Monday, December 30, 2013

Craft Project: New Year's Table Setting

This table runner is so simple, but so festive, I may use it year round!

Find yourself some nice heavy cotton zig zag fabric. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Making a Holiday Tree: Part 2

Yay! I finally completed my handmade Seussical Holiday tree!  I started out by trying to make an all cardboard tree which I quickly realized was going to look bulky and maybe a bit amateurish so I took it apart and started over with more of a mixed-media approach.

Delicious Bread Crumb Topping Makes a Simple Meal Special

 I have recently become addicted to bread crumbs.  Not boring bread crumbs added into things to thicken them, but reveling in the deliciousness of the crumb itself.  You can start with any base: ready made bread crumbs (Panko style is good), rye bread, white, day old pita or whole wheat bread.  I really like to use dark rye bread or Dave's Killer 21 Grain Bread.  If you want a gluten free option, you can use crumbled up potato chips instead for a decadent topping.  (Be sure to use a thicker chip, like Tim's Cascade.)

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Play Date with Metal

I had a zillion things I was supposed to do last weekend but I was reckless and blew them all off to go play with metal all day Saturday at the Tacoma Metal Arts Center.

It's my friend Kimberly's fault.  She had a gift certificate for a class and asked if I was interested. I studied making jewelry at North Seattle Community College way back in my early twenties and after getting my degree in sculpture, I haven't played around much with jewelry except tinkering around with reclaimed tin and wire work.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Hosting a Blind Wine Tasting

 Hosting a regular old wine tasting is fun and all but once a year, we like to hold a blind wine tasting party.  This is when nobody knows what they are drinking and they try to guess.

It's best if you pick a theme.  You could try different varietals, say Merlot, Cabernet, Malbec, and Grenache and try to have everyone pick out which one is which.  This is harder than you think.  When we went to a tasting like this with 6 reds, only one person of 12 of us had even 3 correct!  You could pick regions to compare: a French Merlot versus a Washington Merlot, for example.

I decided on a Malbecs around the world tasting.  Now all I needed was the wine and the supplies.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

True Diary of a Part Time Vegan

What's that?  How can you be a part time vegan?  Let me tell you a little story about my journey to being a part-time, nearly full-time vegan.

I started getting more interested in healthy eating about 2 years ago.  I tried off and on over the years to go to the gym, which I thought was the number one thing about being healthy.  I was in my late thirties, had just run a half marathon and realized that I actually wasn't in that good of shape and I was overweight.  Like, oh, so many other people, I joined Weight Watchers.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Making a Holiday Tree Part 1

UPDATE:   Check out my Making a Holiday Tree Part 2 to see the results!

Can you believe I just turned 40 and I have never, ever put up a holiday tree in my adult life?  I think I had a roommate or two over the years that put one up but I never had to deal with watering one or worrying about needles falling all over the place or the cat climbing into the branches.  I don't really celebrate Christmas except to eat a big meal with family and friends but this year I am going all out.  

We are hosting my husband's company party for starters.  And then having a big dinner party a week after that and then hosting lots of family members the actual week of Christmas.  So I decided it was time to get it together, and decorate.  

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Homemade Dog Biscuits

 Dog biscuits and treats are ridiculously expensive.  And full of weird additives.  Now, I am not an advocate of cooking my dog his food or anything, but I have pondered the idea of making him his own treats for over a year.  Luckily, we taught him to like carrots right off the bat and that is always a cheap, healthy treat to give him.  (OK, maybe he doesn't even absorb anything because his poo is orange the next day but we figure it gives him fiber.)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

40 X 40: Make Green Gazpacho

 I somehow always manage to choose the food items off my yearly lists and this year's 40 x 40 is no exception.  Straight to the food items!  I have felt a master of the universe as far as red gazpacho goes, but had never tried a green gazpacho.  No green tomatoes here.  This is a solid base of spinach and cucumbers and green peppers and hearty bread.

 It comes from one of my most favorite cookbooks---Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi.  This London based Jerusalem transplant owns several restaurants and they all sound delicious.  On a whim, I tried to make a reservation at Ottolenghi a couple months out.  I thought, hey, if I can get a reservation, we will find a way to get to London this summer.  No go.  This guy is as popular as Momofuku or Per Se. 

