Monday, April 30, 2007

Vegetarian Sheppard's Pie

I hadn't made one of these in a while, so it seemed like a good idea for Saturday night's dinner. Sheppard's pie is traditionally made with lamb, but there are a ton of vegetarian options out there. I used Yves brand Meatless Ground Round, but Quorn and Morningstar Farms both make excellent ground beef substitutes as well. Sheppard's pie is pretty forgiving, so whatever spices and veggies you have on hand should work out just fine. I do, however, feel that the mace is a particularly important flavor.

Veggie Sheppard's Pie:

1 package ground beef substitute
1 28oz can diced tomatoes
3/4 cup frozen corn
3/4 cup frozen peas
3 carrots, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
1 large onion, diced
2 tblsp olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tblsp old bay seasoning
1 tsp mace
1 tblsp parsley flakes
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder

-saute veggies and beef substitute in olive oil until they start to soften (about 10 minutes)
- add tomatoes and spices and simmer for about 20 minutes (until sauce starts to thicken)

1 lb red potatoes, diced
1/4 cup milk
1 tblsp butter
1/2 tsp salt
-meanwhile, boil salted water and cook potatoes until soft (about 20 minutes)
-mash potatoes with milk, butter and 1/2 tsp salt

-assemble filling in bottom of a large casserole dish and top with mashed potatoes
-bake at 375 for 15 minutes, or until potatoes begin to brown.

** Fun Fact!: I cut myself while making this dinner. Not with my knife, but on the box my butter came in. Go figure.

Listening:  Idlewild- "In Competition For The Worst Time"

Sunday, April 29, 2007

And Then Even Better . . .

. . . sometimes are the meals you don't cook yourself at all. On Friday night I had the most amazing dinner at Luna Park in LA including sweet poatoes that had been roasted and dressed in cilantro and lime. They were phenomenal . . . I'm going to have to try to figure that recipe out!

Listening:  Goldrush- "Let You Down"

Friday, April 27, 2007

Sometimes . . .

. . . even domestic divas need a night off in the kitchen. Thank goodness for grocery store shortcuts!!!

Listening:  Tom Vek- "I Aint Saying My Goodbyes"

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Oh Yarn Statsh, My Yarn Stash . . .

This is a photo of my chair. It is a simple, unassuming chair. It is good for sitting in, stacking piles of jackets on, and showing off my favorite blanket and pillow. But the chair has a sinister side as well. It is also my enabler. The truth is, dear reader, inside the hollow ottoman accompanying this chair lies a deep, dark secret. Yep, you guessed it, my yarn stash. Behold the horror: And of course, my obsession running deep as it does, I ordered even more yarn online last week. And, of course, I intend to use it all. I always INTEND to use it all. Its just that I'm a bit flighty at times and also a bit high strung. The high strung part of me likes small projects that I can complete in an evening and feel accomplished in so doing. The flighty part of me wants to try out EVERY said project that catches my eye and buys yarn accordingly.
Its a bitter dilemma . . . but fortunately a scrap hexagon afghan project has recently caught my eye. So if I manage to reign in my flightiness just a tad I should be able to take care of at least a few of the partial skeins in my stash. Should be . . .

Listening:  Goldrush - "Every One Of Us"

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Crocheted Lavender Cupcake Sachet

Just in case it seems that I've put crochet on the back burner, here's a small project to prove I haven't. I've been hard at work on a few big crochet projects that I'm not ready to post just yet, but on Sunday night I cranked out a few of these sachets for some instant gratification. Brief attempt at a semi pattern / tutorial to follow:

"Cake" part:
- w/ an H hook, chain 4, sl stitch in 1st chain to make a ring, ch 3, 9 dc in ring, sl st in 3rd chain of turning chain to join
- ch 3, 2 dc in next dc, 2 dc in each dc around ending w/ 1 dc in first space, sl stitch to join
- ch 2, 1 dc around the post in each dc around, sl st to join
- 2 rounds of 1 dc in each dc, sl st to join, fasten off leaving a 3 inch tail
"Frosting" part:
- w/ an H hook, chain 4, sl stitch in 1st chain to make a ring, ch 3, 9 dc in ring, sl st in 3rd chain of turning chain to join
- ch 3, 2 dc in next dc, 2 dc in each dc around ending w/ 1 dc in first space, sl stitch to join
- ch 3, *(2 dc in next dc, 1dc in next dc) around ending w/ sl stitch to join
- make 5 dc shell trim all the way around edge - this won't work out perfectly, so some shells you'll do sl st, skip 2 dc, 5 dc, skip 2, sl st and others you'll do sl st skip 1 dc, 5 dc etc.
- fasten off leaving about a 3 inch tail
- sew beads on to frosting using clear thread, tie off well underneath frosting
- loop a ribbon through the top of frosting and tie off underneath
- use loose tails and a tapestry needle to sew up any wide holes in your crocheted pieces
- stuff base w/ a bit of polyfil and a handful of lavender sewn up in a muslin pouch (you could i assume make these yourself using any type of potpourri in place of lavender, or you could use simple pre-made lavender stuffed clothes dryer bags like I do :))
- round off top of cupcake under frosting w/ a bit more polyfil and sew frosting to cake w/ a length of frosting colored yarn
- trim ends

