28 Mar 2009

Grape Pico Salsa Salad, With Barbequed Chicken and Sriracha

What was once a salsa, is now a salad.
It started about four summers ago, when i decided to go all out and throw some grapes in my fajita. The grapes tasted so good with the cilantro, that I decided to try making some salsa out of grapes.
It was a huge hit, so tasty in fact, that all we started eating it alone on the side. So I started adding other veggies as well. We've tried many different things, from julienned carrots and water cress, to tomatillos and broccoli. Even diced pears! The trick is with this recipe is to make sure everything is chopped fairly small so that the flavors can mingle.

Here's the base recipe for the Salsa:

1 lb of Grapes, cut in half. Use seedless, unless you'd like to pit all those grapes. (I actually like eating the seeds, but I understand that not everyone does;)

1 med sized red onion, diced

1 stalk of Green onion, diced

2 cloves of garlic. crushed (I've used garlic powder too, you need more of that, obviously, but it works fine)

1 chipotle pepper (I use the canned variety) Chop it up really well, you don't want huge chunks of that;) You can add more if you like, (i usually use two, if we aren't having company) but do it one at a time to make sure that it isn't so spicy you can't eat it!

1 cup of chopped cilantro. (curly leaf or saw tooth, doesn't matter)

1/4 cup olive oil (great opportunity to use a extra virgin, or any other oil that's best raw)

1/4 cup Vinegar

Ok, so that's the base recipe. Mix it all together really well (I like to shake it in a sealed tub a while), and let it sit a little while in the fridge to marinate. It really is best over night.
If you plan on eating it right way, it IS good, just not AS good as the next day.

For more of a salad...

Add 1 whole red or orange bell pepper, half a head of cauliflower, finely chopped raw spinach leaves, and sesame seeds.

I still want to try adding some okra, or bbq'd zucchini or eggplant.
Doesn't seem to matter what I add, it's always been good! Goes great along side of anything bbq'd, or right on sandwiches, burgers, and wraps.

23 Mar 2009

R.I.P Atticus Finch

Today Mr. Finch was found lying motionless, in the bottom of his cage.
I'm not sure what happened, but he was pretty young, and in good health. He was just singing earlier this morning, happily.
I went to change his water though, and noticed that he wasn't on his perch or in his little nest, and found him in the bottom of the cage.
Poor little dude. I'll miss him. I'll miss his constant "me me me" chirps, (he kind of sounded like a squeaky toy) and his little judging stares.
Zeke was pretty bent out of shape about it all, and Reuben is already making preparations for a burial for Mr. Finch. We're going to bury him beside the lilac bush, which is just starting to bloom.
It sure is a sad start to spring though.
I have a feeling we'll be visiting a pet store in the near future. Maybe we'll get a "Scout Finch" this time.

20 Mar 2009

Gedgable Beef Stew

Ok, so maybe this stew needs a better name. But for now, it's Gedgable Beef Stew. My youngest son, Zeke, couldn't say "vegetables" for the longest time. So around here, vegetables are known as "gedgables". (Actually now that I think about it, It was Reuben that started the Gedgable thing, Zeke sort of followed).

The ingredients for this stew may seem a little different, but trust me, it's yummy! We made this last night, and today the boys were begging for more. (I'm just happy that they're liking foods with lots of gedgies!)

Keep in mind, when I make stew, I like to make it in huge amounts, so that we have leftovers for several days. If you want to make less, feel free to divide the recipe.
If you use the recipe as it is, use the biggest stock pot you've got! (I call mine "the cauldron" haha).

Also, feel free to use less, or more beef, and adjust the broth to the way you like it with bouillon powder.

2-3 lbs beef, cubed. (I've used stewing, simmering, steak, roast, hamburger, it really doesn't matter. Just use what you prefer, or what you've got!)

