Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Ratatouille and other tomato happenings.

I originally had eggplant parmesan in mind for these eggplants but I was lacking a few of the other key ingredients, so when another opportunity for their demise came up, I took it. Until yesterday, I really had no clue what ratatouille was (my first guess was a type of pasta), but a friend of mine cleared that mystery up when she served me some for lunch. I was impressed with the simple, tasty dish and since I had all the ingredients at home I made a batch of my own that same night.

I opted for an easy preparation, first sauteing the onion, bell pepper, and tomato, then adding the zucchini, eggplant, and garlic and continuing to cook until all the veggies were tender. I didn't use any herbs (because that was how I'd tried it earlier in the day), used a moderate amount of olive oil, and added salt and pepper to taste. I was pretty happy with it, and Zoë didn't seem opposed, but I won't speak for the rest of the household (who ordered pizza instead!). In his defense, I didn't make anything but salad to go with it, so maybe the meal was too light on calories for some.

Remember my tomato plants (that most recently weren't doing too well)? Well one of them is still in pretty bad shape, but the other actually looks kind of okay and, miraculously, has a tomato on it! Here it is today, just after a nice morning downpour that cooled things off just a bit.

Considering the typical price of heirlooms at the grocery store, I figure if this one tomato makes it and grows to be pretty good-sized, then at least that about covers the cost of the two plants. In the meantime, we've been pilfering (off my mom's plant) delicious little yellow-orange cherry tomatoes, of which Zoë's quite fond. She'll eat a whole one unless, I discovered today, you give her more than one at a time, in which case...


Added note (6.26.10): Tomato update at the end of this post.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Diversion & "Garage Sale"

In preparation for the trip I took to Houston a few weeks back I dug out my somewhat forgotten Game Boy, figuring it would serve as decent entertainment for the car ride. Of course I didn't turn it on once during the Houston trip, but since then I've developed a bit of a habit. Instead of cooking, cleaning, or otherwise being productive, lately I can be found lying on the couch playing Ms. Pac-Man. With temperatures in the triple digits this is not a bad way to pass the time. On Sunday I did manage to step foot out of my air-conditioned abode to check out the City-Wide Garage Sale (held indoors, thankfully). Not really a garage sale, but rather a market of antique/vintage vendors. When we (the mister, the babe, and I) walked in I was immediately met with heaping piles of inexpensive vintage linens--napkins, table cloths, pillow cases, etc. I didn't have it in me to dig through it all (there was A LOT), so I quickly found just a few things I liked, including this cute little handkerchief, and moved on.

My first stop turned out to be the highlight of the market, and I didn't come across much else I wanted, but Enrique bought a record on the way out.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Black Bean Brownies (& Pizza Pie, Almost)

That's right, in fact they are mostly beans, and they are pretty dang good. I'd seen mention of these a couple different places and had been meaning to give them a try for awhile now, and a recent sugar ban that's gone into effect was the perfect opportunity (they are sweetened with agave). I followed this recipe here. I didn't have light agave syrup, only dark, but it worked just fine. I went with canned beans because it was fastest and I rinsed them really well to get off all the canned bean water gooeys (although I don't know if that matters or not, recipe didn't specify). They came out really rich and fudge-like, so personally I think they'd be best enjoyed with barely sweetened whipped cream or just a plain glass of milk, but I don't have either at the moment. The mister just popped this in the oven (totally from scratch, hand-tossed dough and all!):

And I'm supposed to be putting away laundry, so I better skedaddle!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Yet Another Card

This time for Enrique.
Eye see you...

To Papa Bear, Love Alex & Zoë.
Muchos pedos peludos para usted en Día del Padre.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Jars

I love glass jars and use them all the time, mostly for food storage and beverage containers. Lacking proper glasses, awhile back I got in the habit of drinking from quart jars. And from rice to raisins, almost everything in my pantry is in a jar. I often shop the bulk/bin (whatever you want to call it) section at the grocery store, and then transfer these purchases to jars when I get home. It makes things much more manageable (easy to find, easy to dispense) and is much nicer to look at than a pile of plastic bags. But I didn't have any tiny jars until now. I came across these at an estate sale (the same one where I got my grandma couch). They were piled in with some larger jars in a free box so I took 'em all. At first I didn't know what I'd do with the tiny jars but then I realized Duh! Store tiny things in them. So here we have some loose buttons, thumbtacks, push-pin tacks, and an odds and ends jar (loose screws and other wierd little things that appear to belong somewhere but I don't know where). On a somewhat unrelated note, this is a quote from my mother in response to something I said about my blog: "They're not gonna read your blob anyway." Blog, mom. BLOG. I know it can be a bit on the mundane side sometimes (like today), but come on.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Birthday Card

This is an outtake from some photos I took recently for a birthday card for an aunt.

And here's the card...

I cut out a little peep window that shows the recipient's name.

And on the inside...