These sachets smell absolutely heavenly and, despite all the fidgeting with needles and ribbons and whatnot, they really only take about 45 minutes to make. They're my new favorite thing . . . and of course they're 100% calorie free!

Listening:  Ravens and Chimes- "Saint Jude In The Village Voice"

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

My First Wristlet

Remember how I learned to make lined pouches and heard violins because I'd now be able to make all sorts of purses? Well, here goes the first one! I made this wristlet last night from a vintage pillowcase from goodwill, scrap fabric from Joann, vintage piping from a flea market and one of my vintage buttons.
The Wrights packaging that the piping came in was a real treat to open. On the inside was a note saying that if your child sews, you're welcome to send three trim wrappers back to Wrights in exchange for a parcel of trim scraps suitable for doll's clothes. What a precious idea!
This was my first attempt at using piping and since edging is a pretty difficult technique (especially without a pattern!) I was pretty pleased with how it came out. I made a bit of a mistake in one corner but I was able to fix it by hand sewing. Of course, I learned a bunch of things from this attempt that I'll be able to implement next time.
I used a bunch of interfacing which I really feel made the finished purse look so much more professional. This was also my first time using the Mixtape labels I made using satin ribbon and iron on transfers!
Overall, I'm pleased with how my wristlet came out! With a bit more practice I think I'll be ready to list these in my Etsy shop soon!

Listening:  The Electric Soft Parade- "Cold World" ALBUM OUT TODAY!!!

Monday, April 23, 2007

April Showers . . .

. . . are a great excuse to make a big pot of soup. Last night I made a vegetarian (of course) tortilla version using odds and ends I had lying around the kitchen and a few specially purchased ingredients. It was quick and easy (again, of course) and the nice big pot made for lots of leftovers for the freezer (yeah, i know, of course).

Veggie Tortilla Soup

5 pts. water
an equivelant amount veggie stock powder or cubes
kosher salt to taste
1 tblsp. ground cumin
1 cup roughly chopped cilantro
1/2 jalepeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped *
juice of 1/2 a lime *
1 green peper, diced
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 cup frozen white corn
1 28oz can diced tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
5 corn tortillas, torn into pieces
Garnish: shredded cheese and green onions

- set water in a large stock pot to boil
- add remaining ingredients (save tortillas) as you chop them
- simmer for 30 minutes
- add tortillas and simmer another 10 minutes
- remove from heat and puree with a stick blender
- garnish with shredded cheese and green onions

Makes 5 big bowls, you know the drill, eat what you want and freeze the rest in individual portions.
* I used the other halves of the lime and jalepeno to make a batch of fresh salsa. If you're not making salsa then, by all means, toss the whole jalepneo in there and use the entire lime.

Listening:  Electric Soft Parade- "If Thats The Case Then I Don't Know"

Sunday, April 22, 2007

A Weekend Dessert

So. Freaking. Good.
Ben & Jerry's Dublin Mudslide ice cream topped with Bailey's Irish Cream. The mudslide ice cream was really special, although I'd imagine this dessert would be just as incredible with any chocolate, vanilla or coffee based ice cream. Hm, perhaps I'll have another now . . .

Listening:  Cursive- "Dorthy At Forty"

Friday, April 20, 2007

One Potato, Two . . .

Not like anything actually needs to be done to improve upon the perfection that is a baked potato, but lately topped baked spuds have been my dinner of choice at least one night a week. They're healthy, filling, and REALLY easy. I can toss two in the oven after work and in an hour, without much further exertion on my part, dinner is done. If I toss two in the oven, lunch for the next day is done too. The toppings can be as simple or complex as I'm in the mood to prepare and are a great way to use up whatever I have lying around the kitchen late in the week.
Last night I hit upon an especially good combo. Cheese and onions are one of my all time favorite flavor combos, so I'm actually really surprised at how long it took me to think of putting them both on top of a potato. I'm glad I did it though . . . dinner was AMAZING!

