My attempt at a button wreath

I’ve wanted one of these for my front door since last year, and since the crafting is out of control over here, I figured why not try another one?

I pilfered my button stash (actually I convinced Mike to do it for me) for all the red and white buttons, and just barely had enough to cover the ring. I could have used more, actually, but oh well.

I traced around a couple of cylindrical containers to get a nice cardboard ring and then cut it with an Xacto knife. Then I glued a piece of paper on top. Note to self, next time use red paper.

Then I just started gluing with a hot glue gun. I only glued my index finger twice (ouch!). I tried to fill in all the white space, and got most of it.

Then I tied a ribbon around it, folded a paperclip around the ribbon to make a little hook and hung it on my front door. I keep opening the front door to look at it. I love it!

Wild rice stuffed acorn squash

This would be a great recipe for a Thanksgiving table. It has all the flavors of a turkey stuffing, but it’s vegan — with protein coming from wild rice and ground pecans. The consistency is like mashed potatoes.

I can’t say I was a big squash fan (other than grilled zucchini and yellow squash in the summer) before this recipe. The only time I’ve really cooked with it was when I spent 3 hours making Ina Garten’s from-scratch pot pies. It had pieces of butternut squash inside, but I don’t think they got cooked enough to melt in your mouth. They were just sort of stringy and odd. But in this recipe the squash is basically obliterated by heat and caramelized with a sweet crust – yum.

Wild rice stuffed acorn squash

Adapted from Epicurean

2 small acorn squash
1/2 cup wild rice
1 1/2 cups water
3 tablespoons fresh sage (or 1 dried)
1 teaspoon thyme
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 onion finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon black pepper
pinch of ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup pecans plus pecan pieces for topping

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Oil a baking sheet (I suggest one with a Silpat on top). Cut each squash in half as shown. Scoop out the guts and place cut-side down on the baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes or until the flesh is soft. Reduce heat to 375.

In a saucepan, cook the wild rice in the water, simmering until it is tender and starting to split. You may have to add a little more water or drain some off. Depends on your rice.

Finely chop the sage. In a saute pan, heat the olive oil and saute the carrot, onion and sage over medium heat until softened. Stir in the thyme, marjoram, pepper, nutmeg and salt and remove pan from heat.

When the squash halves are cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh with a big spoon, leaving a bit behind so the skins stay in tact. (I tore two of them, but they still held well enough together). In a large bowl, mash the flesh with a potato masher. Use a food processor to grind the pecans finely. Add the ground pecans, sauteed vegetables and wild rice to the squash bowl and mix thoroughly. Stuff the mixture into the shells and sprinkle with pecan pieces. Place in a casserole dish big enough for them all to fit snugly. Bake for 30 minutes.

Feel good about a really healthy dinner.

Huevos Rancheros

This has become a staple of our breakfast, well maybe lunch, repertoire.

Huevos Rancheros

from the Corey/Hall kitchen

Saute maybe a quarter of a chopped onion in a little oil. Dump in a can of beans, add some taco seasoning (I make my own with cumin, chili powder and sea salt). Simmer over medium for just a few minutes.

In another shallow pan, cover the bottom with oil and heat to medium. Crack in two eggs and let them fry, flipping once, until they’re as done as you like them. It only takes a few minutes to get them over hard.

Pile up on a wheat tortilla and top with salsa or fresh tomato sauce. Yum!

Hello, fall: time to make apple crisp

I wanted to make an apple pie because I’ve never made one before. But pies are a tad involved, so I took a shortcut and made an apple crisp instead.

My rhubarb crisp recipe was so successful I just used it as a guide, substituting apples for the rhubarb and strawberries. You could do this with just about any fruit. But it is deeeelish with apples this time of year.

Apple Crisp
adapted from Simply in Season (click here for the exact recipe)

Preheat oven to 350. Peel, core and chop 6 apples.

Heat them with sugar and vanilla until they start to boil.

Then mix up a little cornstarch and water, add that to the fruit, and continue cooking until the mixture is thick and bubbling.

In a big bowl, mix flour, brown sugar, pecans, salt, cinnamon and butter. I used a pastry cutter to get perfect chunks. When the mixture forms clumps in your hands but still separates, you’re good to go.

Spread 2/3 of the crust in the bottom of a greased 9X13 casserole dish. Add the fruit.

Sprinkle the rest of the crust on top. Bake for 40 minutes.

