an owl is born

I made my own rubber stamps! None too soon either 'cause good stamps are spendy. I got lucky and found a small starter kit on sale for 9 bucks at Michaels -- a couple of speedball cutters and a block of that pink erasure-like stuff. Oh the fun and satisfaction...

I transfered an image onto the pink stuff
(technically called Speedy Stamp Block)

carefully cut around the owl, then gave him eyes, nose, and talons

Ta-da -- my very first stamp! He needs a branch...

I felt confident enough in my branch-drawing abilities that I didn't bother transferring an image

And voila -- my second-ever stamp!

I know what you're thinking... Nice hooters!


cheaters' cherry strudel

I've earned the right not to pit fresh cherries. I swear I once pitted seventeen million pounds for a batch of sour cherry pies, and I didn't have a pitter to help. All cherries were pitted by hand. Never again.

So, when I feel like having a sour cherry dessert of some kind, I reach for the pre-pitted canned variety. I know, some people will think that's gross, but I've earned the right to be lazy with cherries.

cherry strudel
makes 4-6

1 can of pitted sour cherry pie filling, ready to use, no pitting required!*
14 or so phyllo sheets (1 package), thawed if frozen
6-8 Tbs unsalted butter, melted

*Or, if you want to be a better person than me, you can make your own filling by pitting several cups of fresh or frozen cherries, then bringing them (and any juices) to boil in a saucepan with a little sugar and a little cornstarch. Simmer for a couple minutes, then cool completely.

Arrange 2 phyllo sheets in a layer and let dry (about 15 mins). Keeping other sheets stacked, fold and cut each lengthwise then stack halves. Cover with some plastic wrap and a dampened tea towel. Crumble the dried phyllo sheets into a bowl.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter a cookie sheet; set aside. Lay out 2 phyllo sheets, keeping the others covered. Brush with some melted butter. Top with at least 4 more sheets, brushing each layer with butter. Sprinkle some of the crumbled phyllo over the bottom third of top sheet (leaving a border along bottom and sides). Scoop some cherry goodness on top of the crumbled pieces. Fold bottom edge up over the filling, fold in sides (that stops it from leaking out the sides, like mine did), and roll it up. Place seam-side down on the buttered cookie sheet. Brush top with a little more butter and sprinkle with a little sugar. Cut a couple vents diagonally across the strudel. Continue making more strudels until all the cherries are gone.

Bake in the middle of the oven until crisp and golden brown (20-25 mins). Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for about half an hour. Serve with a scoop of vanilla or a sprinkling of icing sugar.


"new & improved" roasted fennel

I had enjoyed roasted fennel a la Jaimie Oliver -- prepared with white wine, garlic, and butter -- but I found myself wanting a little something more from my fennel. I suppose if you're into really strong garlic, another clove might do, but I wanted something subtle. Then, I discovered that Elise over at Simply Recipes just puts olive oil and balsamic vinegar on hers. Why didn't I think of that?!

roasted fennel
Serves 2

1 fennel bulb
olive oil
balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash fennel bulb and trim off stalks. Slice bulb into 8ths or so, throwing away the core. Toss pieces into baking dish and drizzle with olive oil and a dose of balsamic vinegar. Mix together so the fennel gets nicely coated.

To roast/steam the fennel, crumple up a piece of parchment paper, get it a little wet with water, and fit down into the top of the baking pan (a little trick from that naked chef).

Then, bake until they're soft and caramelizing at the edges (at least 30 mins, but depends on the size of your slices). These make a tasty side dish for an otherwise simple meal.


big sis & little bro bunnies

Not much knitting and crafting going on around here these days. I guess I needed a bit of a break after all the holiday gift deadlines. But I was happily spurred into action this week when my friend had her second baby, a little brother for Caroline. And I thought, what better for new babies than soft bunnies!

I used the same heartstrings pattern as I did for my happy-hip bunny (and the same green fluffy chenille too) to make these cuddly siblings...

I love this pattern because you just knit up any size square to make your bunny. I made a 6.5" and a 9.5" square.

Following the pattern is a lot of this -- marking two points on your square and sewing them together to form a triangle (in this case, a leg).

Here is little brother bunny (without his ears, tail, or clothing)

Now both are made and equipped with ears and tails...just waiting for some identifying accessories.

Ahh, the final touches -- big sister in pink and little brother in blue. I fight the pink and blue stereo-types, but sometimes the conventional is pretty cute.


raspberry & pecan muffins

When Glenda and I were roomies, we used to make a batch of muffins at least once a week. They're great study food and easy to grab for a quick lunch. Every once in a while, I get back in the habit of churning out batches of muffins. These babies are an ol' favourite.

raspberry & pecan muffins
makes a dozen

1 C all-purpose flour
1/2 C whole wheat flour
1/4 C brown sugar
1/4 C sugar
2 teas baking powder
1/4 teas salt
1/4 teas cinnamon
1 egg
1/2 C milk
1/2 C unsalted butter, melted
1 1/4 C fresh raspberries (if using frozen berries, coat with a Tbs of flour)
1/2 C pecans, roughly chopped

Preheat oven 350. Grease muffin tin; set aside.

Combine dry ingredients in a big bowl. In a smaller bowl, beat egg, milk, and melted butter together. Make hollow in the center of dry ingredients and add wet ingredients. Stir with wooden spoon until just blended. Gently fold in berries and pecans. Fill muffin tin and bake until tester comes out clean (20-25 mins).


pumpkin bread pudding

Granted, it isn't really the season of pumpkins, but I wanted a wintery warm dessert and pumpkin sounded good to me. Besides, my friend Mary* was coming over, and we students always require something bready and comforting and sweet.

