Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Quilted Crafting Bag

The Real Martha made me this cool bag (using the Sebago tote pattern from Aunties Two) to transport my ever-expanding collection of crafting paraphernalia. I think I'll use it for my crochet/knitting gear... lots of pockets for needles, tape measures and stitch markers, big enough to hold a couple large skeins of yarn as well as the project itself.Apparently Martha and Deb (who, judging by her praise this past weekend, may be this blog's biggest fan. Hi, Deb!) have been making these bags in all different sizes for friends and family. Martha says it's super easy, as you start with pre-quilted fabric that is double-faced, which eliminates the need to sew a lining.

Roasted Cauliflower and Chickpea Salad

An tasty, healthy weeknight meal; easily scaled up for lots of people or down if it's just you:
- Cut a head of cauliflower into small florets

- Rinse a can of chickpeas

- Toss both with some olive oil, minced garlic, a handful of cumin, salt and pepper

- Spread on a baking sheet and roast at 425 degrees for 20 minutes or so. Keep an eye on it. You want it to be browned and crispy, but not burnt...

- Throw on top of a bed of arugula

- Top the whole thing with a simple lemon/shallot salad dressing (lemon juice, olive oil, minced shallots, a little Dijon, salt and pepper)

Friday, June 17, 2011

Crochet Stuffed Bunny

When did I suddenly become a crochet junkie?

Somewhere along the line it became strangely addictive.

You know what else is addictive? Sending my brother bunny things for his soon-to-be baby daughter (clothes with bunnies, stuffed bunnies, bunny statues) because he hates it and my sister-in-law loves it. We've termed this practice "bunny bombing."

Here's my latest bunny bomb... I told him that since I made it by hand he was morally obligated not to throw it out. Shock and awe, baby.

Made using this free pattern from Bernat, using Lily Sugar n' Cream cotton yarn in "Violet Veil."

Lincoln likes it.

Crochet Baby Hat with Flower

Using the same pattern as these cutie baby hats I made a few weeks ago, I crocheted this bright pink hat using Lily Sugar n' Cream yarn in Hot Pink. My seam was a little wonky still (better than the first couple hats, though!), so to cover it up, I made these little flowers and sewed them over the seam along with some pretty mother-of-pearl buttons that the Real Martha gave me. Pretty adorable...If you look closely, you'll notice that one of my flowers has 6 petals and one has 5 petals. Unseen in this photo is yet another flower I made that had 4 petals. I thought I was following the pattern for all of them... don't ask how I ended up with a different result every time. Trials and tribulations of the crochet newbie!

White Swiss Chard and Artichoke Pizza

Imagine your favorite creamy spinach and artichoke dip- creamy, garlicky, full of veggies- but imagine it on a pizza. That's basically what this white swiss chard and artichoke pizza recipe is. I used Swiss chard because that's what the CSA was serving up this week, but I bet you could substitute spinach, kale, maybe even collard greens if you prefer. The only changes I made to the recipe was to use marinated artichoke hearts, to add a little pinch of red pepper flakes, and to forget to add the Worcestershire sauce. I put it on my go-to whole wheat pizza dough from the other Martha.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Vegetable Cream Cheese

I had a bunch of leftover cream cheese after the baby shower... I decided to jazz it up a little bit for Sunday bagel brunch. Loosely based on this Ina Garten recipe, I beat the following veggies into 2 8-ounce blocks of cream cheese:
  • about 1/4 cup of finely shredded carrot
  • 4 tablespoons minced chives
  • 1 large or 2 regular green onions, minced
  • 2 tablespoons minced dill
  • a squeeze of lemon juice
  • a sprinkle of black pepper
So good... Amy said it tastes like it came from a NYC deli. I think that's a pretty good compliment!

Beet and Beet Green Risotto

After a day biking around DC and swimming/lounging at the East Potomac Park Bathhouse (sounds fancier than it is, but it's actually quite a nice pool!), we were ravenous. I recently acquired from the CSA a bunch of beets with greens still intact, so Amy and Chrissy both recommended the beet risotto from the NYTimes. Turns out we had all the ingredients, so we made it happen. Really good! Beautiful color. I would have added some feta or something cheesier to it, but it was pretty lovely as is, too, if feta's not your thang.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Pretzel-Crusted Chicken and Spinach Salad with Strawberry Balsamic

I saw this recipe for pretzel-crusted chicken in the Washington Post's "All We Can Eat" blog this week and had to make it... it was so good! Super crunchy, slightly salty crust. Mmm. I made the sauce a little bit differently from the recipe, mostly because I was preoccupied while cooking, but it was still good- mayo, minced dill, a hint of honey and a hint of lemon juice.
Very loosely based on this recipe, we turned a little more of our abundant strawberry harvest into some sweet (but not overly so) strawberry salad dressing. Pureed strawberries with minced shallots, a splash of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper... healthy and delicious on a salad with some tangy cheese (goat cheese or feta worked for us).

