vegetable tian

tian: simple french fare; vegetable gratin cooked in the oven; a dish named after the earthenware it was served in; tasty seasonal eats

vegetable tian
inspired by a Martha recipe
serves 4

olive oil
1 leek, white and pale-green parts only, quartered lengthwise, rinsed well, and finely sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 small zucchini, unpeeled, very thinly sliced
2-3 plum tomatoes, very thinly sliced
1 small eggplant, unpeeled, very thinly sliced
1/4 C dry white wine
1-2 Tbs dried oregano
freshly grated parmesan

Preheat oven to 375. Heat some olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add leek and saute until soft (about 5 mins). Add garlic and saute another minute. Spread into circular baking dish or pie dish.

Arrange vegetables over leek in slightly overlapping circles, alternating the zucchs, tomatoes, and eggplant. You may not get to use all the vegetables -- just make a couple layers.

Pour wine over the vegetables, drizzle some olive oil, and sprinkle oregano and a little salt. Bake for 30 minutes. Drizzle with a bit more oil. Bake until vegetables are tender, about 25-30 minutes more. Serve with a sprinkling of parmesan.

some foods just aren't that photogenic --
trust me, it's great!


oatmeal and cranberry goodness

This recipe comes from Martha's 2001 special holiday magazine -- a whole issue devoted to cookies. It had some super cute decorating ideas for sugar cookies (of course--it's Martha) and several keeper recipes as well, including this oatmeal and cranberry number.

oatmeal cranberry cookies
makes about 3 dozen

2 C all purpose flour (I substituted 1 C for whole wheat flour)
1/2 teas salt
1/2 teas cinnamon
1 teas baking powder
1 teas baking soda
1 Tbs pure vanilla extract
3 Tbs milk
2 eggs
1/2 lb (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 C packed light-brown sugar
1/2 C granulated sugar
3 C old-fashioned oats (I used quick oats, not instant, and it turned out just fine)
1 C dried cranberries

In medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt, cinnamon, baking powder, and baking soda. Set aside. In small bowl, whisk together vanilla, milk, and eggs. Set aside.

In large bowl, combine butter and sugars. Beat until light and fluffy. Beat in egg mixture. Stir in flour mixture until just combined. Finally, stir in oats and cranberries. Cover dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 2 hours, until firm.

Preheat oven to 350. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Shape dough into balls and flatten a bit with your palm.

Bake until light golden but still soft in the center, about 15-17 minutes (rotating half-way through) Make sure not to over-bake! Remove from oven and transfer to wire rack, or just slide parchment onto the counter-top for cookies to cool.

Before chilling the dough,
I put away some of it into the freezer for later.
My future-self will thank me. :)


rosemary crisps

Have you heard of Lesley Stowe? She's a fine food guru here in Vancouver who happens to make the most amazing crackers -- raincoast crisps. Not sure how widely they are available, but do yourself a huge favour and try a box if you ever get the chance. Wow.

But a warning -- the crisps aren't cheap. In fact, given the hefty price tag for this artisanal food item, few could afford to indulge.

Just when I had given up hope -- and was about to take the vow of poverty for the sake of more crisps -- one of Jeff's coworkers shared this recipe that she found in a local magazine. I was exceedingly
happy to find that someone had published a recipe for imitation crisps. Not sure exactly where it comes from, but in the spirit of sharing, I'll pass it along.

I know it seems fussy to make crackers when you can buy a box of wheat thins for less than 3 bucks, but trust me, it is worth the indulgence just this once. And while you're at it, try these crisps with a spread of St. Andre cheese (or with Camembert or Brie) -- creaminess compliments crunchiness.

rosemary crisps (à la Lesley Stowe)
makes about 8 dozen crackers

2 C flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 C buttermilk
1/4 C brown sugar
1/4 C honey
1 C raisins (I used a mix of golden raisins and dried cranberries)
1/2 C chopped pecans
1/2 C roasted pumpkin seeds (optional)
1/4 C sesame seeds
1/4 C flaxseed, ground
1 Tbs chopped fresh rosemary

Preheat oven 350 degrees. In large bowl, sift together flour, soda, and salt. Add buttermilk, sugar, and honey. Stir a few strokes, then add the rest of ingredients, stirring until just blended.

Pour batter into two 4x8 loaf pans that have been sprayed with non-stick spray. Bake for 45 minutes, until golden and springy to the touch. Remove from pans and let cool on wire rack.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. When completely cool, slice the loaves as thin as possible. Place slices on an ungreased cookie sheet in a single layer. (You could just slice one loaf and wrap the second loaf to store in the freezer for later.) Bake slices for 15 minutes, then turn over and bake 10 minutes more. Crackers will be crisp and deep golden.


patchwork and chenille

Check out my first patchwork baby blanket!

I followed an awesome four-part tutorial on chenille-backed patchwork blankets over at the happythings blog. (If you want to get inspired to do some quilting, just check out some of her beautiful work, collected here and here.)
cutting and piecing

top is done -- needs chenille backing

ready for the gifting... just as soon as I'm ready to part with it


black bean soup

'Tis the season for soup. Hot, delicious, fulfilling soup.