What is so interesting about this vegetarian cookbook is that it is not arranged in the typical salad- soup-entree manner.  Instead, the various chapters are made up of different vegetables and vegetable families.  Almost all of the ingredients are readily available with maybe only a few items coming from your local southeast Asian or Middle Eastern market.   I also made the eggplant dish that is on the cover and it came out as beautiful as his picture!  His other book Jerusalem (co-authored with Sami Tamimi) has meat in it and is a fabulous book as well.  Another one that is already out in Europe is coming out in the states in September and I am already on the waiting list!


I took a nutrition class this year (post on this coming soon) and it made me really stop and think about what I am eating.  I know I cook a lot from scratch already and use a lot of whole foods and eat a lot of vegetables.  But the class really gave me an understanding of a plant based diet which led me further down the rabbit hole in terms of vegetarianism, even veganism.  (Is that a word?  I don't think so.)  Anyways, more posts coming on that as well but for now I just want to show you how delicious this green gazpacho was.  
 I was totally stressed because one of my husband's employees--vegetarian!---employee was coming over for dinner and usually I try to impress at my dinner parties with some big fancy meat thing so this was a little test for me to rearrange my thinking.

And it went off without a hitch! 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Time to De-Clutter

 I am hitting up the Spring cleaning a little late this year, but better late than never!  At the beginning of the year we started to change our diet into a more Mediterranean style diet with a lot less processed foods and more lean meats/fish, olive oil, tons of fruits and veggies, and nuts.  Nuts.  I try to buy things in bulk and then all the little bags get stacked up and I think I am out of one nut and buy more and the other day my husband was going through the cupboard and asked, 'Why do you have 3 packages of pecans?  And not any almonds?'  It was time to take action.  Hopefully these jars will do the trick.   

While I was at it, I realized we needed to clean up the sloppy front entrance to our house.  We always wanted a nice entry way and now we have been in this house a year and a half and have a nice entry way that looks completely slovenly.  I kept thinking we would get some sort of wardrobe to put there but it never happened.   

This is a step in the right direction but I just need to keep control of the shoe situation.  

Finally, the opposite side of the entry was getting pretty cluttered too.  The fireplace screen is there to block the dog from getting to the cat's food.  But I think it just looked cluttered.   

Enter red leather bench!  This solved a whole bunch of problems.  I put all the hats and gloves that were cluttered around the shoes into the bench for easy access.  The bench has the extra bonuses that we can move it into the living room for extra seating at parties and use it to take our shoes on and off in the entry instead of tromping dirt all over the house.  We are still going to feed the cat here but I just move the screen blocking the dog in the kitchen to in front of the food when the dog is loose.  

And the cat has a new place to perch too.  Now I only have about 10 other spaces to tackle!

Friday, May 3, 2013

40 X 40: Visit Object Focus: The Bowl Exhibit

Visiting this exhibit as the Portland Museum of Contemporary Craft was a great way to start out my 40 X 40 list and get my creative juices mobilized.  This exhibit, Object Focus: The Bowl is really about trying to create a dialogue within the arts community.  They encourage you to write, draw, respond to what you see at the museum and make you reflect upon the humble bowl and how little it has changed over thousands of years.The second part of the exhibit, starting May 16th, is going to be more interactive with a bowl library and events with local chefs and the like.  I guess I will have to go back and see the exhibit again! 
 The day I went to the museum it was free to go in because they are in the middle of installing the second part of the bowl exhibit.  I bought a membership anyways because I have been wanting to support this museum for a long time.   I was the only visitor wandering around among the bowls and the docent was very enthusiastic about talking about my favorite bowl or answering any questions.

Above is a bowl made of plastic knives.  Below is a carved stone Native American mortar. 
I love all the variety of bowls but felt like they shied on the side of too few bowls and the 50's and 60's were entirely over-represented for my taste.  I would have preferred a few more made in the last year as well as some more that were over 100 years old.

The one below is a hand painted wooden bowl.  Little tiny dots.  Lovely.  The plexiglass case made it hard to get a good photo.

Scale, texture, color; when you stop to look at them abstractly, they are little tiny sculptural works of art.

Even though I like to go to this museum every year, I actually heard about the exhibit on the New York Times in a great article about the impetus to put together this show and a link to the tumblr page where you are encouraged to upload a photo of a bowl and explain why it is interesting/important to you.  You can spend a couple of hours just reading the stories and looking at all the beautiful bowls attached by readers. 

