Sunday, January 31, 2010

Friday, January 29, 2010

Weekend Recipe: Simple Chocolate Pudding

This weekend's recipe isn't anything fancy, but the oh-so-simple pudding is so versatile, like a great sauce. Leave out the cocoa and you have vanilla pudding, add bananas and Nilla wafers to the vanilla pudding and you have an incredible banana pudding (make sure you save some for breakfast). Layer the pudding with pound cake, jam and frozen berries for a comforting trifle, or use the pudding as a pie filling. It's creamy and rich, and knocks the socks off the Jello-in-a-box stuff, and it's just as simple as the cook-n-serve Jello pudding, and clocking in at 20 minutes not much more time consuming than the instant kind. And more comforting than a rich, creamy pudding, especially one you don't have to eat out of a plastic, foil-topped cup?

Simple Pudding

2 eggs
1/3 c flour
3/4 c sugar
2 c milk (use 1 can evaporated skim milk plus enough regular milk to make 2 cups for a very rich, fat-free alternative to whole milk)
a pinch of salt
3 Tbsp. cocoa powder (optional, for chocolate variation)
1 tsp. vanilla
small knob of butter (optional)

Beat the eggs and combine with sugar in a medium saucepan. Stir in the flour and cocoa. You can mix the cocoa with a little milk first to keep it from clumping, if you like. Add the milk and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat.

As soon as the pudding thickens -- like the picture to the left shows the bottom of the pan, which is closer to the heat and therefore a bit thicker than the top will be -- remove it from the heat and pour it into a bowl. If you overcook it, you'll curdle the eggs and the pudding will have a really eggy taste. Stir in the vanilla and butter, then chill before serving. It's most excellent with fresh whipped cream.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Etsy finds: Nursery inspirations

I promise this blog won't turn into a "mommy blog" -- nothing wrong with them, but it's not my personality or style -- but I can't help but admit most of my creative thoughts and energy these days are going toward preparing for the baby's arrival in June. Today I wanted to share a few inspirations for the nursery I found on Etsy for this big blank canvas. I really love these products, and just wish I could buy them all!

Because we live in a rented house, we don't want to paint and have to repaint when it's time to move out, so I've been looking for ideas to add color and personality paint-free. Wall decals, art prints and colorful mobiles are all great ways to add a splash of something bright and interesting.

We love biplanes around this house, and what's more adorable than this whimsical little pilot boy and his red biplane by graphicspaces?

Except for these more realistic biplanes by chuckebrydwallart, which come in your choice of 56 colors and will be at home on the baby's walls long after he's not a baby (and his father will want a set of his own).


I love the wobbly flight path defineyourspacevinyl added to these airplanes! I also love the green wall ... sigh. Angela has loads of cute options for kids and grownups.

Decals aren't the only way to get great images on the walls. I adore the slightly perplexed dinosaurs in falldowntree's print collection -- especially the misunderstood T-Rex (and don't miss his blog for more of his great illustrations).

And last, I'm amazed by this colorful felt dinosaur mobile by PinkPerch. Each dinosaur is stuffed with eco-friendly bamboo stuffing and hand stitched, and the mobile is made to order so you can specify dino colors if you wish.

Like what you see? Make sure to check out the shops!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Finished Beagle sweater

Back at the end of August, my husband and I took a trip down to Austin and Chris picked out a yarn and a pattern for a sweater (my first!), and of course my optimistic outlook was to have it finished by Thanksgiving. Then Christmas. Then just before the end of winter, for the love of God I want to start something new! I'm pleased to announce I finally finished it! Last week! It's been raining and yucky and very busy, so I've just now gotten some photos, but I'm very pleased with how it turned out.

Pattern: Beagle by Norah Gaugan for Berocco (ravelled here)
Yarn: Cascade 220 in 8013 (Walnut Heather), 7 skeins for size medium
Mods: I had to go up a needle size from 5 to 6 and 7 to 8. I don't think I'm a tight knitter, but it's what I had to do to make gauge. I also made the sleeves about 3 inches longer than the pattern called for, trying them on him while in progress until they were as long as he wanted -- 20" sleeves would have looked rather silly on my guy. Also knit the sleeves on circulars so I had one fewer pesky seam to deal with (actually two, since he does have two arms).
Thoughts: There's one really confusing part in the sleeve pattern, where she says to increase one stitch per side, and I couldn't figure out if she meant increase at each end of one row, or increase once on the knit row and once on the purl row. So I just decided it meant the second option, and increased once per row x2 every 3/4". And it made a nice smoothly shaped increase, but I hit 20 inches long before I hit the recommended 22 increases. Whatever. I like the sleeves, they're long enough and they look nice and they're not too tight or too big in weird places.

