Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Mid-week Malaise

I'm feeling sleepy today and no amount of caffeine seems to be helping. So far I've had a huge mug of chai, a huge mug of coffee, and a huge mug of strong black tea. I have reached the point where I'm not wanting to go back to bed and nap, but I'm certainly not feeling 100%.  In an attempt to get myself going I've tried both indoor and outdoor tasks on my to-do list. You know how sometimes you just need some fresh air and physical activity to wake up? Yeah, it didn't work.  It did get more mulch spread in the kitchen garden, and another coat of spray paint on those shelves that are taking forever to finish, so at least it wasn't a wasted effort.

Mulch going down in the kitchen garden.

Also, Blogger doesn't want to let me add photos today using the updated editor.  Grr.  After trying and failing to get it to work, even after visiting the help forums this morning, I finally tricked it by reverting to the old editor, adding photos, then switching back to the new editor so that I could add captions and make them as large as I like.  Really annoying Blogger.  I definitely see the appeal of switching to Wordpress.  

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Friday Fun: In the Neighborhood

My very best friend is having a baby!  Holy mackerel will it be a cute baby.  (It's a boy).  I can already see that I'm going to be one of those fake-aunt crazy ladies who buys/makes tons of things for her kid.  Luckily she's an only child, so there are no real aunts whose toes I'll be stepping on.  I spent the morning brainstorming an imaginary nursery for her.  She and her husband are about to move into a new place, so I have no idea what the space will actually look like, but I'm super familiar with all of her furniture and tastes, so I think I've come up with some good stuff.  Will share later.

After being on the computer all morning, I thought I'd take a quick jaunt out into the neighborhood to find a little fun.  (That's slim pickings down here... you'll see).

First stop the library, where I returned a couple of books and then skimmed the fiction shelves for a pile of easy reading.  Nice shallow chic lit and historical mysteries, perfect for the weekend.

Then I hit up the local Goodwill.  Thrift stores are usually pretty indicative of the demographic of that neighborhood, have you noticed that?  My neighborhood is not trendy.  Our local Goodwill is generally pretty terrible, but if you look closely you can find something here and there.

This is the only thing I bought.  It's a silk tunic with a watercolor flower motif.  It needs a little work.  Maybe shortening the sleeves, or cutting them off altogether?  Its already less dowdy looking just with a belt.

I did not buy this small chalkboard which is a great size for a kitchen or office or kids room, because I don't have any wall space in my kitchen.  If anyone else wants it-- S. Valley Goodwill, $5.99-ish.

Didn't buy this earth-toned ceramic lamp either.  It was $14.99 which seemed bizarrely expensive to me. That's part of my dislike for this Goodwill, it seems to have really random pricing.  If you had a really awesome Eco-California-Natural style going on, it could be great.  (Or you know, wicked styling skills in the manner of Emily Henderson, most recent Design Star winner).

Example of random pricing, this brass chandelier was only $7.99.  It would look great painted black, but I didn't buy it because my ceilings are low, and chandeliers don't work.

This hand-painted Virgin of Guadalupe was $4.99.  Seriously?  It should have been $0.50.  I might have bought it then.  (What?  Its New Mexico, we really like the Virgin of Guadalupe here.  I'm not immune.)

And that was it.  I told you slim pickings.  What was your Friday fun?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Culinary Chronicles: Apí de Quinoa (Quinoa Breakfast Drink)

Spirit of the Earth: Native Cooking from Latin America by Beverly Cox & Martin Jacobs.
Last week my friend Maggie mentioned that she's been making variations of quinoa everyday.  It reminded me of all of the ways I like to eat quinoa, particularly this recipe for a hot breakfast drink.  It comes from one of my mom's cookbooks, full of recipes from South America, and is really more a part of her cooking repertoire than mine.  Its a great winter breakfast, just as tasty for adults as for kids-- and think about that shot of liquor mentioned by the author at the end, the next time you are feeling under the weather.

Straight from the Spirit of the Earth cookbook:

Apí de Quinoa -- Hot Quinoa Breakfast Drink (serves 4 to 6)

1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
5 cups water
One 2- to 3-inch cinnamon stick (preferably Mexican cinnamon)
3 whole cloves
1 cup evaporated milk or half-and-half
4 to 6 TBSP sugar, to taste
3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
Pinch of salt

Rinse the quinoa well in two or three changes of cold water, then drain.  Put it in a blender with 1 cup of the fresh water, and liquefy it.  Combine the remaining 4 cups water, the cinnamon, and the cloves in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Gradually whisk in the quinoa mixture.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring often so that it doesn't stick to the pan.  Stir in the evaporated milk, sugar, vanilla, and salt, and continue to cook until hot.  Pour the api through a strainer into a pitcher or directly into 4 to 6 mugs.  Note: Apí de quinoa may be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days.  Just reheat it before serving.

The author also says that adults often add a shot of pisco or rum to their drink if they feel a chill coming on.

Weekend Edition: Fall Gardening Tasks

Nothing very exciting happened this weekend.  It was mostly putting up food for the winter-- more refrigerator dills, more green chile roasting, making and freezing pesto, and making an freezing tomatillo salsa.  There was also brunch with friends at Café Green downtown.  I had veggie crepes and my friends both had the Dutch baby pancake.  Delicious.