Cheese and Onion Baked Potatoes:

2 baking potatoes
olive oil
kosher salt
1 tblsp butter
1 medium leek, rinsed and chopped
1/2 a medium onion, chopped
3/4 cup of grated white cheddar cheese

- wash potatoes, poke holes w/ a fork, rub with olive oil and salt and bake at 375 for an hour or until tender inside.
- when potatoes are almost done, saute onions and leeks with butter and a bit of salt until caramelized
- cut open hot potatoes and combine potato flesh w/ onion mixture
- top with cheddar cheese

serves 2, or makes 1 dinner and 1 lunch.

Listening:  The Jealous Sound- "Hope For Us"

Thursday, April 19, 2007

A Right Of Passage

I broke my first sewing machine needle last night!!! While setting my first zipper!!! And I actually knew how to change the needle after I broke it!!! I think this might make me an
"intermediate" sewer ;)
Last night I used e.r.i.k.a.'s INSANELY detailed tutorial on craftster to make two makeup bags. I still wasn't able to figure out how to use my zipper foot, but I managed to come up with a way to wrangle my machine so that I was able to sew the zippers in cleanly with my regular foot. The first bag came out wonky, but useable. The second is AWESOME and is storing all of my Bare Minerals makeup in my new, homesewn purse right now! I couldn't be prouder! This really is a whole new world . . . now that I know this technique there are a zillion new things I can try out. Like wristlets, embellished makeup bags, purses . . . the possibilities are almost endless! Ok, maybe not ENDLESS, but certainly enough to keep me entertained for a while.

Listening:  Hum- "Ms. Lazarus (Demo)"

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Reconstructed Tote Bag

A few weeks ago I bought an adorable tapestry panel from Goodwill for 99 cents. It wasn't the kind of thing I'd hang on my wall, but I thought it would make a perfect purse. I went straight from Goodwill to Joann's to find salvage fabrics to use constructing the panel into a tote bag. I found the most gorgeous, yummy celery green to use as a lining and strap contrast fabric, and a chocolate-y gold pinstripe fabric to use as the strap and backing.

After about two hours of sewing at home last night, my bag is all done! I'm carrying it as a purse today and it feels pretty good so far! There are a few things I'd do differently next time: I know I didn't set my strap properly and my lining is a teensy bit smaller than my bag. I'm certain there is a way to set the lining so it fits exactly, I've even come up with a vague idea of how to do it . . . I'll have plenty of new tricks to try next time! Overall though, I'm VERY proud of my first sewn purse!

Listening:  120 Days- "Come Out"

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Wanted: The Perfect Margarita Recipe

The margaritas at El Chavo in Echo Park are the most authentic ones I've had outside of Mexico. They're strong without being bitter, sweet without being cloying, and definitely not watery the way some mix-made margaritas can be. I've been trying in vain to replicate them at home for months and I've managed to perfect a recipe for jet fuel strength margaritas, but nothing particularly useful for serving to polite company. I wish I knew El Chavo's secret . . . I've tried spying on the bartender but since the margaritas are so popular there, they make them ahead of time and pour out glasses from a pitcher. Its driving me nuts that I can't figure out whats in that pitcher, especially considering all of my attempts have been better suited to stripping paint than to drinking. If anyone has the secret, let me in on it please!

Listening:  The Electric Soft Parade- "Kick In The Teeth"

Monday, April 16, 2007

Ladies, I Present to You . . .

. . . Exhibit "A": the number one reason to learn a bit of basic sewing and keep a few sewing items on hand at home. This dress was marked down to $9 from $60 because it had no buttons. I bought it on Friday, took it home and added 6 new buttons from my vintage collection. The entire process took me about 6 minutes and I wore the dress out the same night. I also pretty much haven't worn anything else since, but who's keeping track?

P.S: The necklace pictured here is from Adorapop's gorgeous Etsy shop. I have two of her pendants and I get a ton of comments every time I wear them. This one is called "The Untidy Princess" . . . I'm not sure if you can get much cooler than that!

Listening:  Camera Obscura- "Books Written For Girls"

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Friday Night Dinner

On Friday I wanted to make something special for dinner, but nothing to fancy, fussy or fattening. The recipes below are almost entirely vegetable (with the exception of a bit of cheese) so the dinner as a whole was really healthy. For the most part, it cooked itself too. An hour or so of simmering and baking and it was ready to go.