These little bowls caught my eye.

Finally, when pressed by the docent on what my favorite bowl was, I had to admit it was this little brushed silver bowl.  This surprised me a little as I came in thinking I would be drawn to an organic, hand sculpted one.  Probably made on a metal lathe, but also possibly hand forged, it is absolutely delicate and strong at the same time.  And so, so soft with that finish.  I wanted to hold it and run my hands along the inside of it.  
If you are anywhere near Portland, get thyself to the Museum of Contemporary Craft!  (But after May 16th so you can catch all the added interactive goodies!)

Sunday, April 28, 2013

40 X 40

For the last few years I have been making a to-do list of things I want to get done before my next birthday.  Since I took a 6 month hiatus on my blog this year, I have less than 6 months to get 40 things done before I turn 40.  Hence the name 40 x 40.  Let me not waste anymore time.  Note: I of course have already been carrying a mental list in my head for a few months and am well on my way to start checking off some items!


1) Re-do front yard.
2) Go to New York and Washington DC.
3) Sew curtains for guest bedroom.
4) Paint living room/kitchen.
5) Write sci-fi/fantasy novel(la).
6) Attend Seattle Opera's Ring Cycle and make a different hat to wear to each of the 4 operas.
7) Buy/make headboard for new bed.
9) Apply to 6 public art mosaic jobs.
10) Attend a 1st Thursday Art Walk in Seattle.
11) Walk 4 loops (10 miles) straight at Point Defiance OR walk half marathon. 
12) Adopt a new pet. (Most likely a kitten)
13) Throw a dinner party for 20.
14) Paint new paintings to display at Carol's wine shop.
15) Have 50 items listed on ETSY shop.
16) Finish re-do of art website.
17) Octopus tattoo.  (Finally)
18) Make bitters.
19) Take glassblowing class.
20) Take dancing lessons.
21) Take distillery class.
22) Re-organize closet-get rid of old clothes!
23) Sew a skirt.
24) Perfect a French macaroon recipe.
25) Attend a performance at the Seattle Symphony or Tacoma Opera.  Or both.
26) Buy a dehydrator--experiment with farmers' market bounty.
27) See a movie in "3D".
28) Make new statement necklace for self.
29) Donate blood.
30) "Plein air" painting at Point Defiance Park.
31) Day hike at state park.  (Use our new Discovery Pass!)
32) Put together some sort of pop-up art show/fundraiser.
33) Host a martini party.
34) Stamp/paint on silk.
36) Create online class.
37) Read Al Gore's new book, The Future.
38) Go through craft and art supplies and donate unused/under used supplies.
39) Host a mini golf party.
40) Finish putting our financial things in order.  (Re-fi, new bank, will, etc)

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

When the Cookbooks Almost Took Over the Kitchen

For years turning into decades, I have studiously kept my cookbook shopping to a minimum.  If I bought a new cookbook, I would donate an old one that I didn't cook from that often.  I don't know why I felt I should keep the cookbook clutter to a such a minimum.  I mean, cooking is one of my favorite hobbies.  I have no problem hoarding beads or fabric or art books, but cookbooks I thought I should keep in check.  I allowed myself 2 shelves next to our stove and that was it. 

But something snapped in me at the end of last year and I started going cookbook crazy.  I discovered the Jerusalem born chef Yotam Ottolenghi for a start.  I also acquired some cookbooks as gifts and I started buying Heidi Swanson's cookbooks (of the 101 Cookbooks blog) after following her recipes online for several years.  The cookbooks started over taking the kitchen island. 

Simultaneously, I was losing space on my counter.  The one major flaw of our kitchen is that there is no proper pantry, so I have to tuck food away into nooks and crannies.  I finally realized I could move the cookbooks out of the way and clear the space at the same time.

Ikea to the rescue!  Now, I actually did not want to shop at Ikea.  I tried to shop local.  I tried to find interesting modern furniture from new and used shops near my home and came up with absolutely nothing.  A few stained, wobbly shelves at a couple of different "antique" (read: junk) stores and country kitchen yech at the couple of local house boutiques.  So I compromised and went to Ikea.  

And I have already filled up my new bookshelf!  I thought I would have a ton of space to fill in a few more cookbooks.  

The counter looks great now and the oatmeal and extra spices are up off the counter as they should be.