This was a fun sweater to do, and pretty easy and mindless, despite the small mishap with the collar when I bound it off too tightly the first time and it wouldn't have fit over a goldfish's head. I enjoyed the pattern on the front and back, but I'm waaaaaay over seed/moss stitch after doing the chest part. The 220 is a nice, soft yarn with a great weight, although it does have a tendency to split (or maybe I have a tendency to let my mind wander). But Chris is very pleased with the finished result, and wears it every chance he gets, so yay! for this sweater and the pattern, and I've already picked another one from the same booklet for my dad. For probably Christmas 2013, if I start now...

See the sweater in progress in this Sneak Peek Sunday from September

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sneak Peek Sunday

Peeking at Daisy
Originally uploaded by isfive

I know January's almost over, but I'm just now getting into the swing of things. One of my goals this year is to develop this blog. Committing to regular, informative posts also means I have to commit to creativity in the kitchen, craft room and other areas of my life. Knowing there's a recipe post due means I have to find something new to cook (especially since I've already shared most of my go-to dinner staples), and sharing projects in progress means I eventually have to finish them (look for one this week, actually). So I wanted to give y'all a little sneak peek of what you can expect this year from is five.

Sneak Peek Sunday is a weekly feature where I'll share a tiny bit of a work in progress. Today it's more of a snapshot than a sneak peek, but why get technical?

Weekend Recipe is a weekly Friday feature where I'll share a recipe perfect for the weekend. It'll either be something to make a weekend dinner special, or may be something requiring a bit more time than a weeknight recipe would.

I'll also be posting twice during the week with a variety of topics -- a current project, a finished pattern, and I'd like to do more cookbook and craft book reviews, as well as get back into Etsy and other indie product features.

Anything you'd like to see more of? Less of? Something new? I really appreciate all my readers, and would love to see this become a community where we all share something, so don't be shy!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Tex-Mex dinner: Veggie enchiladas verdes and chiles rellenos

I made this dinner back in November, and I really thought I'd already posted photos and recipes, but I guess I hadn't! This is what I make when I get a craving for Tex-Mex (especially Chuy's), and I have a feeling I'll be making it often now that we're in Georgia.

The recipes are really general, since the fillings are really up to you. I like to make vegetable enchiladas, but you can easily do shrimp and cheese (that's the filling I use for the chiles), chicken, cheese (a mixture of cheddar and soft Mexican white cheese like queso fresco is my favorite), ground beef, steak or anything you want. Even the vegetable filling is flexible -- for example, I don't really like mushrooms, but if you do, they'd be a great addition.

While you can serve it with rice, beans and guacamole, I'd be very impressed if you found room to eat it all!

Preparation notes:
If you're making both dishes and using fresh peppers instead of canned for the enchiladas, roast the peppers for the enchiladas and the chiles rellenos at the same time. You can also make the fillings for both dishes at the same time. You'll use the same sauce for both.

Roasting peppers:
If you're using raw peppers like Anaheims or poblanos, roast them first by putting them on a cookie sheet 4-6 inches under the broiler until the skins start to blacken, turning once. Remove the chiles and cover immediately (you can even place them in the freezer at this point), letting them sit for about 10 minutes to loosen the skins.
For the enchiladas: Use a sharp knife to loosen and remove the skins, then remove the seeds and veins if you want a milder chile. Remove the stems and dice the peppers for the enchiladas
For the chiles rellenos: Remove the skins but not the stems and keep the peppers whole. Be careful not to tear these chiles, as you'll be stuffing them.

This makes anywhere from 10 to 12 enchiladas, depending on how much filling I make. I usually make as many as I want to eat (plus leftovers), then freeze the rest. They're easy to pop in the oven frozen and cook at a later date.

