February 2, 2014

Happy Super Bowl Day! (Go Broncos!!!)

Gotta go support my home team, but I thought I'd share this (all-natural, gluten-free) Broncos cake I made for the occasion (below).  The above cake was made for a Super Bowl party a couple years ago, when sadly the Broncos were playing Tebow and Super Bowl dreams were just that.  For team spirit, I'll post the recipe for the Broncos Cake soon, so you can celebrate the Broncos whenever you want!

January 6, 2014

Making Other Things Instead of Food

Denver Public Library, Western History/Genealogy; CHS-B25

To be honest, it's been a tough few weeks for cooking.  It's been one of those phases in which nothing sounds too great or is very time consuming or the essential ingredient fails to do its job (like the yeast in a recent batch of sticky buns).  Plus, it's cold and snowy and at times I've felt a little like the man in the photo above.

Denver Public Library, Western History/Genealogy; X-12959

That's just how it is sometimes, so I have been keeping my food simple at home and enjoying a few meals out with friends.  The daylight is staying longer, new creative projects are started, tacos make for delicious and quick dinners, and I truly can make a batch of biscuits in about 18 minutes.

Denver Public Library, Western History/Genealogy; X-28976

So, I get to sit back and relax by the proverbial fireplace and enjoy the winter for what it is.  I may be watching an entire season of Elementary (so good!) and catching up on Project Runway Allstars (worst season of any PR yet) rather than putting another log on the fire, but hot chocolate is included.

Denver Public Library, Western History/Genealogy; Z-872

And when I feel like using my hands and being creative, I have been working my way through a few sewing projects. I have had an ongoing, autodidactic project over the past two years of learning how to sew.  My mother and her sisters made a lot of their own clothing growing up, but I am from an era when this impressive skill had fallen out of favor.  My mom tried teaching me some basic sewing skills when I was younger, but I failed to grasp them.  Also, I was a dancer and most of the sewing needs in my childhood were in the realm of costumes and I was focused on performance rather than home economics skill-building.

Denver Public Library, Western History/Genealogy; WH1990 Emily Griffith Opportunity School Collection

I'm not much of a performer these days and have developed a strong appreciation for these skills in my adult life. While Home Ec was considered a rather sexist and dull subject during my education, I have since learned that the skills taught in Home Ec classes are quite valuable - for both women and men.  It may be one of those rare economics institutions in which quality is favored over quantity - and I love that.  My grandmother, may she rest in peace, was also a very talented sewist and used her WWII-era degree in Home Economics to start her career as a teacher.  I hope I can honor her with my own education in craft and creativity.

I have several projects going at once, with a stern reminder to self to take them one at a time.  First up to go to completion is a muslin (test garment) of the Peony dress pictured on top.  Once I have the test garment fitted and - if I'm lucky - wearable, I can apply my adjustments to the original pattern and knock out a couple versions of the dress in different fabrics.  Goodbye winter uniform of jeans and boots!  Hello custom wardrobe!

Like cooking, sewing and other creative projects are just as much about the process as they are about the end product.  It's about the learning itself and building on the knowledge you gained the last time around.  There is nothing like the satisfaction of a job well done, except perhaps the pride in the work you completed to get there. And there is something to be said about having a deeper understanding of consumption through the act of creation... The creative/consumption balance in my cooking will favor the later for a little while and in sewing, it will favor the former.  Neither creation or consumption will (or even could) reach 100% at any time.

Now go make something!

[Colette Patterns not only produces wonderful, high-quality patterns for women AND men, their mission statement is to offer a sewing education along with their patterns.  Sarai Mitnick, founder and owner, not only published a book on sewing that feels like it was written especially for me, but also maintains a beautiful and fantastically written blog.  Coletterie is where I found link to the ethical consumption article.  Also, the Colette Patterns is named after Mitnick's cat. Love.]

December 30, 2013

Bringing in the New Year

New Year's Day might just be my favorite holiday.  Well, maybe a close second behind Thanksgiving.