Eat with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Almost-all local ratatouille

Ratatouille is one of those dishes that is so incredibly simple it doesn’t seem possible for it to be good, but it’s that simplicity that makes it even better than most dishes. And what I think makes it even better is using ingredients that have been pulled from the ground just hours before.

We bought quite a bit at the farmers market this week: green beans, red potatoes, blueberries, peppers, eggplant, carrots… So it just seemed like together with the tomatoes from our garden we had the makings of a fresh all-vegetable dish. In fact, the only vegetable ingredient that was not local was the garlic. I mixed red and orange tomatoes from our garden and got to use two of my favorite kitchen items: the cutting board with a drain and the soft peeler. Nice!

I used this recipe for “Simple Ratatouille” that I cut out of a newspaper. It says it’s adapted from Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” I’ve used it before, and I think it’s just about perfect.

You need:

1/2 pound zucchini, sliced into 1/8-inch slices
1/2 pound eggplant, sliced into 3/8-inch slices
3 T. olive oil
1/2 pound thinly sliced yellow onions
1 sliced green bell pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and juiced
3 T. fresh parsley or basil
Salt and pepper to taste

1. First of all, salt your eggplant slices, let them sit for an hour and then rinse them off. It really helps with the bitterness.
2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray and lay out the eggplant and zucchini slices (you may need 2 but I squished ’em all on one). Brush lightly with olive oil and bake until slightly brown on each side.
3. In a skillet, cook onions and peppers in 2 T. olive oil for about 10 minutes. Stir in garlic and season to taste.

Slice tomato pulp into 3/8-inch strips. Place tomato slices over onions and peppers.

4. Cover the skillet and cook over low for 5 minutes. Uncover, baste with the tomato juices, raise the heat and boil for several minutes, until most of the juice has evaporated.
5. Put 1/3 of tomato mixture in bottom of a small casserole dish. Sprinkle with 1 T. herbs. Arrange half of the eggplant and zucchini on top, more tomatoes and herbs, then the rest of the zucchini/eggplant and finally the rest of the tomatoes. Cover and simmer for 25 minutes.

We ate it with a brown rice mixture and thought it was delicious and incredibly healthy. And local, of course.

Childhood photo project

I have been wanting to finish this project for a while now, and it is so nice to finally have it done. And I’m happy to say I did not have to buy a single thing. I already had photo paper and a printer, and the frames from a previous project I had done. They were just sitting empty in a Rubbermaid tub.

The photos were all taken between 1980 and about 1988. I went through albums both at my house and at Mike’s house and picked out the ones that we (and our moms) liked the most, either for photo quality or good memories.

There is some seriously cute stuff here.

I guess I’ve just been really into the idea of showcasing great photos instead of keeping them stuffed in an album lately.

This is what I did:

-Scanned in the photos at 300 dpi (this allows you to blow them up if you want them bigger).
-Imported them into iPhoto. This is where you can make any adjustments to the size and color.
-Printed them on photo paper. I was able to select what size I wanted, so I went with mostly 5x7s and 4x6s. Some 3x5s, too. (Many times I order prints from Snapfish. I think the quality is great, and shipping is usually only 99 cents.)
-Then I just arranged them, sort of like a collage over the 6 frames. I trimmed some so they would fit better. I hung them on the wall in a random pattern.

The frames aren’t high quality by any means, but I can always put the photo collages in better frames if I get them someday. For now, I love having those photos out for all to see.

Valentine striped scarf pattern

I almost forgot to post this pattern! It is a beautiful scarf, should you decide to make it.

2 skeins Patons classic merino wool in bright red
2 skeins Patons classic merino wool in that’s pink

Size H/8 crochet hook
Yarn needle to weave in ends

Chain 31. Starting in second chain, Single crochet in each chain across, 30 stitches. Turn and repeat for second row. Switch colors for the third row, then fifth and so on. I crocheted over the end of the new color each time, so I only had to weave in half the ends. But that was still A LOT. If you have a better technique, use it. After 65 inches (or however many you want) bind off. Weave in ends.

I also noticed when I was just about finished with this that about 6 inches into it I had added a stitch, making it a little wider. I don’t know why I do this sometimes, and fortunately you can’t even tell unless you’re looking for it. But be careful!

Cold noodles and gooseberry tart

Sound like a weird combo? Well, we didn’t plan to have that for dinner, but it just kinda happened. I saw this recipe last weekend and wanted to try it, and then of course we ended up with a whole lotta gooseberries at the farmers market. I made the noodles, Mike made a streusel tart with the berries.

They were both quite yummy, and I can definitely recommend them.

