Archive for the ‘food’ Category

I’ve mostly been revising my syllabus recently, but I still have two things to show you today.

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Handmade present:

Denim clutch (upcycled from the leg of an old pair of jeans I'd cut into shorts).

Details. Hand-stitched because I am horrible with a sewing machine.

Doubles as its own gift envelope!

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And something edible:

Caramel Apple Galette

The recipe is sort of a mix of the pastry technique from Chez Pim’s rustic fruit tart, and the way my French (now former) roommate M does the filling for her delicious caramel apple tart. I used a thinly sliced pink lady apple and drizzled hot caramel sauce all over the top once the galette had finished baking.  The caramel doesn’t make it taste extremely caramel-y, but it adds moisture and shine and a nice note of flavor. M usually uses store-bought pastry, but I decided to make my own this time; it turned out pretty good — nice and flaky — and was easy enough to make that I was encouraged to try making my own crust again a few days later when I made quiche for a lunch date. I think I’ve finally begun to conquer my fear of ruining delicate pastry doughs!  Unfortunately, I don’t have pictures of the quiche (I used a variation of this recipe from Tartine Gourmande, with ham, spinach, scallions, and swiss cheese for filling instead of her kale, zucchini, & spices), or of the chocolate mousse I made (which was also inspired by M, though the recipe I found online was a little too rich; I’ll have to ask M for her recipe, which is much lighter).  Whatever was left over was consumed very quickly by my family in the ensuing 24 hours.  Which I’m not complaining about — it’s always a good sign when a new dish you’ve tried out disappears really fast!


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New Books.

Can't wait to sew and cook my way through these.

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New Recipes
(Sweet Potato Crescent Rolls recipe from Land O’Lakes)

Delish! (And I've finally conquered my fear of yeast doughs).

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Cleaning out my childhood room.  Digging up old treasures.

Pretty Origami Papers.

Old toys, new life. (I loved that Happy Meal toy once - it's a mini-transformer!)

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A couple of bento.
(I finally convinced my parents to let me pack meals for them. The pear-ginger muffin is from Nigella Express).

Dad's lunch, Mom's snack.

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A new craft.
(From Megan Nicolay, via Threadbanger.  I’m SO sad that the hosts are all leaving that channel!)

Infinity t-shirt scarf (DIY'ed), vintage brooch (from my grandparents).

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LOTS of syllabus prep for my new job this Fall
(teaching Freshman Comp at Notre Dame).

I didn't end up using most of these.

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I’ve gone shopping a lot, too. Trying to update my wardrobe to be more teacher-appropriate. (My official hiring letter says that I’m an “Adjunct Assistant Professor” during the term of my appointment.  0.o  It’s just for the fall term, but the thought still kind of boggles my mind!)

Issue 1, and then the syllabus have taken up most of my time (and mental space) so far.  They’re done (finally!) but still, there’s SO much left to do (as always, the holiday seems way too short). I haven’t had much time for writing, hanging out with friends, re-learning to drive, or finishing the cleaning/repainting/redecorating of my room (it’s currently a complete disaster zone — not that it isn’t usually, but trust me, it’s much worse than usual at the moment).  Still, I’ve been so glad for the time to complete my own stuff (it’s the first summer I’ve had since junior high in which I haven’t had to report to some combination of work or class!).  I’ve been working my butt off morning to night, but the freedom to wake up at leisure, spend the whole day working on my projects, and take time off at a moment’s notice to fulfill family obligations or socialize without the constant fear of major ramifications is so precious. Who knows when I’ll have another summer like this?

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Potato-Stamped Postcard Set (March 2010)

I’ve been busy.  The last few months have been a flurry of activity: first AWP and a million department events, then turning in my thesis, then finals, then graduation, then a nice long visit with D & friends (and another IV wedding!) in NorCal; then I moved back to the East Coast (I’m living with my parents for the summer) and promptly got sick and lay around flat on my back for four days, after which I then proceeded to spend a week living in a cave while I was working on putting up the first issue of Lantern Review.  In short: no time for personal blogging.

Case in point: Back in what must have been February, I committed to blog for Ada Lovelace Day (in March).  Unfortunately, (as you can see) I never got around to that.  I did write a poem about Ada Lovelace, though.  Does that count?