Last year's New Year's, or rather the first day of this year, turned me on to the idea.  I know that it is a cliche time for renewal and organization and health - or at least it is the best time for these things according to all magazines ever.  But I also think that the Marthas and the Real Simples of the world are on to something.

As I get older and further away from thinking on a semester system, the New Year really is just that. After the lovely, lazy summer ends, we are all in a rush to get back to projects, go back to school, pull in the harvest, winterize our lives, and hole up for the cold, clean months ahead - but not before squeezing every social second out of the last six weeks of the calendar year and letting it go out with a bang. We set ourselves up to need the new beginning that January First offers us.  I, for one, can barely wait.

Now, being a list person (love them!), I was tempted to write some type of "Worst Of" list for 2013 and then cheerfully outweigh it with a "Best Of" one.  Ugh, I know.  And perhaps not the best way to start 2014.  Of all the cheesy Pinterest quotes I've waded through, there are one or two I actually found inspiring, so in the end "don't trip over something behind you" is my main theme for my annual reboot.

I've also come up with a few good resolutions this year.  I'll mostly keep them private, so I feel less guilty when I let one or two of them slide...and also, I know no one will even know if I limit my Facebook check-ins to twice a day or not.  One of the resolutions, however, is to foster my friendships and make more food for my loved ones.  It doesn't hurt that I've been practicing by virtually making food for all of you nearly every week in 2013 (that would have been on the Best Of list!).

Since Christmas, I haven't been doing much cooking - hey, did I mention the holiday rush? But I have been planning for the first meal I'm cooking for friends on the first day of 2014.  My thoughts are to keep it simple: eggs and potatoes and biscuits, with a surprise or two thrown in.  So during this break from cooking, and in lieu of year-end lists, I thought I would post a review in pictures from the past few weeks.

Happy New Year!

[Rabbit rabbit.]

December 23, 2013

Cranberries in December

First, let me apologize for not having posted anything in a few weeks.  I've been having a difficult time with the early darkness of winter, as I always do at this time of year.  I have been trying to accept the cold, but I need the sun to help me out a little, too.

Also, it's difficult to cook a dish and photograph it before I lose natural light.

But enough with the excuses.  Let's bring some of that brightness we're craving back into the kitchen.

During Thanksgiving this year, I learned how to roast a turkey (!). This is a first for me, because I had been a vegetarian for the previous couple of decades.  My aunt Lynne usually hosts Thanksgiving and  texted me a while back so see if I would eat turkey along with everyone else if she purchased a sustainably-raised one.  I gladly accepted this offer and jumped at the chance to actually learn how to cook a turkey.

While our family has a set of traditional dishes at Thanksgiving, like the turkey and fixings, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, vegetable sides, and my beloved cranberry sauce, the way in which each is prepared changes each year.  This is wonderful for us home cooks, because we get to try out new dishes and flavors.  Our menu is always current and accommodating (last year I wrote about cooking for a group with various dietary needs).

Cranberry sauce from a can is absolutely delicious.  But it's also easy to make from scratch and can be varied endlessly.  Aunt Lynne made a cranberry chutney this year, more savory than sweet.  Of course I wanted the recipe - it called for a reprise during Christmas!

I'm hosting a smaller group of family for Christmas this week.  I'm so excited that I planned a seven course meal and maybe even a "table scape."  Okay, not really a table scape, but I do have a tablecloth and matching napkins. And a table and chairs, if I remember to bring them in from the patio in time to warm to room temperature.

Part of this meal is a cheese plate with olives, crackers, and this festive cranberry chutney. You can make it in about a half hour and hardly need to pay that much attention.  If you have been crazy with holiday get-togethers and have been charged with bringing an appetizer to one, I encourage you to steal this idea. No one will be disappointed, except Grinches.

  • 4 cups fresh cranberries
  • 1 small onion, chopped finely
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 T. ginger root, minced
  • 2 t. mustard seed
  • 1/2 t. red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 t. salt

In a large saucepan, combine all ingredients.  Put on high heat until simmering, then reduce to low. Simmer until thickened and cooked through, stirring occasionally.  Allow to cool, transfer to fancy serving bowl, and think of all the possibilities!