There has been a flurry of cooking activity around here, but since baby Iris insists upon keeping us on our toes, there never seems to be time for picture-taking. It would be cruel for me not to share the following goodies with you though:
- The best salad I’ve made in a long time: spinach with dates, pita, and sumac, from Jerusalem. Since I find spinach a pain to buy and wash, I usually just use a crunchy lettuce for weekday meals. The true brilliance is the pita bread and almonds toasted in butter and olive oil, with a dusting of sour sumac and spicy red pepper flakes. I’m pretty sure you could put the pita/almond croutons on anything and it would be amazing! As proof of my love for this recipe, we recently bought an entire package of pita bread to put in the freezer expressly for making this salad (a frozen pita can be nicely warmed up under the broiler and then torn into pieces and toasted as described in the recipe). This one is at the top of the list for a reason, people!
- OK, it’s possible that I’m slightly obsessed with Jerusalem, because the second thing on this list of loves is their recipe for mejadra. I found the serious eats post helpful, because oh man does the onion frying take forever! And don’t do what I did and fry the onions the day before, stick them in the fridge, and then have them turn out all limpy and sad at the time of serving. You see, the fried onions were absolutely delicious when freshly fried (in fact, a good number of them mysteriously disappeared in the kitchen before the frying was complete…). This is comfort food at its best!
- More dumplings! And I used 1/3 whole wheat flour in the wrappers this time (yes, it was out of necessity; funny how keeping white flour in the house is nearly impossible when someone bakes two loaves of bread a week). I made a stuffing of 1 lb. ground beef, 1 egg, soy sauce, apple cider vinegar, chives, and salt (roughly trying to follow this recipe, but without most of the ingredients on hand). They. Were. Amazing. I even watched a number of youtube videos on how to fold the dumplings in different ways. It may have gotten a little out of hand. Usually we eat all the dumplings more quickly than is probably healthy, but this time I tried freezing them (raw) on a cookie sheet and enjoyed dumplings for lunch twice before Peter caught on and insisted we eat the rest of them for dinner so he would get to finally try them.
- My mom made us lemon-ginger scones while she was visiting
Peter and I baby Iris. I always forget how much I love fresh scones and will now spend a couple days trying to forget again.
- Peter’s mom and brother went to Europe, and all we got was a bag of Kamut! Just kidding, they brought us back some other things too (like a packet of petersilie, errmm, that’s parsley in German). The Kamut has been fun though! We made a salad with carrots and avocado based on this recipe, mostly motivated by the fact that it involved chipotle. Next time I will roast the carrots as suggested, and perhaps add more veggies.
- This one is more of a first attempt: Ghirardelli brownies! I found a recipe that seems to suggest that I could make them at home, without a boxed brownie mix. As many of you might intuit, this made me crazy excited. Until I realized that the one thing that makes this recipe different from my tried-and-true beau-catcher brownies is a specialty ingredient that I’d never even heard of before: ground chocolate. But it’s not like it’s actually grated chocolate, because I think it includes some cocoa powder too. My first attempt involved adding two ounces of melted Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate to the recipe and cutting down on the sugar only slightly. The brownies were amazing, but they didn’t have the simultaneous fluffy and totally gooey thing going on that I was hoping for. Maybe I should give up and just buy boxed brownie mix…
- Finally, speaking of sweets, we have two more bottles of cherry wine left, and the first one is being made into cherry wine chocolate cakes (this time using coconut oil – an extra tablespoon, an extra tidbit of wine to make up for not including the jam, vanilla beans instead of powder, and baked for 30 minutes at 300 degrees F). While I usually don’t share my healthy sweet baked goods with friends (not when the alternative is to have Jen make a chocolate and peanut butter dessert orgasm, David make homemade ice cream, or Rachel make any number of amazing non-chocolate desserts), this one is actually pretty good. I know, a glowing recommendation. I’ve made it a bunch of times (we did have a lot of bottles of sour cherry wine to use up!), and if nothing else, I don’t feel bad eating it for breakfast.