A birthday message is written out on the cards she's holding. I actually had that Bob Dylan video in mind, the one where he's standing in an alley or something and going through handwritten signs of words from the lyrics he's singing, but I don't think I quite captured that. I tried using black and white photos too, but in the end I chose the color ones. The dark blue of her dress against the green grass was just too good.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Another Dolly

I made this with a little girl in mind that I'll be seeing this weekend in Houston. It's not quite perfect but it turned out pretty well. I'm still refining the pattern (er, the execution of the pattern mostly) and working out some kinks, like head lumpiness and differences in arm length. I still haven't tried to make any clothes (human, not doll), so atleast my sewing machine is getting some action.

I've been drooling over these cookie recipes but am really trying to be good in the health department and lay off the sugar for awhile. Lately, when I feel like a sweet treat, I've been turning to fresh fruit, a homemade nut bar, or a small bowl of nuts and dried fruits, and I'd like to keep it up! But eventually I will try these out, maybe the "Vanillekipferl" first. I like the sound of all that almond meal and they look similar to butter cookies, which Enrique really likes.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Better than it looks...

Last night I made this big batch of green curry vegetables to last throughout the week. This is not the most flattering photo but it's actually quite good. It can be served as a soup or ladled over rice. I don't have a recipe but I just followed a few guidelines, most of them pointers from my aunt who makes this dish frequently.
(1) Start out with a few tablespoons of Mae Ploy green curry paste (available at asian markets--watch out, this stuff is spicy!), a small splash of fish sauce (also available at asian markets), and a bit of coconut oil, sauteing them all together for a few minutes before adding the first batch of chopped vegetables (the ones with the longest cook-time). (If desired, meat can be added at this point, too.)
(2) Make the broth from about one half canned coconut milk and one half soup stock, such as canned chicken broth (in this case I actualy made a broth from celery hearts and shrimp shells).
(3) Sweeten just a bit with sucanat (which I think I might should be calling "evaporated cane juice" but I am not sure. I've just always called it sucanat.).
(4) Salt to taste with fish sauce.
(5) When the soup is done but still hot, add a good amount of torn basil leaves.

Speaking of, the basil I'm growing from seed is looking good.

But there are too many plants in the pot; it definitely needs thinning but I'm reluctant to do so because I don't want any to go to waste. I may try transplanting instead, even though that is probably crazy and they will die anyways. My tomato plants, on the otherhand, are not looking so fierce. I am not sure what the deal is with them and don't know if they'll produce any tomaters at all. My morning glories, though, are doing okay (some areas better than others) and starting to bloom here and there, but they aren't creating quite the greenery coverage I had in mind.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

What a bunch of nut bars!

I made these snacks yesterday and am quite pleased with the outcome. They are just nuts and dried fruits pressed together with a little sweetener and coconut butter. The ways to make something like this are many, and I'm sure I'll try variations in the future, but here is how I made these ones.
Ingredients
1 cup cashews
1 cup walnuts
1 cup almonds
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup sesame seeds
1 cup dried shredded coconut
1 cup raisins
1 cup pitted dates
1 cup brown rice syrup
1/2 cup coconut butter (or coconut oil)
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
Special Equipment
Food processor [If you don't have one of these you can try chopping everything by hand, but the gummy stuff (dates and raisins) might be quite a challenge.]
Directions
Grease large (like 9" x 13") baking dish with coconut butter (or c. oil). Put cashews, walnuts, and almonds in food processor and "chop" them up. Transfer mixture to a large bowl and stir in other dry ingredients (sesame & sunflower seeds, shredded coconut, cinnamon and salt). Put raisins and dates in food processer, then add coconut butter (should be liquified--melt over low heat beforehand if needed) and blend. This combination quickly turns into a sticky, unmixable mass, at which point stop and transfer to the bowl with the nut mix and add brown rice syrup. Squish with bare hands until thouroughly blended, then evenly press into baking dish (a large metal spoon may be helpful here if your hands are really sticking to the mixture). Chill in refrigerator until firm, about an hour. Remove and cut into squares. Makes 15 good-sized bars. For storage, wrap in wax paper and then seal in a plastic bag. Refrigeration optional.
*I forgot to mention: All the nuts and seeds used were raw and unsalted, and the coconut unsweetened, and everything was measured before chopping.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Weddings & Funerals

Just one of each, actually.
I made this card for a friend of mine who recently got married. Not that impressive but cute enough I think. It is a small watercolor mounted with photo corners (and a bit of double stick tape) onto a blank card. I really love those photo corners; I also have them in quite a few other colors and they really come in handy. I am still getting the feel for watercoloring. I haven't done it in years, and when I did in the past (at Waldorf school) it was a very different style than this. Larger scale, no outlining, and not very intricate. Now it seems I have lots of ideas for just the opposite--small, outlined and detailed (take that, Waldorf!).

At the end of last week I received news that my Aunt Elizabeth Anne passed away in the night at her home in Alpine, Texas (West Texas, near Marfa). She was my mom's oldest sister and I had not seen her in years, but I remember visits to her house in Houston when I was little. Here's a few pictures I borrowed from a memorial website my cousin set up in her honor.
My aunt as a child with her mom (my grandma).


My aunt in the '70's (much closer to how I remember her).

So we'll be making a little trip to Houston soon for a service and I'll get a chance to see family I haven't seen in a decade.