fish tacos

I'm feeling a little done with sweets at the moment. I think I'll put my chocolate and cookie recipes aside for a moment and share some real food...

Most nights we end up making soup or pasta, comfort foods that totally go with the weather right now (still snow!)

But the other night, we escaped our chilly reality to enjoy fish tacos and drink beer with lime.

I sauteed up a couple of BC halibut cheeks, chopped up iceberg lettuce and cilantro, sliced radishes, and made a 'white sauce' of equal parts sour cream and plain yogurt with a squirt of lime. On a warm corn tortilla, it all tastes lovely. No dessert required.


sewing tutorials

In case you didn't see this, Sew, Mama, Sew did another Handmade Holidays collection of tutorials. I just went through every day -- there's some great stuff, and great new-to-me blogs. I realize this is a little late for this xmas year, but 2009 is probably full of birthdays...

One blog that you should check out (if you're into quilting, making cookies, or both) is oh, fransson - check out those quilts! It makes me want to try free motion quilting.... but I'll wait until my machine and I are having a good day.

a quilt for rachel...finally

My cousin Rachel is funny and kind and all, but she is very very patient. This is her birthday quilt... and she's a Taurus. That means she's been waiting since May for her birthday present. Merry Christmas!

This is only my second large quilt that I've ever completed so the road was long and bumpy. But I'm quite pleased with how it turned out.

The binding was kind of slick -- it was the first time I did one, so I tried a continuous bias binding. These directions were very helpful. But a hint: be careful which way your seam faces when you sew the triangle to the other side to make a parallelogram, in step 2, otherwise you create more hours of work for yourself after sewing step 9 (I ended up with no 'right' side to my binding and had to resew half my seams!) Still, a pretty clever method for creating a double-fold bias binding.


so-very-retro cheese balls

Cheese balls are back! Were they always this good? If so, why did I mock them all these years?!

The one on the left is a cheddar cheese ball, rolled in dried cranberries and golden raisins. The other one is has goat cheese and scallions in it, and is rolled in parsley (and was the unanimous favourite of our sample size of three.) I honestly didn't realize that I had made a red one and a green one for Christmas eve until I was chilling them in the fridge. It was like I was being festive, subconsciously!

You make a base recipe, divide it and then add the separate ingredients. (I apologize in advance for the funny measurements -- I'm trying to divide this recipe into 1/3rd of its original serve-a-party size)

base recipe:
1/3 of a stick of butter (1/6 cup)
1-8oz package cream cheese
2/3 Tbs fresh lemon juice
a small dash (1/3rd of 1/2 teas) Worcestershire sauce
a couple drops of Tabasco sauce
pinch of salt
a couple grinds of fresh pepper

Beat all ingredients together until combined. Divide equally into two bowls.

for the red one:
Add a little less than 3 oz finely shredded sharp cheddar. Mix together well. Shape into a ball and roll in small handful of finely chopped dried cranberries and golden raisins. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill until ready to serve.

for the green one:
Mix base with a little less than 3 oz goat cheese and a little less than 1 Tbs finely chopped scallions. Shape into a ball and roll in a handful of finely chopped parsley. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill until ready to serve.

This recipe is another MS. I'm on a roll with martha this year -- I have just been digging her holiday edition magazines.

lemon poppyseed shortbreads

These crumbly morsels are a martha original. They are so stinkin' cute that I think I may have to make them for every holiday...

This recipe was handy because the shortbread dough can be frozen easily, although it doesn't 'thaw' like other cookie doughs though because of the... ahem... high butter content. It's a bit more work to roll into balls straight from the fridge, but totally doable.

makes 3 dozen cookies (I halved this recipe for about 16 cookies, which was perfect amid holiday baking overload)

1 cup unsalted butter, room temp
2 cups flour
3/4 teas salt
1/2 cup granulated (*or confectioners' sugar)

*I used granulated sugar, but apparently confectioners' sugar gives the cookies a finer texture

lemon poppyseed frosting:
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 Tbs fresh lemon juice
1 teas poppy seeds

Sift together flour and salt in small bowl. In large bowl, cream butter until fluffy, 3-5 mins. Add sugar and contine to beat until very light and fluffy. Add flour mixture and beat on low until flour is just incorporated (dough sticks together.)