However (as the photo at the top of this post — which shows some potato stamped reply postcards I made to send with a fellowship app — indicates), I have still been crafting and baking and gift wrapping (bento, not so much), despite my silence here.  And since I took pictures of most of the mini projects I completed, anyway, I thought I would share them now.

Cookie Thank You Gift (March 2010)

Back in March, when I applied to the fellowship for which I sent the postcards I mentioned earlier, I baked up some of Katie Goodman’s White Chocolate Chip Pistachio Cookies to thank the professors who wrote letters of recommendation for me.  I colored the stars on the tags red to complement the cute polka-dotted ribbon I picked up in the dollar bin at Michael’s.  I didn’t get that fellowship in the end, but apparently the cookies went over quite well with their recipients.  So that, at least, was encouraging. 🙂

Refashioned Rosette Tee (March 2010)

The idea for this tee was inspired by Charissa’s beautiful Double Ruffle Gift Topper post over at The Gifted Blog.  I’d been seeing a lot of embellished tees in the stores for some time and had been thinking that I might be able to find some way to do it myself.  Charissa’s technique gave me both the idea and the impetus to actually attempt the project.  So I took an old, rather faded t-shirt, recut the neckline, chopped the sleeves to 3/4 length (which you can’t, unfortunately, see in this set of photos), and used the scraps to sew little rosettes in the yoke area.  I’ve worn this tee several times since, and I’m pleased to say that despite my initial worries, it turned out to stand up pretty well to machine washing (I usually turn it inside out and line dry it just to be safe, but I think it would still survive a trip through the dryer if one day I forgot to take it out before transferring the load).

Lime Cookie Gift (March 2010)

I baked a batch of Simply Recipes’ Chocolate Cookies with Cocoa Nibs and Lime (although they weren’t exactly that, as I subbed chocolate chips for the cocoa nibs–I cook on a budget and your average Indiana supermarket does not carry such niceties) and sent them off with some candy and a card to D for our 5-year dating anniversary.  The tag on this box matched the card and the tag on the candy box.  Unfortunately, I don’t think I did the best job coordinating everything else in the suite of gifts, so I’m just showing you this one, which came out the best, in my opinion).

The end of March and all of April was incredibly nuts (seriously: I attended four conferences, D visited, and there seemed to be a department-sponsored panel or reading almost every free night that month), so not much crafting or baking (let alone sleeping or breathing) happened then.  But when graduation time rolled around, I found myself back in crafty mode once again, what with goodbye gifts and thank-you gifts.

Nest Necklace & Box (Late April 2010)

I created this bird’s nest necklace using this tutorial as a thank you and goodbye gift for my friend R.  She’s doing a publishing internship in the city this summer, so I modeled it after the ModCloth-ish kind of jewelry I used to see some of the Brooklynite types in my office wearing last summer. The chain is longish — around 18″ I think? — and the nest itself is about an inch and a half in diameter. I used my last two faux pearls (they are vintage, from my late paternal grandparents’ stock, and the finish is chipped, but I liked the feel of that in this necklace), and a filigree bead (also from my grandparents’ stock).  The box was created with thin white cardstock, using Patricia Zapata’s matchbox project (though I messed up the final set of instructions; hence the slightly wonky sides).  I cut the butterflies out of cardstock with an X-acto knife and used rolly tape (out of a dispenser-applicator that looks like one of those rolling tape white-out dispensers — I officially love that stuff now) to stick them onto the top.

Blue & Brown Gift (Late April 2010)

This is a more successful version of the same box as above.  This time, I used it to wrap a thank you gift for a professor.  This time I followed the instructions correctly (though I’ve discovered that you have to notch the long sides before folding them in at the end to get them to fit snugly with the added thickness of the cardboard on the short sides), and used a Triscuit box. I lined the inside bottom with the same blue cardstock I used for the sheath and cut the tag out of the Triscuit box, too.  The ribbon is also (sort of) recycled — originally the gift had been wrapped in another box, but that box got rather crushed in transit, so I just reused the old ribbon on the new box.

ED's Bracelet (May 2010)

Another handmade gift and its wrapping.  Stretchy green glass bracelet for a friend who loves the color (once again, all the beads except the white focal are vintage), and the wrapped version (makeshift mini-box from the leftover bits of the Triscuit box wrapped in cream tissue I’d recycled from another gift, twine, and a red heart cut out of scrap paper).