In other news, after literally months of neglect on my part, I’ve started planting things in the garden again. Peter, the good sport that he is, continued to water everything even when I was too pregnant to feel like gardening and then recuperating from the big event. Thankfully, almost everything survived, including rhubarb, strawberries, bush beans, numerous greens (I think Peter may have tried to neglect these on purpose, not that he would admit it), garlic, and two potato plants. I’ve almost finished planting the whole rest of the garden already! Mostly because I tell myself I need to get outside and get exercise, which results in marathon gardening sessions often ending in my receiving a phone call from Peter that Iris is awake and HAS TO HAVE FOOD NOW! Oh babies, they’re so much fun :)
Yet another version of the Moneta Dress by Colette Patterns. This one inspired by the fact that it does sometimes get rather chilly here in the winter time (or just whenever the sun decides it’s had enough of us). I tried two new things with this dress: lining the bodice and extending the skirt to make a maxi dress that would keep my legs warm on my walk into work. Useful lessons learned include actually lining the bodice with the same color fabric as used on the outside (I’m forever tucking the lining fabric in so it doesn’t show) and the fact that after lots of stretching during the cutting and sewing process, it’s best to wash your dress before finishing the bottom hem (the length of the dress decreased by at least an inch after I washed it, which, in this case, was a good thing). This is by far my favorite version of the Moneta dress, with the bodice lining making the top incredibly comfortable and the large skirt acting like a tent that I can curl up inside.
Despite relative radio silence, we have been busy making things, some of them more useful than others.
1) One of my goals for this year has been to sew oven mitts to replace the foam-shedding ones we’ve literally worn to pieces. Peter makes a lot of bread that requires handling some 450+ degree enameled cast iron on a bi-weekly basis, and, like any sane person, he likes to wear protection. Unfortunately, my oven mitt prototype, while very comfy for a small-handed individual, is like a straight-jacket for Peter. The overall design seems sound though, with extra reinforcement for the areas that I’ve noticed get the most wear in our commercial oven mitts (like the sneaky area between the hand and thumb that has led to both Peter and I accidentally burning ourselves while wearing what we thought were trustworthy oven mitts). The outside is denim from an old pair of Peter’s jeans and the inside is many layers of cotton knit from one of Peter’s old t-shirts. The entire oven mitt was stitched by hand, mostly because I didn’t want to subject my sewing machine to sewing so many layers of fabric together. Now if only I can motivate myself to do it all again in a larger size, twice!
2) After making a hand bag inspired by the Colette Cooper pattern, I’ve been hankering to make a larger version that could actually be used to carry more than my laptop (amazingly enough, my first Cooper-inspired hand bag does indeed just fit my lap top; I clearly should have done some measurements first!). This new bag is grey corduroy on the outside and an awesome child astronaut cotton print on the inside. I tried to make the pockets deeper this time so that they would actually hold things, but otherwise just followed the instructions for squaring the bottom of the bag as shown on the Cooper Sewalong. It’s intended purpose is for carrying around small articles of clothing and other odds and ends related to the third item on this list…
3) Which brings me to a project that has taken a full nine months to complete:
Program: Overture to Manfred (Robert Schumann), Piano Concerto in A minor (Clara Schumann), Symphony No. 1 in C minor (Johannes Brahms)
Conductor: Steven Sloane
Pianist: Natasha Kislenko
Narrator: Peter Strauss
This past weekend I learned that I regret waiting five years to go to the symphony here in Santa Barbara. I think it was a combination of unwarranted snootiness (the Philadelphia Orchestra that I went to as an undergrad is one of the “Big Five”–not that I could tell the difference) and plain old business/laziness, but thanks to a gift from a friend Anna and I finally attended the symphony here, for their “Valentine’s Love Letters” concert.
The use of a narrator to introduce the Robert-Clara-Johannes love triangle and read their love letters was an interesting choice, but it helped give a bit of context to the works (not that they really had anything to do with their love for each other). Sloane, the conductor, was a lot of fun to watch as well, being more physical than I remember Eschenbach being in Philadelphia. The lead viola also had a crazy hipster mustache.