Roll dough into 1-inch balls and refrigerate for 20 minutes. Bake on cookie sheet until firm and barely starting to colour around the base of the cookie, 20-25 mins. Let cool completely on a wire rack.

Meanwhile, make frosting by whisking together the sugar, cream and lemon juice until smooth. Stir in poppy seeds.

When cookies are totally cool, dip top half of shortbread balls into frosting and let set on parchment. Store in an airtight container.


fighting off 'boring soup syndrome'

How do you take what runs the risk of becoming a boring ol' vegetable soup and make it into something yummier? I would love to hear what your tricks are.

Last night, when faced with that very dilemma, I tried adding some sesame oil, soy sauce, and some angel hair pasta for a little Asian-inspired fare. The aroma was lovely! It tasted good too.

Veggies: onion, green onion, celery, carrot, mushrooms, zucchini, and bok choy (throw in the bok choy at the very end -- it doesn't need much cooking time)
Swimming in: chicken broth, along with a teaspoon of sesame oil and a tablespoon of soy sauce
Additionals: noodles -- and red pepper flakes would have been good had I thought of it


glitter on the little things

As part of our holiday beautification this December, I glittered up some little pine cones. We picked these little gems while we were snowshoeing last year. (I'm kind of proud I kept them safely for an entire year.)

Nothing earth shatteringly crafty here, but sometimes little touches are all it takes.


Thanks for the warm welcome back to this space! It's fun to know folks are out there in blogland who enjoy stopping in.


braided bread

I am of the opinion that cardamon makes most any baked good better, so I was happy to finally give Angry Chicken's Christmas Braid a try. This sweet cardamon bread is a familiar taste in my family -- and commonly known among us as 'Finnish coffee bread' or pulla.

Whatever you call it, you still get to braid your food!

I love mine warm, with a small spread of butter and a cup of tea.


our tree smells like cinnamon

This is the kind of craft that I swear I must have made as a kid. It's so easy to create a memory that doesn't exist because it has all the elements -- sticky hands, applesauce, cookie cutters, a smell of cinnamon, Elmers glue, and glitter.

Hop on over to Martha's for the recipe and directions.


holiday spice sachets

A little cheesecloth, some kitchen twine and some very aromatic, beautiful spices make for a great little gift. Each cheesecloth contains: 5 cloves, 4 peppercorns, 2 green cardamon pods, 1/2 cinnamon stick, 1 star anise, and a partridge in a pear tree.

Thanks to good ol' Martha for this one. Her recipes don't always amaze, but the lady and her minions sure can decorate and do fun crafts.

(Can you tell I'm having fun with my new camera!)


cranberry vodka

Hey guys. Can I join this party again?

I brought something to share... a little cranberry-infused vodka.

Infusing vodka is simple stuff -- heat 1 cup cranberries, 1/4 cup granulated sugar and a couple of tablespoons of water on the stove. Once the sugar is dissolved and the cranberries are starting to pop open, you pour it into a glass jar (along with a piece of orange peel, if you want) and then add 3 cups vodka (I added only 2 cups 'cause I want it really tart.) Cover jar and let sit for a few days at room temperature. It will keep for about a month, apparently, but who are we kidding!

Talk about getting into the holiday spirit -- I'm anxious to try this with a little ice and club soda.

With Christmas around the corner, I'll be sharing a bit more in this space... stay tuned.


so long for now...

Thanks for stopping by!

I'm feeling the need to renegotiate the terms of this arrangement.

How's this: you can stop by whenever you'd like for recipes or ideas, but new stuff may be few and far between. Deal? Deal.

It's been fun, folks. Thank you!


'jammer' cornmeal muffins

In the Pacific Northwest, there's the great Grand Central Bakery, which serves, among other things, the jammer.

Ode to the jammer! It's a big ol' biscuit with a pile of jam in the center for dipping.

In the spirit of the jammer, I wanted to try Barefoot Contessa's raspberry corn muffins (from her first cookbook). They may not be so good for an on-the-go snack -- the jam on the top kind of limits this muffin's "willingness to travel" -- but they're great lazy brunch food.

'jammer' cornmeal muffins
makes 12 large muffins (I made 12 regular-sized muffins and used the remaining dough in mini muffin tins -- the minis are in my freezer, un-jammed, waiting for a rainy day)

3 C flour
1 C sugar
1 C cornmeal
2 Tbs baking powder
1 1/2 teas salt
1 1/2 C milk
1/2 pound unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 extra-large eggs
3/4 C yummy jam (I used blackberry)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tins with paper liners (for my mini muffin tins, I just greased well).