Wrapped Sweet Pea (May 2010)

This thank-you gift was one of the miniature versions of Kim Westad’s “Sweet Pea” pieces, which I packaged securely into a kraft box from Michaels, tied up with twine, and topped with a red-rimmed tag (the inside of the vessel is glazed in a deep terra-cotta red, so I tried to reflect earthy tones in the packaging) and a Martha-Stewart style tissue flower (made from the tissue that had wrapped a graduation gift I’d received, no less!).  I tucked the ceramist’s card in under the string so that the recipient would know where it came from.

M's Gift (May 2010)

My friend M loves a particular roll of striped wrapping paper that I have, and has borrowed it to wrap gifts before.  So I thought I’d use a square of it to decorate her gift.  The idea of using a graphic, sans-serif initial on the square was inspired by this post at Bugs and Fishes.  (Please excuse the weird stripey texture — that is a result of my taking this photo too close to my screen door, which gets good light in the morning).  As you can see, the box is another one of Patricia Zapata’s matchboxes.  I was a huge fan of them by that point (and still am!)  What’s inside, you ask? A pair of handmade earrings.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have the chance to snap a photo before I wrapped them.

Bananagrams Replacement Bag (May 2010)

This was part of D’s birthday present.  (I always try to give him one thing that’s store-bought, and a little something that’s handmade).  We both love to play the game Bananagrams together (partly, I’ll admit, because I am incompetent at most board games, but actually “get,” and get excited about, this one) — but unfortunately the cute banana-shaped case that holds the game broke recently, so D had been temporarily storing his Bananagrams tiles in his Scrabble tile bag.  Which, we both commented, was sort of a shame, because the banana-shaped bag is part of what makes Bananagrams Bananagrams.  Hence, I decided to surprise him with my version of a replacement for his birthday.  I am, admittedly, very much a beginner sewer.  And I don’t own a machine.  So a simple, rectangular drawstring was the most I could do (no banana shapes for me – figuring out how to line it was hard enough!)  To compensate for that, though, I added a little embroidered felt monogram in the shape of a banana, and used banana colors (white fabric, yellow ribbon).  I even wrapped the thing in white tissue and yellow ribbon (didn’t get a picture of that, though).  D liked the bag a lot, but the best payoff came the next day at his party when his brother and sister-in-law asked, “Where did you get a Banagrams bag that has a banana with your name on it?” To which D replied, “Take a guess: it’s hand-sewn and hand-embroidered,” and pointed at me.  🙂

J&J's Wedding Card (May 2010)

Okay, this is the last one, I promise (and then I really have to go to bed).  As usual, I couldn’t find a wedding card that wasn’t dripping with sappy sentiment in the store, so I made one.  the invitation was cream and light purple, so I decided to follow a similar theme.  The caption under the hugging pears says “To a perfect pair (pear?)”  Which is cheesy, I’ll admit, but — in my opinion — at least rather more cute than sappy (plus, I got to write the bride and groom a nice long personal note inside, which was nice).

And now — to bed.  But now you know, in part, what I’ve been up to since March.  Hopefully I’ll have more time to post this summer.

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Four Bentos + An Experiment

I’ve built up a bit of a bento backlog in recent weeks, so I figured it’s high time that I unloaded it.

Valentine-y Bento (eaten 2/12/10):

Taller tier: Kiwi, carrot sticks, hard-boiled egg, strawberry gummies. Shorter tier: Mini onigiri (1 furikake, 1 w/ rou soong filling), pepperoni, edamame & corn, green olive, soy sauce in piggie. Sidecar is actually just yogurt and nuts that I ate with a banana for breakfast because I had a long day out of the house that day.

Homemade Dumpling Bento (eaten 2/19/10):

Taller tier: Boiled shanghai bok choy and pan-fried homemade pork & leek potstickers (I had a dumpling night with my housemates for Chinese New Year, for which I made a ton of fresh dumplings – these are some of the leftovers, which I froze). Shorter tier: Umbrella “cookies” (I thought they would be sweet when I bought them but actually they are mostly salty, like crackers with black sesame bits), lotus seed candy (also left over from CNY), pepperoni, rou soong stuffed onigiri, olives, dipping sauce in a small container. Sidecar: Sliced kiwifruit.

Yogurt chicken “nuggets” bento (eaten 3/5/10):

Taller tier: Spinach & pine nut salad (underneath everything else), baked “chicken nuggets” made using chicken breast and a variation on Pioneer Woman’s yogurt chicken recipe, strawberries. Shorter tier: mini onigiri (one w/ rou soong, the other with furikake), more strawberries, baby carrots, balsamic salad dressing in the small container.

