving Nature of Roasted Carrot Soup










If you have been reading this blog for a while...
Or if you happened to have stumbled upon it by accident...
you will have noticed that I post a lot of soups.

It's true.
It's true because soups and stews are quite forgiving.
A quality I look for in a meal I am preparing.

 

It is rare that I have 30 minutes to spend zen-like in my kitchen, prepping my mise en place and admiring the bounty I am so fortunate to command.
It is so rare, in fact,  that it has never actually happened.


Instead, I find myself surrounded by whirling tornadoes, spinning haphazardly around my ankles.
Leaving massive destruction in their wake.
Spilling milk on the floor.
Liberating the Cheerios from their oppressive bag.
Jumping over the heap.
Landing on top.
Slipping and sliding.
Chasing each other in circles and screaming all the while.

Like the mother surveying the mess passionately created by her toddler twins that will take exponentially longer to clean than to make, Soup is forgiving.


If I were a dish, I would be soup.

Roasted Carrot Soup
 *adapted from Fine Cooking 

2 lb. carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
olive oil
1 tbs unsalted butter
1 onion diced
2 celery stalks
1 tbs minced fresh ginger
2 tsp cinnamon
4 cups chicken stock
2 cups water
salt & pepper
Greek yogurt- honey flavored



Drizzle the olive oil over the carrots and toss to coat. This works well in a bowl, but if you have another preferred method, by all means...(and do let me know) transfer onto a roasting pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in a oven set to 375 degrees for about an hour. Be sure to peek in about half way through and give them a good jostle to prevent scorching.


Melt butter in large saute pan and add onions and celery. Saute until soft. 
Add ginger and cook until onions start to brown.
Add cinnamon.
At this point, your kitchen will smell amazing.
The Yankee Company should immortalize this fragrance in a candle.

Add the carrots and chicken stock and some extra water if it needs it.
What exactly does that mean? I don't know. I always add a little more water than I think and if the soup is too watery, I just let it reduce until I'm happy.
So, add water until you are happy.


Bring this to a boil, cover, and reduce the heat to a simmer for about 30 minutes.
Let cool.
Why?
Because it's painful should some splash on you while you are blending it away.


Cool. Cool. Cool.
Blend. Blend. Blend.


Reheat and add a little water until it's a consistency that makes you happy.
Spoon into bowls and add a dollop of Greek honey flavored yogurt.
Or not.
It's quite good either way.



Thursday, September 1, 2011

the versatility of pesto



This month's issue of Saveur arrives in the mail and I am as giddy as a school girl holding an unopened love letter in her hand.
Or, these days, perhaps it's an unopened email.
Either way, I'm happy.




And when I open it I am delighted to find a huge section on Pesto.
This is good because I have an abundance of basil growing in my little garden.
It's almost as tall as my tomatoes.
Elephant basil, if you will.


I don't really know what to with it besides offering it up as a gift to the God of Carbohydrates and throwing it on a pizza or making it into a pesto and tossing it on pasta.
However, with a little imagination it can go much farther.
The basil leaf, it turns out, is as versatile as it's cohort, the tomato.



It's good by itself, schmeared on some crusty bread.
But it really shines in this vegetable soup.



Vegetable Soup with Pesto
*adapted from Saveur Aug/Sept 2011

Pesto:
6 cups basil leaves
2 cups flat leaf parsley
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup toasted pecans (this is easy to do: grab a pan. heat it up. throw in the nuts. toss them around a few times and take them out when you can smell them)
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan reggiano
1 clove garlic

Add all the ingredients together in a blender on high until smooth-ish

Soup
1 oz pancetta, minced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
4 carrots, finely chopped
2 stalks of celery, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1/4 head of green cabbage, thinly shredded
4 cups chicken stock
4 cups water
1 can whole peeled tomatoes, chopped
1 can cannelini beans, rinsed
cooked orzo
salt & pepper

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat render the pancetta (which, by the way is like really fancy ham) in some olive oil until brown.
Then add the garlic, carrots, celery, and onion until browned and soft.
Next comes the zucchini and cabbage. Cook this until the cabbage has wilted some.
Pour in the stock, water and tomatoes.
Bring it all to a boil.
Mash up some of the beans and add all of them to the pot.
Toss in the cooked pasta.
Salt and pepper to taste.
Once it's been served in a bowl, top it off with the pesto.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

blueberry and coconut pound cake minis



 After last week's Blueberry Granita post I have been using blueberries mercilessly.
I throw them in pancakes.
I toss them in waffles.
I annihilate them in smoothies.



Sometimes I am successful.
and sometimes I'm not.




But I find myself buying more and more little green compostable cartons of them.
and not allowing them to rot in my fridge.




In fact, just today as I opened my refrigerator door I encountered four pints of fun loving blueberries crashing to the floor not quite missing my feet.
Only hours earlier they resided happily on the middle shelf, tucked safely between the stately eggs and the trustworthy yogurt.




But somehow they jumped to the front of the shelf and kamikazeed their way to freedom.
I bet it was that mephistophelean chocolate syrup that pushed them.
Those nostalgically shaped bottles sporting the name Hershey's, with dark brown oozing from the spout, just can't be trusted.







Blueberry and Coconut Pound Cake Minis
*Gourmet 2000

2 sticks butter, softened
1 1/2 cup sugar
4 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest
4 large eggs (room temp)
10 tablespoons heavy cream
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup plus extra (for sprinkling on top) shredded coconut
1 cup blueberries


Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Cream together butter, sugar and zest until light and fluffy.
Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each one.
Mix in cream.
Add flour & salt until just combined (this will make a lighter cake. Overmix and you'll make a brick). Fold in 1 cup coconut and 1 cup blueberries.
Spoon into prepared molds.
Sprinkle coconut on top.
Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown on top.
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