Fajita Baked Potatoes:
2 large russet potatoes
olive oil
kosher salt
1/2 a large yellow onion, sliced
1 bell pepper, sliced
1/2 cup grated white cheddar cheese
1 cup fresh salsa (recipe to follow)

-Wash potatoes well, puncture several times with a fork, rub with olive oil, sprinkle with kosher salt and bake unwrapped at 375 for 70 minutes.
-Sautee onions and peppers with a bit of olive oil and salt until caramelized
-Top hot baked potatoes with cheese, onion and pepper mixture and fresh salsa

Fresh Salsa:
1 cup tomatoes, seeded and chopped finely
1 large shallot, minced
1 large handful of cilantro, chopped
1/2 a jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced finely
juice of 1/2 a lime
kosher salt

-mix all ingredients together well

Easy Posole Soup:
(This recipe is a modified, vegetarian version of my dad's chicken posole recipe. Here I served it as a side to a larger dinner, but it also makes a great meal on its own. It is one of my favorite things to make when I have a cold as the spiciness of the soup really helps clear my head.)
-1 large onion, chopped
-2 large garlic cloves, minced
-1 can of white corn
-1 can of hominy
-2 small cans salsa verde
-6 to 8 cups water
-a relative amount of vegetable stock powder or cubes
-1 tsp fresh cracked black pepper

-Add all ingredients to a stock pot
-simmer for 40 minutes or until onions are soft and transparent
Makes 4 big bowls. Leftovers will freeze well.

Listening:  Division Day- "Colorguard"

Friday, April 13, 2007

A Cabinet for $9.99

I had the most amazing luck thrifting at Goodwill over the weekend. For $13 I bought two 7 inches for the boy (Simple Minds and Genesis), an LP of bagpipe music for me (so?), a Corelle gold daisies pattern creamer (I collect Corelle casseroles), a tapestry panel that I intend to reconstruct into a tote bag, and last but not least, the cabinet above. I've been searching for just the right table for that particular corner of my living room. And by searching I mean online, at furniture stores, at flea markets, pretty much everywhere. I never expected to find exactly the right table for $9.99, but I'm glad I did! I think it looks great . . . and the extra storage is always welcome. Right now it's storing part of my fabric collection.

Listening:  The Electric Soft Parade- "If Thats The Case Then I Don't Know"

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Crocheted Clutches

These have been my obsession lately. And I'm good at obsessing. This is one of those super quick and super easy projects that turns out looking like so much more than the sum of its parts. The body of each bag is a cotton, crocheted square with a picot edge and a button hole . . . basically an ever so slightly modified dish cloth. I crochet a few bag bodies, then sew up the sides making a T shaped pleat at the bottom so that the bag will sit flat on a table. I hot glue in a cardboard bottom to the inside of each bag (a FANTASTIC idea contributed by Catie, one of my non-crafter friends. Just genius!) then I pick a button (the fun part!) and sew up a lining.
I adore how these bags look so simple from the outside but are so much fun on the inside. I can get as creative as I want picking linings: the prints inside are essentially just a little joke between me and whoever carries the bag. The bags pictured are, in order: beach, pirate and moose themed. So much fun!
Total project time is about two hours. Easy as pie.

Listening:  Voxtrot- "Mothers Sisters Daughters Wives"

Carrot and Toasted Cumin Soup

The saga ends . . . I have FINALLY done it!!! In London last November my family and I were treated to the most insanely delicious Carrot and Toasted Cumin soup at Prêt a Manger. I went back to Prêt no fewer than three times on that two week trip to indulge my soup addiction. Of course, back home in Los Angeles, we don't have Prêt (a travesty, I swear. If any restaurant investors happen to be reading this, PLEASE look into franchising Prêt restaurants in the US. And Wagamamas. And perhaps The Cornish Pastie Co. Thanks.) Really, the only thing to do was to try to replicate the recipe. After six attempts ranging from downright inedible to semi successful, I think I have finally hit gold. Here's how I did it:

2 lbs carrots, shaved and cut into largeish chunks
2 medium russet potatoes, shaved and cut into largeish chunks
2 big onions (1 sweet and 1 yellow) chopped roughly
4 tblsp. butter
2 tblsp. olive oil
liberal sprinkling of salt
1 heaping tblsp. whole cumin seeds
1 big handful cilantro, chopped roughly
8 pints water (Yes, you're making a lot of soup. It'll freeze well.)
3 or 4 veggie stock cubes

-Place all veggies in a large stock pot with butter and oil and sweat over
medium heat until softened a bit (about 10 minutes)
-Add water, stock cubes, salt and cilantro, cover and simmer
-Place cumin seeds in a small, dry frying pan and cook over low heat, shaking pan often, until fragrant (about 5 minutes)
-Grind cumin seeds with a mortar and pestle (or a clean coffee grinder. or in a plastic bag with a hammer) (I'm serious about the hammer) and add to stock pot
-Simmer over medium heat for about 30 minutes or until carrots are soft enough to mash with a fork
-Remove soup from heat and puree with a stick blender

Makes 4 huge bowls or 6 smaller ones.
Listening:  Goldrush - "Heaven Is My Destiantion"