Veggie Enchiladas Verdes

1 to 2 dozen corn tortillas
Vegetable oil

Verde Sauce:
1 large can tomatillos (the easy way)
1-1.5 pounds raw tomatillos (about 14)
1 jalapeno, chopped
1 lime
1/4 to 1/2 cup broth (vegetable or chicken)
cilantro (optional)
2-4 oz. sour cream (optional)

Vegetable Filling:
1 cup cooked black beans
diced tomatoes
1 10-oz bag spinach
1 zucchini or squash
1 4-oz can chopped green chiles (the easy way)
1 pepper of your choice (Anaheim* and jalapeno are great for spice, bell peppers great for more mild flavor)
cheddar, Monterey Jack or Mexican soft white cheese (queso blanco or queso fresco) shredded or crumbled

Verde sauce
To make the sauce with fresh tomatillos:
Remove the papery skins and rinse the tomatillos. Put the tomatillos in a saucepan with enough water to cover, then boil for about 10 minutes, until softened. Drain. Place in a food processor (or use my best friend, an immersion blender) until smooth. Add chopped jalapeno and cilantro, blend again until smooth. Let simmer on low while you make the enchilada filling. Stir occasionally, and use broth to thin if necessary. After you've assembled the enchiladas, right before pouring the sauce over them, squeeze the juice of 1 lime into the sauce and add a couple of spoonsful of sour cream (optional).

To make the sauce with canned tomatillos:
Drain the can and rinse tomatillos before pureeing with chopped jalapeno and cilantro. Let simmer on low while you make the filling. Stir occasionally, and use broth to thin if necessary. After you've assembled the enchiladas, right before pouring the sauce over them, squeeze the juice of 1 lime into the sauce and add a couple of spoonsful of sour cream (optional).

Vegetable filling
To make the filling, dice and boil the potatoes until soft. Steam or saute the spinach until wilted. Cook the corn (I usually just use frozen corn and zap it in the microwave) and saute the squash and any other vegetables you don't want raw (like the mushrooms, if you want them).   Let the potatoes cool a little bit, then mix all the vegetables (including the roasted peppers) together with the shredded/crumbled cheese. Set the filling aside.

Preheat the oven to 350.

Heat a small amount of vegetable oil (less than a tablespoon) in a skillet. Place a tortilla in the oil for 4 or 5 seconds, until it gets hot and starts to puff up or blister, then flip it over for another few seconds. Remove the tortilla to a 9x14 baking dish. Place a tablespoon or so (I usually just use a loose handful) of filling in the tortilla, roll it up and place the enchilada seam-side down in the dish. Repeat until the filling is gone. Top with verde sauce and crumbled white cheese. Bake at 350 until the enchiladas are heated through and the cheese is melted.

Chiles Rellenos
recipe adapted from Cuisine of the American Southwest by Anne Lindsay Greer

4 roasted and peeled poblano peppers (see roasting instructions above)
2 eggs, separated
1-2 tablespoons flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
oil for frying

1 cup cooked and chopped shrimp
1 cup shredded cheddar or crumbled Mexican white cheese
chopped cilantro (optional)

Carefully make a small slit down the length of each chile to allow for the filling. Keep the stems intact and gently remove the seeds without breaking the chile. Stuff with about 1/2 cup of the filling, and if necessary to enclose the stuffing in the chile, overlap the slit edges and secure with a toothpick.

Beat the egg yolks with the flour until very thick. Beat the whites with the salt to stiff peaks, then fold the whites into the yolks.

Heat about 1/2 inch of oil in a skillet. Dip the chiles carefully in the batter, one at a time, and place them in the skillet. Do not overfill the skillet -- it's better to fry the chiles one at a time than to have them too close together. Cook until browned and crispy. Use tongs to turn the chiles to cook evenly, spooning more batter over the top right before turning if necessary. Serve topped with the verde sauce from the enchiladas (the optional sour cream is excellent with the chiles, even if you don't use it for the enchiladas).

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A few favorite things

We finished unpacking and settling in to our new home yesterday. What a relief to have all the boxes out on the curb waiting for the recycling truck. I love our new home, and wanted to share a few of my favorite spots (after a minor panic over a missing camera cable ... found exactly where it should have been).

We get loads of sunlight at the front of the house in the mornings, and the back of the house in the afternoons and evenings. My desk is in a cozy little corner on the upstairs landing, and I get sun streaming in the big window on the stairs in the morning and sun drifting in from the bedrooms in the afternoon.

A little reading nook in our bedroom (and my collection of sewing books and tattered bear in sore need of mending).

This set of three hanging baskets was originally for produce, but there's no place in my kitchen to hang it, so I'm using it for yarn instead. I think I like it better this way.

A sunny corner of the spare bedroom will make a great place for my sewing table. The vast blank wallspace just begging for a giant bulletin/inspiration board!

These double doors lead to my favorite living space -- the screened-in back porch.

