Warm Fuzzies

It has been a week of warm fuzzies. I love holidays and I love food, so this is a good time of year for me! Ad’s brother came to spend a week with us, and we had a friend join us for dinner on Thanksgiving Day. Our menu was roast turkey, butternut squash and barley risotto, garlic mashed potatoes, broccoli with walnut butter, green been casserole, potato rolls, wine, and pecan pie with vanilla ice cream for dessert. This was my first time roasting a turkey, and after the three of us plus the internet figured out how to get the little wire metal bit out from between the turkey’s legs, things went fairly smoothly!

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Ad has been hard at work on his thesis, so while he was at school his brother and I had a thrift store marathon – 6 in a row! I found some more bits for the wedding, and this adorable vintage deer. How sweet is she?! I think this could be the dangerous start to a new collection…

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I’ve gotten in some serious crochet time recently, and have found a new favorite crochet spot. I usually sit on the couch in the living room, but I really love the light that comes into the bedroom in the morning and early afternoon. It’s the only room in our house with two windows, and the little desk in there is a good spot to get things done when I make the effort to clear a space.

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And this little guy kept me company while I worked.

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Traditionally, we put our Christmas tree up the day after Thanksgiving. I always demand a real tree, despite the mess. I love the routine of selecting one and cutting it down, and I love the way it makes the house smell. However, this year we decided not to bother with it. We’ll only be here for a few weeks until we head home to Pennsylvania for Christmas, and then we won’t be back until the the beginning of February. By that time our little tree would have lost all of it’s needles, which would have been a giant mess.

So instead, I put up my tiny table top Christmas tree! It was mailed to me a few years ago by a dear friend, when I was still living in Washington and there was a period of time when we weren’t sure that we’d be able to come home for Christmas. This little tree makes me so happy. It came with lights, tiny candy canes and nutcracker ornaments, a star topper, and even a little tree skirt! Christmas lights make things exponentially cozier.

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Here’s a sneak peak of a project I’m in the midst of! I can’t wait to finish it and show you the results.

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I hope you all had a full, tasty, family filled Thanksgiving. Now…for some leftovers.

 

Good Eats

I love food. I was talking to a friend today about how good food can be, and what a big role it plays in our society. We talked about the importance of sharing meals, and how fixing a meal for someone is a time honored way of showing love.

The last few weeks have been rough, and I haven’t been feeling well, so I decided to show myself some love with a delicious breakfast this morning. I rarely cook, and especially not breakfast. I’m a ‘Greek yogurt with fruit and granola’ kinda gal most mornings, but I needed a treat. So I made this….

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Asparagus and Egg Tart with Goat Cheese. I pretty much followed the recipe found here, although I added some zucchini since I had some in the fridge that needed to be used. The egg makes for a nice filling breakfast.

Speaking of sharing food, it won’t be long before I have enough tomatoes to start sharing with the folks at work. Here is today’s mini harvest.

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Tomatoes fresh and sun-warmed from the garden are by far my favorite vegetable. I can eat those puppies like they’re candy.

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And by coincidence, my finger nails match!

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I have to tell you about my new favorite food related thing. I hate the waste that comes with using saran wrap, foil, and plastic baggies. You use it once, and throw it away (or wash the baggies a few times to re-use them if you’re me). It doesn’t feel good. Enter Bee’s Wrap. A sustainable and reusable alternative, made from fabric coated with a thin layer of beeswax.The warmth of your hands is just enough to mold the fabric and create a seal, either to the rim of a bowl or to itself.

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I’ve been eyeing this stuff for a while, and I’m so glad I finally ordered some. I’ve been using it since the day I got it, either in the fridge or in my lunch pail which goes to work with me daily.

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One sheet will last for up to a year if regularly rinsed with cold soapy water. The best part might be the yummy beeswax smell. I promise no one has paid me for this rave review. It’s just such a simple, effective, earthy friendly idea.

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Do you have a favorite summer recipe? Or something that you make for yourself when you need a little extra love?

Cornish Pasty Recipe

Yum. Whenever I bite into a pasty, my mind’s eye is immediately transported to St. Ives, Cornwall. I even find myself protectively hunched over my pasty, to keep the ever aggressive St. Ives seagulls away. But alas, I’m still in Madison, WI. Pasties (pronounced past-ees, not paste-ees, you pervert) are delicious, hearty, and only slightly time consuming. I’ll apologize in advance for the terrible photos to follow. It was a late night, overly warm pasty cooking session.

Pasty Filling Ingredients

Go wild! Throw whatever you want in there. Traditional Cornish pasties are filled with chuck steak, onion, potato, and turnip (or swedes, as the Cornish would say). We filled ours with bacon which we cooked prior to filling, potatoes, onions, garlic, spinach, and beaten egg, which we stirred altogether. Whatever you fill your pasty with, the key is to chop it up small enough so that it can cook through.

Pasty Pastry Ingredients

The pastry recipe and cooking times were taken directly from  a wonderful cookbook by Catherine Rothwell, called “From Pasties to Pilchards, Recipes and Memories of Cornwall”. I love this cookbook, because it provides some local history about each recipe, and features recipes from towns all over Cornwall. From the reading I’ve done, the pastry recipe she provides seems to be the traditional and agreed upon way, although originally people would have used shortening rather than margarine.

3 1/4 cup bread flour

1 cup (2 sticks) of room temperature margarine

Salt and Pepper to season

Water

1. Mix the bread flour and margarine in a large bowl with a pastry blender, until the mixture looks like tiny breadcrumbs.