Now this time, I really mean it, no more cookbooks than what I can store in this shelf.  Let's see if I can stick to this for another 10 years.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Back With Some Heart

 Hello, it's been a while!  I am back from my art making hiatus!  I took the last 5 months to work on a big mosaic project which I will be posting about in the next couple of days.  But first, let's get serious with some heart.

Beef heart, that is.

I know, I know, just the thought of beef heart grosses people out.  I am not entrirely sure why we are so squeamish about the heart.  It should not be confused with organ meat like the liver.  It is steak, the leanest, meatiest tasting steak you can find.  And it is cooked all over the world but not not much here in the U.S.  The best thing about its poor status is that it is also incredibly cheap.  We first tried beef heart at a fancy restaurant in Portland that charged $100 a head.  They sure pulled a fast one on us.

But eating it in a restaurant got us to thinking about where we could find it in Tacoma, which led us to the new HMart, an Asian (Korean leaning) grocery store and there on the freezer aisle was a whole stack of beef hearts.  

I browsed around on the internet and found lots and lots of different videos and instruction on prepping and cooking heart.  Whoopeee!  Love the interwebs.

The weirdest and hardest part about cooking the heart is trimming and butchering the heart.  It's messy.  There are lots of little veins and a whole layer of fat on the outside that needs to be cut away.  It's squishy sounding and looks like a prop from a Night of the Dead type of movie.  But it's worth it, people, it really is worth it.  Plus you get the feel good bonus of knowing you used a very much under used piece of meat. 

Get yourself a sharp knife.  Mine was a little dull and I hacked the thing to pieces.  I have since bought a new fillet knife and another heart that is defrosting in the fridge as we speak and I am going to have another go. 

Honestly though, it doesn't really matter if you make it ugly because the odd shape of the heart makes it impossible to make pretty steaks so the best thing to do is cut it into small pieces and then either grill it on skewers or cook it in a dutch oven or bake it in the oven. 

Once you get the Night of the Living Dead bits off, it just looks like a steak.  An incredibly lean, low fat steak.  

I decided to skewer the steak so I cut it into roughly 1/2" by 2"-3" pieces.  

The key to getting a lot of flavor out of the heart is to marinate it.  I picked out a Peruvian Anticucho sauce recipe which my husband and I quickly modified to add even more chiles than specified.  The key is the dried California chile pods that you buy in the Hispanic section of the grocery store.  You cut off the stem and shake out the seeds and then reconstitute them in simmering water.  These dried chiles are key because they give off a smoky flavor and not as much heat as you expect.   

Then all the peppers and olive oil and vinegar and spices go into the food processor to make the sauce.  We marinated the beef for 4 hours before grilling.

They cooked very quickly over a hot grill.   Don't over cook or they will become too tough.
Serve simply with a salad or a grilled veggie like asparagus.  Delicious!

Jennevieve and Trevor's Beef Heart with Anticucho Sauce

1 beef heart, 2-3 pounds and trimmed of all silver skin and sinew bits
4 dried California Chile pods
4 small dried chiles (Arbol chiles)
3 cloves garlic
pinch of saffron
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 fresh jalapeno, stem removed, seeded, and chopped
1 poblano pepper, stem removed, seeded, and roughly chopped
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
freshly ground pepper

Cut heart into your preferred size strip for kabobs and place in glass baking dish.

Remove stems and seeds from dried California chiles and place in small saucepan, covered with water.  Bring to a boil and then turn off heat and let soak for 20 minutes.  Drain and discard water and place chiles with arbol chiles, garlic, spices, jalapeno, poblano, and red wine vinegar in a food processor.  Process until thoroughly blended (about 1 minute) and then drizzle in olive oil while food processor is running to finish sauce.

Pour sauce into dish with sliced heart and mix well, adding salt and pepper.  Place in fridge and marinate for at least 2 hours, 4 even better or even over night.  Skewer heart and grill over high heat quickly.  Serve with lots of veggies and a red Spanish wine like Ribera Del Duero.  Yum!!!

Next we are making heart by baking it in the anticucho sauce because I want to retain more sauce and be able to pour it over rice.  I have a 3 pound grass fed heart defrosting in my fridge that a rancher brought in for us at our local farmer's market.  I am excited to taste if there is a difference between the mass produced heart and the grass fed heart.  I bought a new knife just for the butchering.  It's the little things in life that make me happy.