*Mary makes gorgeous jewelry! (And if I can take the opportunity for a shout out on this here Interweb, thanks again for the earrings!)

This recipe was pretty simple, as far as incredibly yummy desserts go. It's another "dessert of the month" from Martha -- this time from Oct 2002. Soaking the raisins in bourbon (or good ol' JD whiskey) sounds decadent, but the flavour is really subtle in the final product -- almost disappointingly subtle. Bread pudding doesn't really require ramekins, but individual servings do ensure that everyone gets plenty of that crispy top. In any case, these are definitely showing up on the holiday table next year.

pumpkin bread pudding
makes 6 10-oz ramekins (or enough for an assortment of smaller ramekins and dishes...)

unsalted butter, for buttering ramekins
1 C raisins (sounded like a lot...I used a bit less)
1/3 C bourbon, or whiskey
1/3 C hot water
1 15-0z can of pumpkin puree
4 eggs
1 C sugar
1 1/2 C milk
2 teas vanilla
1 teas cinnamon
1 teas ginger
1/4 teas allspice
pinch o' salt
1 loaf of brioche, or challah bread, cut into 3/4-in cubes (Best to leave the bread out for a day to dry so it will soak up the pudding better and help everything keep its shape)

Butter ramekins. Sprinkle each with some brown sugar and set aside on baking sheet. Place raisins in a small bowl and cover with bourbon (or whiskey) and hot water. Let soak until nice and plump (20 mins).
Preheat oven to 350. In large bowl, whisk together pumpkin, eggs, sugar, milk, vanilla, spices, and salt. Toss in dry bread cubes and stir gently until evenly coated. Let stand a few minutes. Drain raisins and fold the spiked raisins into the mix. Divide among prepped ramekins. (Press down a bit to fit more in and make level with the top of the dish.)

Bake until custard is set in the center and the top is golden (about 40 mins). If the bread is browning too quickly, cover loosely with aluminum foil. When they're done, remove from oven and let cool a bit. Unmold onto serving plates and sift some confectioners sugar on top.


beet and carrot salad

The beet is the most intense of vegetables.

The radish, admittedly, is more feverish, but the fire of

the radish is a cold fire, the fire of discontent,

not of passion. Tomatoes are lusty enough,

yet there runs through tomatoes an undercurrent of frivolity.

Beets are deadly serious. ~
Tom Robbins

Ahh, Tom Robbins. I love his take on the beet (from the first chapter of Jitterbug Perfume, if you want to read more). This salad does the serious beet justice 'cause it's so simple -- just a little olive oil and a fresh herb to tease out its flavours. (Sorry for the bad photo!)

beet and carrot salad
serves 3-4

3 medium beets, scrubbed with greens removed
4-5 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1-in diagonals
olive oil
salt and pepper
fresh thyme or parsley

Preheat oven to 425. Wrap the beets in parchment-lined tinfoil -- drizzle them with olive oil before you close up the foil -- and place them in a baking pan. Roast until you can slide a knife easily through them (about 60-80 mins).

Let the beets cool until they can be handled easily. Meanwhile, toss prepped carrots in a little olive oil and a dash of salt. Roast until tender (30-35 mins).

Peel, quarter, and dice the beets into bite-size pieces (careful -- they will stain anything!). Toss together with roasted carrots. Season with a little salt and pepper and a handful of roughly chopped parsely or a few sprigs of thyme. Serve warm or at room temp.


eggs and toy soldiers

I learned a lot while I was travelling in NZ -- how to kayak, who Abel Tasman was, what a chilly bin is, etc. One of the lessons I have not forgotten was from a couple of English gals -- how to make the perfect soft-boiled egg and how to make toy soldiers out of a piece of bread (I guess that makes two lessons). For xmas, Jeff got me some FUN egg cups and so we've been enjoying our eggs and toy soldiers with extravagance.

the perfect soft-boiled egg & toy soldiers

In a small saucepan, bring water to boil. Once it reaches a rolling boil, use a spoon to carefully place egg(s) into water. Boil, uncovered for 90 seconds. Immediately cover pan with lid and take off heat. Allow to rest for 4 minutes. Remove eggs from pan (if you want, run them under to cool water to make them easier to handle).

In the meantime, toast bread. Butter. Cut into thin slices. Toy soldiers are ready and waiting! Hack off the top of the egg and sprinkle a little salt into the yolky goodness. Dunk your toy soldiers and enjoy...


new year's granola

Happy New Year!

We rang in 2007 with a rowdy (well not really) evening of football and beer. And while I watched the Packers run all over those pesky Bears, I found my mind wandering to what I would have for breakfast (a mouthwatering habit). I decided on crunchy, nutty granola with lots of dried fruit in it...yummm.

fruit 'n nut granola

4 C regular oats (not quick cooking)
1/2 C sliced or slivered almonds*
1 teas ground cinnamon
1/4 teas salt
1/3 C honey
1/3 C molasses
1/3 C water
2 Tbs vegetable oil
2 C dried fruit, chopped (raisins, golden raisins, cranberries, cherries, apricots, pears, prunes, dates, etc...whatever you fancy)

*I usually add in some chopped hazelnuts too.

Preheat oven 325. Combine first 4 ingredients in large bowl and stir well. Combine honey, molasses, water, and oil in saucepan. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat. Pour over oat mixture and coat thoroughly.

Spread mixture evenly into a jelly roll pan, which has been coated with cooking spray or greased well with oil. Bake until lightly toasted, stirring every 10 mins (35-40 mins total). Remove from oven and stir in dried fruit. Spread on parchment paper to cool completely. Store in airtight container.