Thursday, January 24, 2008

A Little More French Cooking...

I'm really, really trying hard to stick with this seasonal eating idea. Martha Stewart's book Healthy Quick Cook is arranged by season. So I flipped through the Winter section and picked Pot de Feu or Pot of Fire, which is browned meat cooked in chicken broth with seasonal vegetables.

Everything looked so pretty simmering away in my new red enamel cast iron pot... a Christmas present from my parents. I love it! It is extremely heavy and can go from the stove top into the oven. Retains heat like a champ.
The Pot de Feu smelled so good cooking. I used parsnips, carrots, celery, and leeks for the vegetables. I don't think that I have ever cooked with leeks before. They are so good! I have a recipe for a leek and onion tart. I think that one may be cooked up soon. The final result was really good. I served it in a bowl with mashed potatoes.

... and of course, Miss E didn't want to eat it. She does not like cooked carrots, she informed us. Odd, that used to be her favorite vegetable. I'm sensing some Kindergarten-style-vegetable-non-eating advice from some of her classmates. We made a bargain, and actually got the kid to eat some veggies... in return, we made CUPCAKES! I used the More From Magnolia Bakery Cookbook. I have actually been to the bakery in New York, and yes, the cupcakes are good, and yes, there is a line out the door even at 11pm at night. However, something went very wrong with all the "help" from the children and me not letting the butter soften enough, or the full moon, or the really cold weather. This is how my batter turned out...

Which was very thick, almost the consistency of mousse or buttercream frosting. So I spackled it into the cupcake papers and hoped for the best. I know I have made this recipe before, but didn't recall this type of batter being produced. They baked up beautifully and tasted like a dream. The texture inside was fine and soft.

Of course it always helps to have spatula assistance from a blue-eyed, one shoulder wearin', handsome little man...

We added a "healthy" dollop of buttercream on top (of course made with butter.. no shortening in this house). I ate one and my cupcake craving is satisfied. We still have 20 left.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Craft and Project Update

I haven't posted any crafty things lately. Mostly because I keep forgetting to take pictures of things... or it has been so grey in Portland and the light is so bad that nothing photographs well. We have had 3 days of extremely cold but sunny weather, so I have no excuses.
Last year the spouse bought me the Naughty Needles knitting book. And I fell in love with these gorgeous ribbon laced mitts...

and this winter I finally knitted up some (please note the sunshine in the photo):

They are made of lambswool that I ordered from Ami Ami who apparently does not have a Canadian (meaning English) site anymore. I hope they bring it back. They have beautiful yarns.

The other big project has been finishing that laundry room. Here is the way it looked over a year ago when we were getting ready to start the basement remodel... and yes, this is what it looked like when I used it.

And now... look out Martha, I have a cool laundry room too!

ooooo.... SHINY! and CLEAN! with extra shelving behind the door. And a cool carpet square rug from FLOR. Eventually that little green shelf will hang above the sink.

And then... I finally put together a frame with some natural linen in the back to display my lovely enamel pins!

It almost looks like one of those crewel-work embroideries. I love it!

Monday, January 14, 2008

A little French cooking

We watched the movie Ratatouille yesterday. We, being myself and Miss E. Mister e sort of watched... mostly in 1 minute sections. I'm not sure how much he retained. Any hoo, Miss E was very curious about the actual dish of ratatouille. So we found a recipe and walked to the store and loaded up on fresh vegetables. Ratatouille is a French country vegetable stew, but instead of doing it in the traditional chopped vegetable style, we decided to make it exactly like Remy does in the movie.

So Miss E taped this to the front door....

... and we were in business.

Thank goodness for the food processor. We didn't have to slice all these veggies on a mandoline.. or worse- by hand!

Miss E was very excited about the whole process. We made a separate tomato sauce which she stirred on the stove.

We put the sauce in the bottom of the dishes and then layered all the vegetables on top: summer squash, eggplant, onions, red and yellow pepper, and parsnips...

They really turned out pretty with all the overlapping layers of color...

And then into the oven at 350 degrees for 45 minutes and the finished product...

We used a baked version as the base recipe from Chocolate and Zuchini's cookbook. The cookbook is wonderful, and I've been wanting to try something out of there.
Of course, after all the shopping, prepping, cooking and excitement, Miss E decided that she didn't want to actually eat the ratatouille for dinner. Too bad, it is very good. And like several recipes state, it IS better the next day... after the flavors meld.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

A Little Redecorating

I don't usually set New Year's Resolutions, because there are so many things that I need to do to improve that I keep adding things to work on all year long. But I have been wanting to learn Photoshop more, so with that in mind, I did my own fancy banner and updated the colors on the site to match. Always good to spruce things up a bit this time of year...

Thursday, January 03, 2008

The Wreath

Here is a slightly dark picture of the finished wreath.

I'm still working out the exposure and the ISO settings (which I just recently discovered) to try and get good pictures in low light. If I turn on the overhead lights or use the flash, you loose the glowing color. On the mantle, you can see the spouse's collection of plastic figures. They are the kind that you put a small light inside and they glow. The santa on the left is really glowing... to the point where you cannot see santa, but more of a santa outline. You can get an idea of the style by looking at the non-glowing figures on the right.

And speaking of finishing projects, here is Miss E's art space in the basement.

We scored the table two years ago at the giant Laurelhurst Yard Sale for $10!!!! It is solid oak and heavy as all get out. The iMac is an ancient computer that we bought almost 10 years ago. It has been upgraded as far as it can and no longer performs for us, but is perfect for some educational software for E... and she is thrilled to have her own computer.. and I am thrilled to not have her asking to use mine every ten minutes. She received boxes of art supplies for Christmas, so we made a quick trip to IKEA and purchased some storage containers to keep everything tidy. We also bought the chair for $19.00 which adjusts to adult height as well as kid height... so it will grow with her. When we did the basement, we put up lighting tracks around the perimeter and bought these two pendant lights as a test. We didn't know where to put them and they have been gathering dust in the shop for the past 6 months. They work perfectly over her work space.

Another project done! Whew!