Shrimp Salad Bento (eaten yesterday):

Main compartment: Real Simple’s shrimp, cucumber & white bean salad (with parsley instead of dill), lemon for squeezing.  Smaller compartments: Furikake mini onigiri, dried kiwifruit (best stuff ever!), sliced strawberries, olive oil for the salad. Notes: Something in this bento made me a little sick.  My stomach is still not great (I might skip lunch). I noticed while eating one of my onigiri that the middle of it had a weird freezerburnt texture, so I wonder if that was the culprit.   Don’t think it was my shrimp, cucumber or cannellini beans (I had a little of it the night before an, d it was fine and the salad sat in the fridge overnight), or my strawberries (ditto, though they are getting old-ish).  Definitely not the dried kiwi.  Maybe the lemon?  They are getting kind of old.

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Finally, an experiment: I tried to make chicken char siu a couple of weeks ago and it just did not come out the way I’d have liked it.  I think I had several issues going on: first of all, chicken just tastes like chicken, and it was very weird to have a chickeny taste going on for something supposed to be char siu like (I hadn’t realized how much I’d associated char siu with the taste of pork before, or that chicken can really have a strong taste!); secondly, the marinade wasn’t quite right — not sweet or thick enough, and the chicken didn’t get crispy enough on the outside.  I have looked at some other recipes since and think next time I would need to put hoisin and five spice in the marinade, brush on the honey thicker (or even add brown sugar on top), and broil it for much longer.  An open gas flame would also have helped, but I have an electric stove, so that’s not an option. As for the chicken-y taste, I guess that can’t be helped!  Next time if I really have a char siu craving I should make the real thing.

After I made the “char siu” I ate it in a big bowl of noodles with egg, boy choy, and scallions:

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My three most recent culinary re-contextualizations. That is to say, old foods in new contexts (or in the case of fennel, new foods in an old context).

First up, Sardines.
A sardine salad bento, that is:

This has to have been the best salad I have had in a very long time. Hands down.  Romaine lettuce with pine nuts, scallions, and a fat chopped sardine that had been packed in olive oil.  On the side: a hard boiled egg, a strawberry gummy, citrus-mustard dressing, and kiwi.  The combo of grapefruit juice-dijon mustard-balsamic-olive oil in the dressing with the salty fish and the crunchy greens, creamy nuts, and sharp scallions was phenomenal.  Unfortunately, I dropped my fork on the floor in the middle of eating this lunch, and could not get up to wash it, as I was in class at the time!  Not to be deterred, I managed to finish the salad using fingers and spoon.  A little messy/awkward, but effective.

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Second, Fennel.
Shrimp and Corn Chowder with Fennel from the February issue of Real Simple.

I’m not a giant fan of clam chowder; I like a bowl of the New England kind every once in a while, but can’t eat too much of it at once (it starts to taste gloopy and too milky and potato-ey after a while). But this shrimp chowder was amazing! The fennel added a really nice taste and texture that broke up the mealiness of your normal potato-potato-potato background, and the spritz of lemon juice at the end gave the soup a nice zing and woke up the chowder from its flat-tasting natural state.  Also, let’s face it – the texture of shrimp in a soup is just nicer than chewy old clams! The presentation of the soup was great, too.  Pink shrimp, green fennel, yellow corn, and lovely crispy bacon crumbled on top (I did not fry the leeks in the grease as suggested, because I didn’t want the whole soup to taste like smoked meat).  The bacon, in particular, made for the perfect finish — a little crunch and salt that contrasted the creamy soup and made the whole dish an awesome lunch. Admittedly, the soup was a little less fennel-y tasting the next day, which disappointed me a bit, but it was still very good — good enough to have multiple bowls at a sitting — and I will definitely make this again!

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Finally, Ginger.
In double chocolate cookies.