The music, of course, was great. Anna liked Clara’s work the most; I thought it was great until the middle of the second movement–there is a period where the piano trades off with the cello, and after that it starts on the path to a great and energetic section but in my opinion never quite gets there. I preferred the Brahms symphony, of course–finally we have someone who knows how to use the back section of the orchestra. I have a special place in my heart for Brahms No. 3, but nevertheless I thought this one was damn good.
The moral of the story: go to the symphony, wherever you are, whenever you get the chance.
You may remember that I have a slight, err, problem, when it comes to Colette Sorbettos. The truth of it is, I haven’t gone clothes shopping for more than shoes, socks, and tights since I started sewing over a year ago now. And as the only shirt style I have tried to sew and actually liked wearing is the sorbetto, they now take up considerable real estate in the closet. What with a return to sewing separates in a multitude of mabels, it occurred to me that I finally have a good excuse for making a similar number of tops. That, and I was gifted the most lovely astronomy-themed fabric by my sewing friend Alicia. Seriously, this fabric is out of this world! (ehem, sorry about that) I’ve seen quite a few space or galaxy themed fabrics floating around the sewing blogosphere, but nothing that compares to the real thing… until now.
Unfortunately (for viewing purposes), I decided to use the darkest sections of the fabric for my newest sorbetto experiment, but you can still see the splatter of stars in what reminds me of an image of our very own Galaxy. Since the fabric is so light, I decided to make a looser fit sorbetto, sewing the pleat only at the top. I have a black tank top that I wear underneath to keep things PG.
If scientists had uniforms based on their area of research, mine would involve a whole dress made out of this fabric (for example this beauty here). But before you get too excited about a Galaxy dress, I should tell you that it isn’t happening any time soon. You see, this fabric was tricky to work with and is so sheer that I would have to line it, a skill with which I am still unacquainted. I was actually so frustrated with this fabric that I ended up finishing the neck and arm holes by hand, just so I wouldn’t have to make and attach bias tape.
One final note: I’m not the only person obsessed with sorbettos, for example see this, that, or the other.
The limoncello was finished quite awhile ago, and it’s been well enjoyed since then. There are certainly some alterations I would make to the recipe, but first let me state how it was finished.
In mid-June (about two months after I started), I boiled four cups of water and dissolved three cups of sugar into it. In an attempt to reduce the sugar-water a bit, I let it boil for a while, but eventually gave up. It had a somewhat syrup-like consistency. This was added directly to the lemon-alcohol extract, and I let it sit in the cabinet for another couple weeks. I then put it in wine bottles for serving. I got just over two 750 mL bottles out of it (see picture), which means that it is a bit under half the strength of the original 750 mL bottle of everclear–that is, it is now about the strength of most hard liquors (just under 40% ABV).
The color of the limoncello is a bit… browner… than I would like. This I attribute to the sugar: I used unrefined pure cane sugar (or something–I don’t remember exactly but the sugar was a bit darker than typical table sugar), so were I to repeat this I would use refined white sugar. I would also cut the sugar content in half; this is somewhat too sweet for me. It’s only a bit sweeter than what I remember the commercial limoncello of Italy to be, but my personal taste would have it much less sweet.
After trekking across a dormant volcano in an elastic-waisted skirt that is very sadly past its prime, I knew I needed to make a replacement. Thankfully I am no more scared of altering patterns than I am of deviating from recipes, so I decided to try the Colette Zinnia skirt pattern with an elastic waist. The alteration was easy really, I just ignored the waistband and added 1-inch elastic to the top of the skirt pieces. The end result is both comfy and practical, sporting the hidden pockets I’ve come to rely on for hiding keys and my phone while I’m at work. I actually made this skirt ages ago, around the time I made my first Zinnia, but perhaps because I didn’t wear my hiking Zinnia much at first, I never posted pictures. Well, it is now one of my most worn pieces of clothing, perfect in hot weather with its light layers of cotton whipping in the breeze and equally perfect for cold weather with either tights or a Colette Mabel skirt layered underneath. The only thing I would change next time is to make the skirt less full. I didn’t sew the skirt to the elastic anywhere but the middle of the back (which I could only identify easily once I’d added a “tag”), so the fullness tends to migrate towards the skirt front.