For the noodles I changed quite a bit. I added carrots, which I tossed in with the pasta for the last two minutes of boiling, and substituted fried tofu for the chicken (sauteeing sliced tofu in oil, then cutting it into thin strips). I also have a great fear of burned garlic, so I didn’t cook that. And I’m not a ginger fan so I left that out, although I imagine most would call that a crime. I didn’t have any sesame seeds, so that also got left out. At the end it tasted a tad bland so I added a sprinkling of salt and a little more soy sauce. But after it marinated in the fridge for about a half hour it was divine. Really flavorful. (The final photo didn’t turn out well, so here is an earlier one.)

The pie recipe came from a book called “Easy as Apple Pie” by Caroline Barty. I can’t find a link so I’ll give you the recipe here:

Blueberry Streusel Tart
(obviously works for gooseberries, too)

2/3 cup butter, softened
3 T. sugar
1 egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup light cream (We couldn’t figure this out so went with half and half)
1/2 t. vanilla extract
2 T. ground almonds
2 T. soft white bread crumbs (toast bread, grind up in food processor)

1 lb. 9 oz. blueberries
1/2 c. sugar
5 T. soft white bread crumbs
3 T. sliced almonds
2 T. light brown sugar
1/2 t. ground cinnamon

1. To make the pastry, beat the butter and sugar together in a bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg with a little of the flour. Stir in the remaining flour alternately with the cream and vanilla extract, mixing to make a smooth, soft dough.

2. Spoon the dough into a greased 10-1/2 inch tart pan (he used a small rectangular glass dish), then use your fingers to gently ease it evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Mix the ground almonds and bread crumbs together and sprinkle the mixture evenly over the bottom of the pie shell.

3. To make the filling, mix the berries with the sugar and half the bread crumbs. Spoon the mixture into the pie shell.

4. Mix the remaining bread crumbs with the sliced almonds, brown sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. Scatter the mixture evenly over the berries.

5. Bake in a preheated 400-degree oven until the pastry is cooked and the streusel topping is golden, 30 minutes. Serve warm or cold (it says with creme fraiche, but come on! vanilla ice cream).

Oh heavenly berries

Finally, fresh strawberries are starting to appear at our farmers market. We bought a carton, and now I wish we’d have bought two.

I decided the best use of our berries was strawberry shortcake. I sliced the berries thin and sprinkled them with a few teaspoons of sugar. Then I set them in the fridge to make syrup for a few hours.

For the shortcakes, I went with this recipe, entirely because I actually had all of the ingredients on hand. It ended up tasting fantastic, and I will use it again for sure. It makes those sponge cakes you get in four-packs at the grocery store seem totally pathetic. I can’t go back now.

Then I whipped one of those tiny cartons of cream with a little sugar and vanilla in the mixer — voila, whipped cream.

The resulting dessert was one of the better things I’ve eaten in a long, long time. I savored every bite. It was FABULOUS. YOU SHOULD MAKE IT!!

For dinner I tried making chickpea burgers and they were fairly successful, too. The recipe is from Martha. With veggie burgers you always have to worry about them sticking together on the grill (in my case a George Foreman). These made perfect medium-thick patties with a nice crust. They tasted like you would expect – falafel-ish. Sorry for the bad photo. It looked better than this.

Then we had a bunch of potatoes about to go bad in our mold factory of a kitchen. So I boiled them up and made potato salad. I decided I couldn’t go wrong with a Smitten Kitchen recipe, so I grabbed this one. I used golden potatoes instead of red because that’s what I had. And instead of two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, I used my grandma’s trick and replaced one with pickle juice. It always does the trick.

Overall, I would say we had a perfect summer meal. And you better believe I’ll be revisiting that shortcake all season long.

Tiny pies!

I had one little ball of dough left over from making my strawberry-rhubarb pie, so I decided to experiment with some little pies baked in a muffin tin. I’d seen it on notmartha before, so I knew it was possible.

For the filling I just mixed some diced strawberries with white sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon and cornstarch until it looked about the right consistency. I rolled out the dough with my hands instead of a rolling pin because at that thinness it was really sticking to the rolling pin.

The bottom line is, when you’re making a “pie” that small, it’s a lot harder to make it look good. The dough tears, your fingers are too big to shape it correctly… But overall I think they turned out great. I cut out some little heart shapes and made some little lattices. Then topped it with sugar in the raw.

I think they baked about 20 minutes at 375.

The best part? It’s hard to overdo it when your pie is tee-tiny. Even if you had two it still wouldn’t be much.