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Baby Shower Goodies: The Sweet Stuff

Barbara's baby shower was capped off by lots and lots of mini-cupcakes, which were the hit of the party. Joanne says I could sell the cupcakes out of a truck and be the next lobster truck. I don't know about that, but I know these cupcakes were really tasty, and that I got to use my piping set, which was really fun!

One-Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
I'd made these cupcake and buttercream recipes successfully in the past, so I knew they would be reliable for the party. My prediction proved to be true- Amy threw the cupcakes together with little fanfare, but the fanfare when the party-goers snatched them up was another story.

Carrot Cake Mini-Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Molly made this cake for Colleen's birthday and it was so good I begged her for the recipe. I made it exactly as she had- substituting some oil with applesauce- and achieved really good results. Here's the recipe:
Carrot Cake Mini-Cupcakes

4 eggs
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 cup applesauce
2 cups sugar (1 white, 1 brown)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 heaping teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 cups grated carrots

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
2. Grease and flour a 9 x 13 inch pan or use paper liners in mini-muffin tins
3. In a large bowl, beat together eggs, oil, sugar and vanilla.
4. Mix in flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon
5. Stir in carrots
6. Pour into prepared pan
7. For 9 x 13 cake, bake 40-50 minutes; for mini-cupcakes, bake 10-12 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cream Cheese Frosting

½ cup butter, softened
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. In a medium bowl, combine butter, cream cheese, sugar and vanilla
2. Beat until smooth and creamy

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Recovered Chairs

Tony had this table and chair set that was a little drab. I decided to recover them to give life to our very tan living room! Here's the before and after :)

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Baby Shower Goodies: The Savory Stuff

Liz, Joanne and I hosted a 25-person baby shower this past weekend in honor of Barbara and baby... based on the reactions we got it seemed to have been quite a success!!

We decided to go all finger foods for simplicity- no forks. We stuck with some pretty traditional shower fare and sprinkled in some less typical treats, too. Here's the run down of the savory part of the party!
1. Open-face cucumber and lemon dill cream cheese tea sandwiches: These traditional little sandwiches were great- the cream cheese was totally addictive!2. Curried chicken salad sandwiches: Made with rotisserie chicken to save time, shredded for spreadability... this recipe was super flavorful and relatively healthy since it used some yogurt rather than straight mayo. Really nice on thinly sliced whole wheat bread with a few leaves of spinach.3. Egg salad sandwiches: Like their chicken cousins above, these were made on thinly sliced whole wheat bread and topped with spinach. More egg whites than yolks, a little mayo, a little mustard, minced green onions, salt and pepper, done.4. Smoked salmon and herbed butter sandwiches: smoked salmon, lemony herbed butter, pumpernickel bread. So simple.
5. Tabouleh and hummus rolls: Taking a cue from the Other Martha, I made these little rolls- some tabbouleh (loosely based on this recipe), stuck to the wrap with some hummus, rolled in a log and then sliced into cute little spirals. 6. Crostini with black olive tapenade, roasted tomatoes and mozzarella: Based on a recipe that Liz found, we thinly sliced a baguette and topped it with this black olive tapenade (minus the ancovies), cute little mozzarella balls and a strip of roasted red pepper.

Apple Mint Green Tea Punch

I love a chance to use my three-in-one cake stand/chip-n-dip/punch bowl in its punch bowl form. Punch is good.
We hosted Barbara's baby shower today, and in anticipation I set out on a search for a refreshing and fun non-alcoholic punch to put in my punch bowl. I was hoping for a recipe that didn't involve corn-syrup laden soda or sherbet, as those things didn't appeal to me and didn't seem right for a baby shower. This one from Giada De Laurentis caught my eye, calling for apple juice, a mint simple syrup and green tea.

I am glad I went with it- it was a hit! I skipped the sparkling water, figuring it would go flat quickly in the punch bowl, instead encouraging those able to imbibe in spirits to top off their individual glasses with prosecco for bubbles. So good- a unique combination of flavors that really worked well together.

Fresh Strawberry Daiquiris

Amy, Chuck and I braved wilderness of Waldorf, MD over Memorial Day weekend to take advantage of the strawberry bounty at Shlagel Farms. We picked 3 huge trays of strawberries, as evidenced above, most of which needed to be eaten immediately because they were so deliciously ripe... some of them got a little bruised up on the way home, so we decided to blend them into some fresh daiquiris.

These daiquiris rocked. Simple, fresh, boozy. Strawberry, lime juice, rum, a teeny bit of sugar, ice. Done.