In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, combine the wet ingredients (except the jam!) Pour the wet stuff into the dry stuff and stir until just blended. Spoon into prepared muffin tins, filling all the way to the top. Bake until the tops are crisp and the toothpick tester comes out clean (about 30 mins.) Cool slightly before removing from the pan.

After the muffins cool, spoon the jam into a pastry bag, fitted with a large round tip. Push the tip of the bag into the muffin and squeeze some jam into the middle of the muffin. Repeat!


"italian" meatballs

Remember the scene in Big Night where the camera is cruising through the competitor's "Italian" restaurant? The camera gets a shot of a server carrying a mound of spaghetti and meatballs and in that moment, the audience knows that the restaurant is not truly Italian because it has sold out to the American clientèle. I love that sequence (and I really love that movie!)

While meatballs may not be the most authentic of Italian dishes, it is popular for a reason -- it can be really delicious and very satisfying. (And I hope my Italian host mother forgives me for saying so!)

Here's a slightly modified version of the recipe offered in Cook's Illustrated Best Recipe cookbook. The secret to these tasty tads of meat is in the sauce. Actually, in the milk. If we just use dry bread crumbs, the way my Grandma did it, the crumbs soak up any available moisture and leave the meatball dry and crumby. This trick of soaking the bread in milk makes good meatballs better yet.

And a second trick: if you cut out the egg white and just use the yolk, the meatball mixture isn’t so sticky and hard to handle. The yolk itself is enough to bind the ingredients.

about 2-3 servings

½ pound ground meat, beef and/or pork
1 slice of bread, torn into small pieces
¼ C buttermilk, or just plain milk
1/8-1/4 C freshly grated parmesan cheese
A couple Tbs of fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped
1 egg yolk
1 garlic clove, minced fine or pressed
Salt and pepper
Oil for frying

First, combine the bread and milk in a medium bowl. Let sit while you get the other ingredients together, mashing occasionally with a fork. After 5-10 minutes, add the ground meat, cheese, parsley, egg yolk, garlic, salt and pepper to the soaked bready paste. Mix well and shape into balls. Use a light touch. If you compact the meatballs, they become dense and hard.

Heat oil a pan. Cover the bottom of the pan, not just a drizzle. Add meatballs in a single layer once the oil is ready. Fry, turning several times, until browned on all sides. Try to keep the oil from smoking, by turning it down a bit. Once browned, set aside on a plate lined with paper towels.

Pour out the oil and add whatever tomato sauce you’re going to use. Once heated, add meatballs and simmer, turning occasionally until heated through (about 5 minutes, maybe more depending on the size of your meatballs).

When done, serve over spaghetti with a bit more fresh parmesan for the classic faux-Italian dish.



The world of copyrights, trademarks, and licenses is a real can of worms -- especially for the arts and crafts world. I stumbled upon this discussion (via Be*mused.) It's one of the funnier takes on the subject -- one in which Really Rude People are the losers.

Even though it's a minefield to even mention the topic, I kind of want to put in my two cents. We'll see if I regret it...

I realize that many people have legitimate reasons to protect their creative and unique work, but I wish we could all try to remember that not everything, not every idea, needs to be owned. Some things should be left in the communal realm.

I think many people fail to remember that folks have been using fibre, fabric, and thread for long, long time. There may be some new takes on old techniques, but we need to be realistic about what is "original." No one ever creates in a vacuum.

It is a fine line (and gray at the best of times) to know when and how to take ownership of your creativity and handiwork. But for all the folks with the urge to stamp their handmade wares with an "all rights reserved," I with they'd recognize and respect the history of handcrafts. We inspire each other -- that's allowed.

Of course certain things aren't allowed. That's where those Really Rude People come in.


easy as... chocolate cake

Moist chocolate cake. Is there anything better? And one made entirely in one pot? A keeper, for sure.