I love these display shelves in the kitchen! They're on either side of the sink, and hold my pretty tea and coffee sets.

And my favorite part of the whole house, the basement! Well, the old handle on the basement door -- the basement itself is a pretty standard basement. Concrete floors, dark and shadowy. But I've never had a basement, so I can't begin to express how much I love having the laundry space and storage out of sight.

Thanks for visiting! Stop by, and we'll have coffee out on the porch.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Freezing It -- Two Soup Recipes

I'm not sure if it's the cold weather, or needing to restock the freezer since the move or if it's an early nesting instinct, but all week I've been cooking my favorite freezable dinners. I love having lots of casseroles and soups in the freezer, just waiting to be pulled out for culinary emergencies -- a last-minute potluck, spontaneous dinner party, dinner for a sick friend or new parents. We depleted our stock in December before we moved, and it was wonderful to not have to worry much about cooking during those hectic weeks (as well as a relief not to worry about wasting all those great dinners we couldn't take with us!).

Last night's dinner is one of our staples, but I'll warn you now if you have a cherished family recipe for chicken and dumplings, or if it's just one of your cultural points of pride, you might want to just pretend this dish is called Chicken Enchilada Soup or something else. I am not fond of traditional chicken and dumplings (although my friend M.E.'s chicken pie is the stuff of legends, and is like a pan of chicken and dumplings with a dumpling crust), so this spiced-up version fits my Texan palate much better. It's so easy to double (or triple) this recipe and plop half in the freezer after dinner. Sorry for the terrible photo, but my camera battery charger is temporarily MIA, so I had to make do with my phone.

Other great freezer dinners this week included
Okay, enough chatter -- here're the recipes!

Tex-Mex Chicken and Dumplings (or Chicken Enchilada Soup)
adapted from a recipe my grandmother found in a newspaper years ago
Serves 2 with leftovers

1-2 chicken breasts (depending on how much chicken you want in the soup)
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1-2 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 cup flour
3 cups chicken broth
salt and pepper
1 can evaporated skim milk
1 4-oz. can chopped green chiles
4 flour tortillas

Season the chicken breast with cumin, salt and pepper and cook it in a skillet. When it's cooked, dice or shred. Set aside.
While the chicken is cooking, heat olive oil in a pot. Add the onion, garlic and cumin and cook until the onions are browned and almost caramelized.
Add the flour. Stir, and cook about a minute or so to brown the flour a bit.
Stir in the chicken broth. Simmer, stirring until thickened and smooth. The soup will continue to thicken as it cooks, so don't get it quite as thick as you want yet.
Stir in the evaporated milk (or 1.5 cups of cream, if you prefer). Add the green chiles, salt and pepper to taste. Add the chicken.
Pour a tiny bit of water into the bottom of the skillet you used to cook the chicken, heat the skillet and scrape all the browned chicken bits off the skillet. Add this dark liquid to your soup.
Bring the soup to a simmer, stirring frequently. Cut the tortillas into dumpling-sized squares and add to the soup.
Turn off the heat, cover and let sit for 15 minutes.
Serve with sour cream, cheese, tortilla chips, Tabasco sauce, jalapenos, cilantro or anything you can dream up -- or just plain.

Green chile soup

2  tablespoons butter or margarine
2  tablespoons olive oil
1  medium yellow onion, diced
5  ribs celery, diced
5  cups chicken stock
1  7-ounce can green chiles
1  teaspoon dry thyme
3  bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
2  dashes white pepper
2  tablespoons white pepper
2  tablespoons chopped parsley
1 to 1 1/2 cups instant mashed potato flakes*
1  cup half and half (or my favorite, evap. skim milk)

1  cup sour cream
Additional sour cream for garnish, if desired. 

Heat butter and oil together in large stockpot over low heat.  Add onion and celery and saute until onion is caramelized and celery is tender.  Add half the chicken stock.  Add green chiles, thyme, bay leaves, salt, pepper and parsley and cook until vegetables are very tender, adding a little stock as needed to keep moist, but not too soupy yet.  The mixture can be cooled a bit now. 

Remove bay leaves and puree soup in blender until smooth.  Return to pot and add instant mashed potato flakes to reach desired thickness.  (Wait 5 minutes after adding flakes for soup to thicken before you decide to add more.)  Add more chicken stock if necessary, then add half and half and sour cream.  Heat but do not boil.  Serve with a dollop of sour cream.

*the only mod I'd make to this soup is to experiment with flour as a thickener instead of potato flakes. It's just a taste preference.

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