This warm and delicious one is a modified a Real Simple recipe. Enjoy!

black bean soup
serves 6

olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 garlic clove
1/2 teas chili powder
1 teas ground cumin
1 celery stalk, diced
1 carrot, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
2 - 15.5 oz cans black beans, rinsed and drained
4 C chicken stock (or veggie stock if want a vegetarian soup)
1 Tbs tomato paste
juice of 1 lime
sour cream for serving
roughly chopped fresh cilantro for serving

In large stockpot, heat oil and saute onion until translucent (5-10 mins). Add garlic and saute a couple minutes more. Stir in cumin and chili powder and cook for a minute before adding celery, carrot, and bell pepper. Saute for a couple minutes. Add beans and stock. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 15-20 minutes.

Stir in lime juice and tomato paste.* Puree most of the beans and veggies in a blender or food processor to thicken the soup. Return to the pot and reheat if necessary. Ladle into serving bowls. Top with dollop of sour cream and sprinkling of fresh cilantro. (These garnishes add lots of flavour so try not to just eat out of the pot!)

*At this point I turned off the heat and let it rest for 30 minutes while I ran an errand -- a factoid I share because the rest may have allowed the flavours to better marry and mingle. Alls I'm sayin' is I'll bet this is the kind of soup that's way better on the second day.



I've eaten my fair share of pannukakku over the years -- it's basically a Finnish pancake. The gooey, slightly sweet pancake seems to be a mainstay in immigrant families like mine.

Pannukakku is traditionally served with fresh lemon juice and icing sugar (where they grow lemons in Finland, I don't know). While I love it that way, I also enjoy it with grapefruit segments and powdered sugar, applesauce, berries of some sort, and just plain syrup. Any way you slice it, it's good cookin' and easy as all get out.

serves 4

1/4 C unsalted butter
2 eggs
2 C milk
1 C flour
3 Tbs sugar
1/2 teas salt

Put butter into a 9 x 13" baking dish. Place in oven and preheat oven to 400, melting the butter in the pan.

Sift together flour, sugar, and salt in small bowl. Break eggs into other, medium-sized bowl. Beat eggs until frothy. Whisk flour mixture into eggs, alternately with the milk, until all ingredients are well combined. Beat with whisk until no lumps remain. Pour into heated pan with melted butter.

Bake until bubbly, brown, and slightly inflated (25-30 mins). Top will fall as it cools. Serve warm, with fixin's of your choice.


sweet apron

This apron will soon be mailed off to snowy Iowa. Isn't it cute?! I hope my friend wears it while making herself sweet birthday cupcakes.

The pattern is from Lotta Jansdotter's Simple Sewing. It was really simple until I got to the part about sewing on the potholder pocket -- ugh! The advice of notching the fabric to turn under a rounded edge just doesn't work well on the crook of a thumb.

I made a second apron as an xmas present and found that rather than follow the directions, it was simpler to make the pocket first (sewing rights sides together with a piece of linen, then turning it right-side out) and then top-stitch the pocket onto the apron. (Such was the advice of a crafty bird -- thanks little bird!)


faux fried chicken

I actually got a little adrenaline rush while jointing a chicken for the first time. Should I be concerned? Is my most base of instincts released when I cut a beast into 10 serving pieces?

Thanks to this video from Chow, cutting up the chicken went pretty smoothly.

If I wasn't a wimp about a pot of hot oil, I would have tried Ina Garten's version of the baked/fried classic. As it is, I modified Real Simple's "fried" chicken recipe.

faux fried chicken
makes 10 smallish pieces

1 3 1/2 - 4-lb chicken, cut into pieces and skin removed
1 1/2 C buttermilk
2 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 C dry very fine bread crumbs*
1/4 C grated parmesan
2 teas salt
1 teas grated lemon zest
1/2 teas dried thyme leaves

*you can tell my bread crumbs weren't fine enough 'cause parts of my chicken were bare

Put chicken pieces in a glass bowl. Cover with buttermilk and garlic. Turn to coat well. Refrigerate all day or overnight.

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly spray a large baking sheet with cooking spray.

In shallow bowl, combine bread crumbs, parmesan, salt, lemon zest, and thyme. Roll chicken pieces in the coating and place on baking sheet. Bake 35-40 mins or until done, turning the chicken halfway through.


these eye masks taste like crow

Exhibit A: Failed attempt -- trust me, it ain't pretty

You know how when you see someone else make something and it seems so easy, and so you try it yourself, only to wonder where all that hubris went to? Yeah, me too.

I saw that Curious Bird had made cute little eye masks for their red-eye holiday flight. And since a couple of my friends were flying away this Christmas, I thought I'd just whip out a couple of these small easy projects.

Needless to say, there was some cursing involved.

Exhibit B: Humble eye masks

But at the end of the day, two little eye masks were ready for the gifting thanks to some super sewing advice from Adrienne. I think everyone should have a 911 craft wizard on speed-dial.