I loved the Sex and the City episode when Miranda scarfs chocolate cake and thinks she should be checked into the Betty Crocker Clinic...

one-pot chocolate cake
makes 8x8 cake (or you can double it for a double-decker cake)

2 Tbs butter
2 oz unsweetened baking chocolate, broken into pieces
1 C milk, divided
1 C sugar
1/2 Tbs vanilla extract
1 egg yolk
1 C flour
1/8 teas salt
1 tsp baking soda

In a medium sauce-pan over low heat, melt butter and chocolate, stirring continuously. Once melted, add 1/2 C of milk. Stir over low heat until it thickens a bit. Take off burner, then add sugar, vanilla, and egg yolk. Stir well. Then add flour, salt, and baking soda. When mixed, add remaining 1/2 C milk. Bake at 350 degrees, until a toothpick, inserted into the center of the cake, comes out clean (about 25-35 mins.) Let cool completely before icing with frosting.

And speaking of frosting...

chocolate frosting

makes 1.5 C frosting

2 Tbs butter
2 oz unsweetened baking chocolate, broken into pieces
2 C powdered sugar
1/3 C milk
2/3 teas vanilla extract
a pinch of salt

In small saucepan, over low heat, melt butter and chocolate together. Once mixture is melted and smooth, pour into large bowl and add powdered sugar, milk, vanilla, and salt. Beat with an electric mixer until well blended. Refrigerate 10 minutes or so, until the frosting is of spreading consistency. If you need to keep it in the fridge for several hours, be sure to allow time to bring the frosting to room temp before trying to frost your cake. I used a little hot water bath to bring mine back to being spreadable.


cheater's summer quilt

I admit it. I cheated.

I bought pre-laundered, pre-ironed, and pre-cut fabric. And I'm not sorry.

When I saw these feedsack reproduction quilt squares in SewNimble's shop (on Etsy), I thought, "sweeeeet!" And when I got them in the mail, I was like, "wahooooo!" I was free to start on the fun part of quilt-making: playing with new colours and patterns.

As you can see, I ended up sewing the squares up into larger squares of four, then adding some white. I randomly used some embroidered white-on-white fabric for a bit of texture. It's so summery, I love it.

The top is now all sewn together, but I haven't bothered to quilt it yet. I just added it to my growing stack of quilt tops, and started on a new one. Oh well. I can think of worse things than a stack of unfinished quilts.


bread crumbs and pasta

Have you seen this month's Gourmet? The cover picture leaves a lot to be desired, eh?

But I have to admit -- since I absolutely love bread crumbs in my pasta -- my mouth began to water. That pile of brown still portrays the simple magic of crispy bread crumbs together with al dente pasta.

Now I don't prepare mine the way Gourmet did -- I'm anxious to try their recipe. No, the way I tend to add bread crumbs is as Smitten Kitchen does in her baked tomato sauce: "Halve them and roast them cut side up in an olive oil slicked baking dish and top them with a mix of bread crumbs, garlic, parmesan and romano cheeses for all of twenty minutes, and ta-da, deliciousness is yours."

Let me show you...

tomato and bread crumb pasta
Serves 4

olive oil
1 lb ripe cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 C real, finely ground, dry bread crumbs
1/2 C freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
course salt and freshly ground pepper
handful of basil leaves, roughly chopped
1 lb pasta -- I like spaghettini or linguini for this

Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease a 9x13" baking dish with 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil and place all tomatoes cut side up in dish. **For 2-3 people, I just fill the bottom of my little 8x8 baking dish.

In small bowl, mix together the bread crumbs, cheese, and minced garlic. Spread over tomatoes, making sure each of the tops are covered well. Drizzle olive oil over tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Bake until the tomatoes are soft (about 20-30 mins.)

Meanwhile, make the pasta according to package directions. Try to time it so that the pasta is done about the time that the tomatoes are done. Drain pasta. Add hot pasta and basil leaves to the baking dish and toss with the tomato mixture, gathering up the crusty pieces of cheese and bread that may have slipped between the tomatoes. Yum!


orzo, spinach, and feta salad

I don't think it's news to anyone that not all of Martha's recipes are winners. Some of her recipes look and sound great, but something about them never really captures the magic. Still, they are usually quite approachable, so I often find myself trying another Martha recipe.

And I have found some of her winners -- like her pecan sticky buns! Oh man. Pure deliciousness in a gooey roll. My mouth is watering at the mere thought of them (mmmm, must make a batch soon!) **If you make these, make sure to half the recipe -- I'm not sure what huge-sized muffin tin she assumes folks are using, but even half will make 12 good-sized buns.