10-15 potatoes, cubed. (i like to leave the skins on)

4 cups chopped carrots (or a large bag of baby carrots)

4 medium onions

1 medium Stalk of Celery

2 Cans of tomatoes. (whole, diced, again, whatever you prefer. I usually use diced)

4 Tbsp Flour

3 Tbsp Oil (vegetable, olive, its up to you)

1 Tbsp Seasoning Salt

4 Tbsp Garlic powder (or 2tbsp fresh crushed garlic)

2 Cups of Cola

2 Tbsp Sumac (ground) My new favorite spice!

1 Tbsp Oregano

4 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce (or as Mom would call it, "chester sauce"...she's a hillbilly. And i mean that in the most loving way!)

4 Tbsp of Lingonberry or Currant Jam. (if you can't find either, Cranberry sauce works well. You're basically looking for a tart jam)

Beef Bouillon Powder to taste

Water (the amount of water you use depends on how much broth you want)

Sour cream and Chives for Garnish. (i really like using plain, whole fat yogurt)

Lightly coat the beef in flour , And place in the pot with the oil. Cook on medium heat for a few minutes until its starting to warm up and start to cook. Add the Cola and Worcestershire sauce and onions and let the meat simmer on a medium heat until lightly browned.

Then add the celery, carrots and potatoes. Add enough water to just cover everything.

Bring to a light boil, and add in the tomatoes.

At this point, you'll want to see if you need more beef flavoring. If so, add some beef bouillon, and the seasoning salt.

Now Add the Garlic, Oregano, and Sumac. Bring back to a boil, and cook until the vegetables are tender. (or leave them slightly crunchy, if you like them that way!)
Last but not least, add the lingonberry jam. (or whatever jam you happen to be using. If you're using canned cranberry sauce that is more of the "gelatin" style, dissolve it in some hot water first, so that its more of a liquid than a solid.
Serve with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt, and sprinkle with chives.

I'm not sure if I gave the best instructions for this, I usually cook without measuring, and sort of fly by the seat of my pants. Sometimes I put diced turnip in, or add some butternut squash towards the end.

The real prize here is in the seasoning:)

18 Mar 2009

New Spring Designs

Here are a few of my new designs, now available in my shop.
Now Hansel and Gretel aren't really new, but i've changed their faces a bit. I'm curious to see which ones people like better. Here's the listing, which shows both faces.
I just felt like changing them up a bit.
I have a lot more i'm working on, so stay tuned for more designs!
Hansel & Gretal
Max, A happy little Coffee Mug

Winston Whale

My Mayberry Sparrow

Bartholomew Bunny

13 Mar 2009

Real Mayo...there's no going back!

Lately I've been reading older cookbooks, and old issues of "ladies home journal" and there are so many really simple things that we no longer make for ourselves.

Instead, we head off to the grocery stores and find it already bottled, ready to serve.
Ketchup, Salad Dressing, Mustard, Jam, Jelly, chocolate syrup, pretty much every condiment you can think of.

Now I'm not about to go tap my own maple trees for syrup. (I couldn't even if I wanted to. I have a ginkgo tree, and I'm not sure that would be too tasty!)
Hey, if you have a small forest of maples though, all the power to ya. It could be fun!

But mayonnaise, how simple is that? I'd never thought of making my own, because, well, it's relatively cheap, and usually comes in such big bottles that we rarely run out.

I've been reading labels a little more carefully though these days, and even the most basic of things are so full of chemicals. Preservatives, high levels of sodium, and all sorts of fillers that were never named with the intentions of anyone ever being able to pronounce.

So I decided to give this condiment a shot. I know people used to make their own all the time. I'm not sure if it was the raw egg factor that made people stop, or if it was just the fact that it was cheap to buy it already made.

For whatever reason the quit making it, I think they're crazy.
Real mayonnaise tastes entirely different than the pre-made stuff. It's a whole other category.

I made mine slightly differently than recipes I've seen. Most recipes call for whole eggs, and canola/vegetable oil. I'm sure that'd be great! I love the taste of olive oil though, and thought this would be a good way of getting some essential fatty acids. (It's hard to find ways of getting good fats in, other than salad dressing. So many recipes involve cooking and heating the oil, which ruins any benefits the oil has to offer).

