Monday, January 28, 2013

Creative Periods

I've got several projects in the works currently, including a beautiful apron and some dinner napkins.  There are other finished projects around the house: pairs of pajama pants, coasters, drawstring pouches, and smaller trinketry.  Finally all of these supplies that I have compiled can come into use.


I've literally had a month and a half to craft until my heart's content.  It was motivated by inexpensive Christmas gift giving and spurred on by excessive free time.  It has been perfect.  Now, as I finally start working again next week, I'm afraid I will miss the time I've had to do this.  I've really discovered a joy in sewing lately.  I enjoy the combining of fabrics, the series of patterns, and thinking methodically about procedure.  I can pass the time, or just set it down and do something else for a bit.

Perhaps it is a good thing that I haven't started making clothes yet.  I feel that will make the addiction complete.  I've been eyeing patterns and re-makes meticulously.  I have a feeling there will be a Pinterest board to come of it (see button up top).  But for now, I will think of a way to get rid of some coasters . . .

Friday, January 18, 2013

Nicole Tackles Sewing

Look at that beautiful seam!  I've never had as much self-satisfaction as when I finished this pair of floral pajama pants.

Let's back up.  I have had a vintage Singer on loaner to me from John's sister since September.  I was too busy to open it, and then I went to Germany for two months, and then it was the Holidays, and then I had to recover . . . so I pushed it off.  Quite recently I got the gumption to open it up and try it out.

Early experiments included sewing on brown paper bags to teach myself.  I also made some (very) cute drawstring pouches with some fabrics I had left over.  I was getting some basics down pretty quickly, not to mention, a good list of what not to do.  Armed with Martha Stewart's Encyclopedia of Sewing Crafts from the library, I started on a much more ambitious project: Pajama bottoms.

I learned many new skills and even made my own bias tape from material scraps.  Check out that cool drawstring.  That's right, I made that.  Though their fit it not quite Anthropologie inspired, I can't help but look at these pants and feel such a feeling of accomplishment.  Expect many more.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Asian Mushroom Soup

John remembered me rambling on one day about growing my own mushrooms, and gave me a "grow your own" shiitake mushroom patch. He's sweet like that. The result was a bowl full of beautiful mushrooms that we needed to cook.  

But what should we make with these?
How about a kick-ass soup with a depth of flavor you would not believe.

Asian Mushroom Soup


  • 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
    4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 (2-inch piece) fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 quarts reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons tamari sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce, optional
  • 10-15 Shiitake mushrooms, stemmed (stems can be diced and added in the pan with ginger)
  • 1 small head of Napa cabbage or roughly chopped
  • 1/2 onion diced
  • 1 small bunch scallions, thinly sliced
  • Dark sesame oil


Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat and cook the garlic and ginger (and mushroom stems if you are using them) until browned. Combine the broth, soy sauce, and fish sauce, to the saucepan and bring to a simmer. Add the remaining ingredients except scallions, and sesame oil. Simmer for 20 minutes.  Add the scallions to the saucepan, remove from heat, and ladle into serving bowls. Drizzle a bit of sesame oil over the top of each serving.  The sesame oil makes it, so don't skimp.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Whole Grain Linguine with Creamy Broccoli Pesto

Who knew broccoli could be this well hidden?  And subtly delicious!  

I chose this meal because it went with John's and my plan to incorporate more fiber into our lives as a source of weight loss.  And, I can proudly say that I have lost 5 pounds since New Years!  Fiber is so underrated . . .

Ignore my store bought Parmesan cheese sprinkles on there.  You should have seen John's face when I brought it home!

This recipe is adapted from Deb's over at Smitten kitchen.  And my cell phone pictures are not nearly as good as hers.

Broccoli Cream Pesto

1/2 pound broccoli
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon table salt
Freshly ground black pepper or pinches of red pepper flakes
4 tablespoons heavy cream
A heap of grated Parmesan (about 1/2 cup), to serve

Remove broccoli florets from stems and chop into medium florets. Peel stalky stems with a vegetable peeler and slice them into 1/2-inch segments.

Use your pot of future pasta water to steam (by suspending a mesh strainer over your pasta pot and covering it with a lid for 5 to 6 minutes)) or par-boil (for 3 to 5 minutes) your broccoli florets and stems until just tender, then drain if needed and set them aside.

Before draining pasta, reserve a cup of pasta cooking water and set it aside for the sauce.

In the bottom of a pot or large saucepan, melt butter and olive oil together over medium heat. Add onion and reduce to medium-low, sauteing it until tender, about 7 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another two minutes. Add steamed broccoli, salt and red or black pepper and turn the heat back up to medium-high, cooking it with the onion and garlic for a few additional minutes. Pour cream over mixture and let cook for 30 seconds.
Transfer broccoli mixture and all of its creamy bits at the bottom of the pan to a blender or food processor and blend in short bursts until it’s finely chopped and a little sauce.  Immersion blender will work here as well.

Combine the broccoli sauce the drained pasta and a splash or two of the reserved pasta water. Cook over medium-high for 1 to 2 minutes, tossing the mixture so that it evenly coats. Add more pasta water as needed to loosen the sauce. Adjust seasonings to taste, adding more salt or pepper, and scoop into a serving bowl. Shower spaghetti with grated Parmesan.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Beer-rita with Louisiana

The most refreshing and yet spicy drink that makes you keep drinking more.

Start with a Mexican style lager beer.  Acceptable varieties include Corona, Modelo, Dos Equis and more.  Featured is a Dos Equis Amber Lager.  Fill a salted glass with ice and a sqeezed lime wedge, then fill with your lager.  Add 3-4 shakes of a vinegar based hotsauce like Louisiana "red dot" or Chrystal.  Give it a gentle stir and enjoy the never ending cycle of cold, hot, cold, hot . . . .

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Crafty Christmas in review

I opted for a very crafty, creative, and handmade Christmas for 2012.  What with all of our European living and the world not ending, I wasn't exactly in a position to go out and spend a lot of money on people.

What I did, however, was carefully set aside ideas and goals that I knew certain people would like and appreciate.  Upon return to the States and my craft supplies on December tenth, I began the craft frenzy!

The easiest, but most tedious, were Anthropologie inspired "Confetti Glasses" for my Mother.

I thought they turned out beautifully.

She also received Woodsy Twig Votive Holders.  I didn't get a picture of those because the Christmas deadline was upon me.  They went straight into the gift bag!

For my brother, a Wine Cork and Ribbon Wreath.  Also interspersed are silver jingle bells.

Corks, floral wire, and free reign to John's cordless drill!!!  This actually turned out much better than I thought and reconfirms the fact that on should never throw out wine corks.

Next year, money or not, I will repeat my rabid craft session just for the shear fun.  And the ability to add "hey, I made that" to the oohs and aahs of opening cool gifts.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Pizza for a new year

Nothing like a home made pizza to ring in the new year! This one features a whole wheat and buckwheat crust topped with John's signature sauce, fresh basil, salami, white cheddar, and leftover fondue.  The fondue really makes it!  It's not everyday you have it on hand.