So anyway, I wasn't so surprised that the recipes in her Everyday Food cookbook are hit and miss. I was disappointed with the orange and beef stirfry and with the Moroccan chicken couscous, but her spinach with orzo and feta is great. So simple, flavourful, and easy -- perfect BBQ fare.

-- sorry...not the best picture --

orzo, spinach, and feta salad
serves 4

1 C orzo
almost a whole "bunch" of spinach -- washed, trimmed and roughly chopped (maybe a lb, if you're measuring)
a handful of fresh mint leaves, chopped fine
3/4 C crumbled feta
fresh lemon juice of 1/2 lemon (1-2 Tbs)
olive oil
course sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Cook orzo according to package directions. When done, add spinach and stir until wilted. Drain.

In large serving bowl, toss the hot spinach and orzo with the mint leaves, feta, lemon juice, and a healthy drizzle of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

** Check 'em out! I've added some fun new blogs to the sidebar: elsie marie, crazy mom quilts, house on hill road, the long thread, and bakerella. Lots of beautiful quilting and mouth-watering cupcakes to get you inspired.


building a log cabin

My first log cabin!

(I'll try really hard not to fill this post with puns of building a cabin with my bare hands, cutting down fabric, and sawing logs beneath the blanket -- I'm sure you're thankful for my restraint)

It's still just a quilt top (hmm, a familiar story). Not sure what I'll do for the back quite yet. It'll be a square quilt for a little tyke to play on.

I didn't go for the typical dark/pale contrast, but rather a colour contrast. Maybe my blue/yellow stripes would have been more obvious had I not used that strong orange, but since I just love that orange fabric I don't really mind.

The blue fabric in the middle is the nostalgic pattern that inspired this whole quilt. It reminds me of my sweet grandparents -- her apron and his pajamas.


leek and roasted bell pepper quiche

Mmm, quiche. Sometimes I just crave your flaky crust (thanks, Tenderflake) and eggy goodness.

This is kind of a wing-it recipe that used the buttermilk I had on hand, fulfilled my urge to roast a pepper, and put to good use the egg insides from my egg votives.

Usually when I make a quiche, I just mix everything together and pour it into the crust. This time, I tried layering the ingredients like Elise does, like so...

First layer: grated gruyere cheese. Second layer: sauteed leeks.

Third layer: julienned roasted bell pepper. Fourth layer: egg mixture.

leek and roasted bell pepper quiche
serves 4

olive oil
2 leeks, white and light green parts only, thoroughly cleaned and sliced
1 bell pepper (I used yellow, but red would be pretty)
couple dashes of salt
couple turns of freshly ground black pepper
4 eggs
3/4 C buttermilk (or you could use half-n-half)
1 generous cup of grated gruyere cheese
pinch of ground nutmeg (about 1/8 teas)
1 frozen pie-crust in its tin

Preheat oven to 375. Usually, these frozen pie crust directions have you thaw it a bit for 10-15 mins before filling, so I take mine out of the freezer about now.

In large saute pan, heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Add leeks, some salt, and some pepper, and saute until soft (10 mins.) Meanwhile, roast the bell pepper, remove skin, and julienne.

In medium-sized bowl, beat together eggs, buttermilk, nutmeg, and a small handful of cheese.

On an foil-lined baking sheet, set the slightly-thawed pie crust. Layer the rest of the cheese, the leeks, then the roasted pepper into the crust. Pour egg mixture over top (it'll be really full.) Bake until set and golden, and until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean (about 40 mins). Remove from oven and let sit 5-10 minutes before slicing.


egg votives for easter

(ready for their wicks to be cut)

I guess I have a weakness for melted wax.

I had so much fun pouring it into tea cups, I jumped at the chance to pour it into eggshells. I can't take credit for the idea -- this stroke of genius comes from the Martha Stewart archives.

Here's the scoop...

Use the end of a knife to turn a small hole in the top of the egg

Carefully widen the hole and pour out the yolks and whites, reserving them for an eggy dish
(I made a quiche -- I'll post the recipe soon)

Wash out the eggshells well and remove the inner membrane, if you feel like it

Dye the eggs (I used a bath of food colouring, vinegar and water) and let them dry on a piece of foam core stuck with tons of pins (another Marthonian good thing)

Put a piece of wicking in a wick sustainer and just try to get it to stand up straight.
Pour the wax and watch it set. Trim back wicks before lighting.

Pretty cool, huh! Our Easter table will be très festive this year.