I also used some really yummy vinegar that I got at Ikea, it's a lingonberry and apple vinegar that has a fantastic flavor. And to top it off, i used farm fresh eggs. (the yolks are SO much brighter, since those chickens actually get some sun, and aren't fed hormones...) I only used the yolks. You can use the whole egg though if you like.
It didn't make a ton, but you don't need a lot. It only keeps for about a week, so unless you're making enough for party sized potato salad, this is all you'd need.
4 egg yolks (or two whole eggs)

3tsp of vinegar. (I added a bit more, because I like it a little more tart)

1tsp of salt

1tsp of sugar

1 cup of oil

Crack the eggs into the bowl and whisk them really well. Add the vinegar slowly and continue to whisk until it starts to froth up a bit. It will start to get pretty thick.

Then start adding the oil..... s l o w l y.

Add a drizzle at a time, and continue to whisk. If you add it too fast, you'll end up with really runny mayonnaise.

If you like, you can do this in the blender instead. It is faster that way. Truth be told, I just don't like to dirty my blender over a cup of mayonnaise. I hate cleaning it!

Once you're finished whisking it, and it's fairly fluffy, you can add in the sugar and salt. If you're feeling really fancy, add in some seasonings. Garlic? herbs? Anything your little heart desires!

Pour into a sealed container, and refrigerate.. I found that it set up even more after being in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.

Eat on top of your favorite mayonnaise adorned sandwiches and enjoy! (i like mine on toasted tomato sandwiches, with little bits of prosciutto, and lots of black pepper:)

11 Mar 2009

Pincushions...the cupcake of the sewing room!

I've been doing a lot of sewing lately, and my pincushion has sort of bit the dust. I *could* fix it, but why would i do that when I could have one of these?
With such tempting colorful fabrics (some of the fabrics are actually vintage), I can hardly resist!
Olive $4 Caged Blue Bird Pin Cushion
Retromama $16 Retro Ruler Pear Pincushion
Leafpeople, $30 Dachshund Doxie Dog Vintage Planter Pincushion
hauttee, $22 - Vintage Japan Bird Handmade Pincushion
Jayteedoubleyou, $13 Sweet vintage round buttoned pincushion

8 Mar 2009

Saturday's Lucky Finds

On Saturday, it rained. Actually, it poured. Small animals were floating down the rivers in the streets, in tiny make-shift leaf boats and tin garden pots. (OK, I'm lying, but how fun would that be?!)

I'm a huge fan of rainy days, I always have been. My kids weren't home, so after doing some work, I thought I'd venture out to Ottawa street, a one minute dash from my house, and enjoy the rain, and somewhat "springish" weather while it lasted.

Ottawa street used to only be known for being the big textile show king. It's loaded with fabric stores, decorating supplies, foam rubber cut in any shape imaginable, you get the idea. (oh, it's also known for being the location of the very first Tim Horton's.)

Over the last few years though, it's really started to pick up in the antique department.
I believe there are now about 8 antique/vintage shops open on just a short stretch of the popular street, as well as an awesome Mexican restaurant,*poco loco* (you can bet your bum that I'll talk more about this rockin' place later) an Italian bistro, and Farmers Market!

I needed to go to the fabric store anyway, out of bias tape.(dangit!) So I hit up every antique store on the way.

I immediately fell in love with this quilt. It's got a lot of feed sack patterns, mixed with some juvenile novelty prints. It's larger than a crib sized quilt, but smaller than a twin. I was thrilled to see that it only needed very little repair. A touch on the back, and a bit in the patchwork.

The price though, I couldn't believe it! $15 bucks! I've never seen a quilt, of this age, in such great shape for such a low price. Of course I had to grab it. I knew if I waited it would be long gone the next time I visited the shop.

I also found these gorgeous little old buttons, in a coralish red, and light concord blue.
Old buttons are like candy! I might use them for some little quilted hair barrettes I'm working on.

Last but not least, an antique darning egg, and a very odd little Lucite belt buckle. I'm going to pass this on to my sister Elise (it came with the buttons) she's the fashionista of the family, and can pull off any era. I envy her!