2. Add salt and pepper, and mix again.

3. Now comes the slightly tricky part. You need to add enough water that the mixture is moist enough to roll out and wrap around the filling, but not so moist that it can’t hold it’s own shape, or becomes to sticky. I keep a cup of water next to me and add it in slowly. Better to add little by little, then to add to much at once because then you’ve got a problem. I probably added just over a 1/4 cup of water, but do what feels right. Remember, bendy, not sticky.

Pasty Assembly
1. With your dough mixed and your filling cut and prepared, you’re ready to role. Literally. Role about a quarter of the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, until it reaches about the size of a dinner plate. Make it as round as possible, but it doesn’t need to be perfect. You want it thin enough so that it can be folded around the filling, but not so thin that it tears when you try to move it and doesn’t hold it’s shape. Eyeball it my friend. Below is dough in motion. I told you the pictures were bad. We’ll call it artistic. Impressionist.

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2. Once rolled, add a hefty blob of your filling to one half of the pasty, leaving about 3/4 inch of dough around the edge of your filled half. Dip your finger in a cup of water, and run it around the 3/4 inch of the dough that you left filling free. This will help to seal the pasty. Now fold the unfilled half of the dough over the filled half, to create a half circle shape.

3. Time to get fancy. You need to crimp the edges of the pasty so that no filling escapes during cooking. Make sure that your edges meet, and that your water seal has worked. Then fold the edges up towards the filling one time. Use your fingers to press down and make a crimped design. The picture below, of someone who has clearly spent too much time in a very hot kitchen, will show you what I mean.

4. Gently lift the pasty onto a greased baking sheet, and brush with beaten egg if you want that lovely golden look. You do.  Bake at 400°F for 25 minutes, and then lower to 350° for another 10 minutes.

5. Eat it! This recipe made 4 very large pasties, big enough to share if you’re feeling friendly.

Possibly the most glorious pasty ever produced in the great state if Wisconsin, which is probably a bold and untrue claim. But I was sweaty and proud. Just look at that flaky goodness.

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Lena’s Potato Dinner Rolls

My grandma’s best friend Lena bakes the best bread. Not only does she bake it, she shares it freely. It’s always a special treat when I visit home, and some of Lena’s dinner rolls magically appear at my grandma’s house. I’ve done some bread baking, here, here, and here, but hadn’t tried dinner rolls yet. I finally wrote to Lena, who gave me her recipe. I know she won’t mind me sharing it with all of you, since she’s such a generous person.

Lena’s Potato Dinner Rolls

Ingredients:
2 packets of yeast, dissolved in 1/2 cup warm water
3 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup mashed potatoes
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup warm water
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 cups of flour

1. Measure flour out into a large bowl.
2. Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup warm water
3. Mix all ingredients together, except for dissolved yeast and flour. Lena suggests using a blender for this part, to make sure that everything is thoroughly mixed.
4. Add dissolved yeast to mixture.
5. Pour wet ingredient mixture over the flour, and mix well.
6. Let mixture rise in the bowl. I covered mine and put it in a cool oven for about half an hour.
7. After first rise, punch the dough down, knead for a minute or two on a floured surface, roll into balls, and place in a lightly greased pan. I decided to make mine dinner roll sized, but you could make bigger ones to use for sandwiches and burgers.
8. Let rise again. I did another half an hour in a cool oven.
9. Bake at 375-400 for 8-10 minutes, until the tops brown. Remove from oven, cool on rack, and brush with melted butter if desired. Of course, I desired the butter.

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It’s like eating a really delicious cloud. Seriously.

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Earl Grey and Lavender Shortbread Cookies

I accidently bought more plants today. And by accidently I mean completely on purpose. The proceeds from the plant sale go towards various Madison children’s charities, so I don’t feel too guilty about spending money I don’t have. I came home with a white geranium and a pot of lavender. I tried growing lavender from seed for some silly reason, but it didn’t sprout so I had no choice but to buy some.

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Then I was inspired to bake. I haven’t had time to do much of anything in the kitchen for weeks now, so it was overdue. I decided it was time to use up the Earl Grey and Lavender infused sugar that I had left over from a baking disaster that took place last month. I don’t want to talk about it. Here we go!

Ingredients
2 cups of butter, softened

1 cup of Earl Grey and Lavender infused sugar. Not as fancy as it sounds. Basically you put 1 or 2 tablespoons of Earl Grey loose leaf tea and 1 or 2 tablespoons of dried food grade lavender in a food processor along with 1 or 2 cups of sugar and blend it up for a while. Then, let it sit in a closed container for a day or two (or 4 weeks if you’re me) so that it all mixes nicely together. You could choose to remove the lavender and tea bits before using the sugar, but I left those in. Because I’m lazy, and the bits make the cookies look interesting.

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

4 cups of all purpose flour

1. Cream together butter and sugar until fluffy.

2. Add vanilla, flour, and salt, and mix well.

3. Place dough in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to chill. It will be way to sticky to roll out if you don’t. I speak from experience.

4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a baking sheet.

5. Roll dough out onto a well floured surface, about 1/8 of an inch thick. You can go thicker if you want, just adjust your baking time. You’ll want to make sure your rolling pin is floured too. Over and over again. Flour that baby up. If not, it’s going to stick and you’re going to get upset and you’re going to cry. Again, experience talking here.

6. Cut out your cookies, place on baking sheet, and bake for 10-12 minutes. You have to watch shortbread closely, as it gets brown pretty quickly. I burnt the first pan. And the second pan. I caught on eventually. After taking the cookies out of the oven, I let them sit on the pan for about a minute before moving them to a rack to cool. They’re likely to break if you lift them off right away.

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They’re pretty nice with a cup of tea! You can see that I used my fancy little cookie cutter that Ad got me for Easter. Hangs right on to the mug! Genius.

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