These cookies have a story behind them. I was having a friend over for tea on Saturday and, having promised her cookies, decided to try making Nigella’s Totally Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies (I’ve seen the clip sooo many times on YouTube and have always wanted to try them, as the idea of freezing half the dough intrigues me). Unfortunately, when I went online to look for the recipe, I could only find it in metric measurements! I guess I could have converted, but I was a bit short on time, so instead I moseyed over to Real Simple (I am really growing to trust their recipes now) and looked up “Double Chocolate Cookies.” I ended up finding this recipe, which seemed almost the same as Nigella’s, except that it doesn’t have a packet of melted dark chocolate stirred into the batter, and it uses less chips. However, after getting out my ingredients, I found that I didn’t have enough chocolate chips (maybe only half as many as the recipe calls for), so I decided to substitute chopped up crystallized ginger in some of the cookies as an experiment, since I’d bought and enjoyed chocolate with ginger in it before. Turns out, it was a really great idea! I actually think I like these cookies more with ginger in them than I would have liked them with just more chocolate. They were gone in a snap, eaten by my guest, my roommates, and me (I baked only half the batch and froze the rest, but still — I had to smuggle the last cookie upstairs to get a photo of it before my third roommate got home and had a chance to eat it!) Changes I would make to this recipe next time: 1) The dough was a bit dry, so I added some milk, but I’d like to try Nigella’s idea of adding melted dark chocolate; I think it would help add some moisture and some richness to the cookies; 2) I would add more ginger, and slightly more chocolate chips, using only semisweet — milk seems too sweet for these cookies to me. 3) I would try to use a scoop instead of rolling the balls in my hand, and would make the cookies slightly smaller, as they took forever to bake in the 2″ size I used!

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Pizza “Brick” Bento

Why am I calling my pizza a “brick”?  Because that’s how my Pillsbury pizza dough turned out this time: fat rectangles with a lot of dough and crust, and not so much of anything else.  I made pizza last Thursday night for dinner because M & I were going to see a play and there was not much time to cook.  We like to get ready-made dough in a can and pop it in the oven with our own fixings; it’s hot and quick on an evening when we don’t have time to cook. I actually am not the biggest fan of Pillsbury dough in cans (I think they all kind of taste the same!) but it’s not too bad as far as readymade pizza doughs go; doesn’t taste like real pizza crust, but it’s nice in its own Pillsbury-bread kinda way. In the past we’ve had trouble with putting too much sauce on our pizza; this time, I purposely put a thinner layer of sauce on, but because I was in a hurry I did not bother to stretch out the dough after unrolling it.  I think I would’ve fared better to roll it a bit thinner.  And I should’ve put more toppings on. Two slices plus the salad in this lunch (eaten the next day, during a class that goes through the lunch hour) were not quite enough to fill me (I was just shy of satisfied).  It was tasty, though!

Clockwise from LH compartment: Mushroom, scallion, and pepperoni pizza, extra pepperoni, strawberry gummies, mustard-citrus dressing in the piggie, kiwifruit, spinach and tomato salad with pine nuts (spinach hidden beneath the tomatoes).

You’ll probably be seeing more bentos from me this semester.  I have a Friday class from 12:30 to 2 and a lot of people bring their lunch.  I do like eating hot food at home, but I’m also excited to start with lunch-packing again.

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First, a birthday cake for my roommate M.

Nigella’s Honey Bee Cake, to be exact.

With Marzipan Bees and Roses.

Closeup of the bees.

(They’re staring at you).

I did not have a springform so I baked it in two tins and layered it with raspberry jam. Would’ve tasted better if I hadn’t let it dry out and burn a little (I baked it for the suggested time, and with foil for part of it, too!). :-/ Oh, well. People said it was good, anyway.

Second, a birthday gift.  A detachable bracelet set. (Also for M).

Tied together.

Bracelet #1.

Crystal, pearlescent beads, metal filigree, toggle clasp.

Bracelet #2.

Metallic ball beads, filigree bead caps, purple and clear iridescent glass, pearlescent beads.

Both bracelets are strung on clear elastic thread to make them stretchy and easy to put on and take off (the toggle on the one provides another option for closure, but is more for show).

Modeled after the general idea of this Forever 21 bracelet set. I may not like all of their clothes, but Forever 21 does have some lovely vintage-inspired jewelry this season (I don’t trust the quality or make of it, though; I generally don’t buy costume jewelry anyway, because I usually end up wondering whether I can make it myself . . ..) I was thinking about texture for this set.  The mixture of smooth, milky pearl colors with the sharp sparkle of crystal and the slightly more liquid gleam of intricate metallic filigree, the hardness of beads and metal juxtaposed against the soft white of the satin tie.  Texture is a lovely thing.  I’m glad it’s “in” at the moment.

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