What I failed to do was actually pick anything from the garden.  Oops.  That resulted in this giant zucchini that I picked this morning.  Same old same old on the harvest front.  Not complaining though, look at all those tomatoes!  And the sunflowers!

And yes, I take most of my food photos on the top of the wash machine at my mom's house.  It's not sexy certainly, but its the only plain surface with dependably bright natural light.  I had to cover the supply pipes with a cloth because that was just too ugly!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday Fun: Fashion Sensibility

This is my first grade school picture.  I was wearing a brown and blue liberty print dress, which was pretty awesome in retrospect, but a year or so after it was taken I thought this was the most boring outfit ever, and felt the need to embellish each remaining copy with glitter.  It makes me laugh, because I think it pretty much sums up my personality to this day.  A fairly boring dresser most days, occasionally I like to really wear something crazy.  I came across the picture in some box as I was clearing out my office last year and its been clipped to my frig ever since.  This afternoon when I was thinking that I should do a Friday Fun post it's glitter surface caught my eye.

What aspects of your style have followed you throughout your life?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Culinary Chronicles: Lemony Roasted Potato Salad

It's still hot here despite feeling like the beginning of Fall.  What does that mean from a culinary perspective?  It means that we still eat a lot of meals outside like it's summer, but its not too hot to use the oven, and those more wintery means of preparation start to sound appealing.  You know, like braising or roasting.

Last week I wanted something hardier than a green salad for dinner, but something that was quick to prepare and could make a one-dish dinner.  I roasted some potatoes and boiled a couple of eggs and mixed up a slightly more Fall-like version of a classic potato salad.  Because it had multiple variations of lemon-- preserved, fresh juice, and lemon balm-- it still tasted summery too.  It was delicious, so I jotted down the recipe to share.

Lemony Roasted Potato Salad  (Makes 4 generous servings).

12 medium potatoes cut into 1 inch cubes, leave skins on
1 small-medium onion finely sliced
1/4 to 1/2 cup finely chopped mint and lemon balm (to taste, substitute herbs as available)
3 sprigs fresh rosemary, finely chopped
4 eggs, hard-boiled and chopped into coarse pieces
1/2 of a large preserved lemon rind, rinsed and finely chopped
3 to 4 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
4 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
good dash of black pepper

Toss cubed potatoes with enough of the olive oil to lightly coat it, reserve the rest of the oil for the dressing.  Toss in the preserved lemon rind, rosemary, salt and pepper and spread on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Roast in a 425° F oven for 25-30 minutes, or until potatoes are browned but not too crunchy.  In a bowl combine roasted potatoes, chopped eggs, fresh herbs, lemon juice and remaining olive oil and toss well.  Serve slightly warm.

Lemon balm isn't an herb that I use very often, but I planted some this spring and it seemed like a good fit here.  My go to herbs from the garden are mint, tarragon, basil, garlic chives and rosemary.  Oh, and I like lavender sometimes especially for baking.  I expanded my herb garden this year to include marjoram, oregano, sorrel, pineapple sage (really good in lemonade), and lemon balm, but I haven't yet got in the habit of using those herbs regularly.  What herbs do you grow, and which do you find yourself using all the time?

Weekend Edition: The Beginning of Fall

I tried to sit outside and read a couple of old Dominos, but the apples that needed picking kept calling my name.

Whew, many of my weekends are so busy that I feel like Mondays should be the real day of rest.  Its slightly overcast today, making me really feel like a nap is in order.  This weekend's big project was weeding and mulching a big area around the kitchen garden, in addition to normal weekend things like irrigating, baking, laundry, etc.  I've got a couple of recipes in line for posts, but writing them up and processing their accompanying photos is going to take a little more energy than I have today.  For now, here are a couple of photos from the early fall garden.

Garlic chives in bloom.
Even though winter is my least favorite season, sometimes I look forward to it for the sole reason that all the work that a big garden entails is over for a few months.  Anyone else feeling summer chore burnout?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Garden Update: Figs

This was my largest single harvest of figs this year.  Ten.  
Not many figs this year, but at least they were tasty.  We ate them fresh with a little goat cheese and balsamic vinegar and a glass of white wine.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Project Updates: Bentwood Chairs

Discovered via Remodelista.

This is the Vienna Side Chair, produced by Thonet and currently sold at Crate&Barrel for $119 (also available in white).  Since it is exactly the same type of Thonet chair that I have sitting in storage awaiting my illustrious painting skills, can I just tell you that this is one of my chairs and that particular project is completed and looking fantastic?  No?  You are on to me and my lying ways, and know full well that the chairs are languishing waiting to be started?  Oh well, at least I know where to buy a sixth chair, since I only have five.  I am planning to paint mine matte black, so I kind of like the idea that a new one would be shiny in comparison.

Weekend Edition: Labor Day

We had perfect weather over the Labor Day weekend and everyone in the neighborhood was outside enjoying it.  We grilled on both Saturday and Sunday evenings, one night over a wood fire that we built to roast green chile outside.  Ah, green chile roasting-- its a sure sign of fall, and therefore a fitting activity for the last official weekend of summer.

Our property is relatively large for an urban area, yet this is the loudest neighborhood I've ever lived in.  Sound just carries.  As a result the soundtrack for many of our outdoor activities was provided by the neighbors.  First live music from the neighbors to the north, and then country and oldies from the neighbors to the east.  It could only be illustrated by a video.