Friday, October 29, 2010

Weekend Recipe: Pumpkin-Artichoke Risotto


I have a confession: I buy some seasonal produce more because I like the idea of eating it rather than actually eating it. This is especially true in the not-summer with squashes, root vegetables (ahem ... turnips) and greens like kale. At a recent trip to the grocery, I bought a cute little baby pumpkin, planning to bake it. But I don't actually really like baked pumpkin -- at least, I don't think I do. At any rate, I wasn't in the mood for plain baked pumpkin, so I started flipping through my cookbooks for a recipe.

This risotto recipe is perfect -- the pumpkin gives it just another layer of velvety creaminess. The artichoke ends up being the dominant flavor. I used a white pumpkin (again, impulse buy), so I imagine a standard orange one is a bit stronger. The recipe's loosely based on one from The Silver Spoon, and is a great stand-alone dish and is wonderful served with fish or a baked sweet potato for extra beta carotene.

Pumpkin-Artichoke Risotto

1 baby pumpkin (about 1.5 cups)
3 artichokes, or one can artichoke hearts, drained and rinsed
2 cups arborio rice
about 6 cups vegetable broth (you can use chicken, but it is a little too strong for this dish)
salt and pepper
a couple handfuls parmesan cheese

Remove the stem from the pumpkin and scoop out the seeds and fiber. Bake at 350 for about an hour, or until the flesh is cooked.

If you are using fresh artichokes, steam them for 20 minutes or until done. Remove the leaves and the choke, and chop the hearts. Put in a saucepan and add the cooked pumpkin. Mash the vegetables up with a fork and cook over low heat for 2-3 minutes.

Stir in the rice. Cook for 2 minutes, then stir in the broth 1/2 a cup at a time. Stir constantly, waiting until the broth is absorbed before adding more. This will take about 30 minutes, maybe more. When all the broth is absorbed, season with salt, pepper and cheese, then serve.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Things I love right now


the gorgeous weather


the finished mobile

my (slightly more) independent little man


and you?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Weekend Recipe: Microwave Chocolate Cake


Monday was rather trying. Mr. T is resisting naps like a Frenchman resisted Nazis in WWII (um, a member of the Resistance, not a Vichy type ... terrible simile, moving on now). After feeding him for what seemed like hours, I put him down, tiptoe away, only to be called back seconds later by his heartbroken wails. Lather, rinse, repeat. I finally got him down for a blissful hour, and that afternoon popped a smiling, rested tot into the stroller to visit some dear friends who are moving away soon. Of course, when we got there he cried and cried and CRIED, only to revert to Mr. Smiling, Rested Tot when I bundled him up to head back home. Sigh. Once I finally got him down for the night, I really needed a pick-me-up. I really wanted a gooey, warm piece of chocolate cake, but no way was I going to bake one. Enter my new bff, the microwave!

I found this recipe and minutes later, with a few tweaks per the recipe's reviews and a buttercream icing I whipped up myself, I was sitting down to a fudgy bit of heaven. At least as close to heaven as I'll get these days, anyway. The recipe makes two bad-day-sized servings, or three normal-day-sized ones. Because it uses baking powder instead of baking soda, you can refrigerate the batter to use later without losing any fluffiness (this isn't exactly a fluffy bakery-style cake anyway, since it's steamed rather than baked). I'd recommend saving batter rather than cooking the whole thing and saving cooked pieces -- I think it'd probably dry out and get chewy. You'll also want to eat it fairly soon after cooking it to have the best flavor and consistency (and why wait, anyway?).

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons dark cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 pinch salt

Grease a microwave-safe bowl, coffee mug or ramekin and set aside. Mix the butter, sugar, egg, vanilla and milk in a medium-sized bowl. Mix together flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt and stir into wet ingredients. Pour into microwaveable bowl and nuke for 2-2.5 minutes, until the cake is springy and a knife run around the sides comes out clean. Don't overcook it, especially if you're cooking a portion of the batter instead of the whole batch -- you can cook in 1-minute increments to be on the safe side.


Buttercream icing


1/2 tablespoon butter
splash of milk
2 tablespoons cocoa
about 3/4 cup powdered sugar (enough to make the icing as thick as you like it -- I like mine kind of runny so it soaks into the hot cake)


Heat butter and milk in microwave until butter is melted. Stir in the cocoa and sugar.

Enjoy! It's really easy to make, so you'll find all kinds of excuses to whip one up. Oh, my alarm didn't go off today, need some cake. Went for a run today, need some cake. Blogbooster ate the post I painstakingly thumbed out using my phone while feeding the baby tonight, need some cake (this may or may not be true. Hint: it's not the first option).

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

How not to make curtains


When we moved into our house last December, I fell in love with our big screened in porch. I had visions of gauzy, white curtains billowing in the breeze, a filmy shield from the neighbors' view that still let in sunlight. When I get a picture set in my mind, nothing but exactly right will do and nothing will get in my way (just ask my mom how awful I am to shop with). So I'd been on the lookout for the just-right fabric for nearly eight months when I found a bolt of cotton scrim at the back of the fabric store back in August. It's the stuff bandage and mummy costumes are made of, so if Sherman's ghost comes through on Halloween, I can pull them down like some zombie Scarlett O'Hara and help out the Red Cross (but for Sherman's side, not the South, so not really like Scarlett at all, especially since all she managed to do was make a dress, not help the wounded). Anyway, I had this brilliant plan. The fabric is 54" wide, so it was going to be so easy - hem the top and bottom, use the selvedges for the side hems and voilĂ , curtains in minutes.

Ha.


Here's how I managed to screw up and then salvage the curtains in seven easy steps.

Step 1: do not cut your fabric with the bolt standing on its end. You'll never get the curtain cut straight this way.

Step 2: with this flimsy fabric, do not wash it before you hem it. I know this sounds crazy, but when it's washed it gets all frayed and wrinkly and is next to impossible to work with.

Step 3: if you screwed up already by doing what I did instead of heeding my warnings, try to trim the raveled edges as best and as straight as you can. Press the top 12 inches or so of each panel, fold in half (selvedges together) and trim at a 90-degree angle to the selvedges.





Step 4: you'll have to turn the raw edge under 1/4 inch and press, then turn again to your desired hem length. I was so annoyed by this point, I didn't measure and just eyeballed it. Don't do this - they won't be even. DO use spray starch to make the fabric easier to work with.

Step 5: use a zigzag stitch to sew the top hems. At this point, the bottom hems are still unfinished, because the panels were cut wonky and they need to be hung to get them trimmed all to the same length.

Step 6: don't use string, nails and thumbtacks to hang the curtains. It's a real pain in the rear and looks tacky. Plus, the thumbtacks will pop out more than once. Use real curtain rods.


Step 7: don't leave the bottoms unhemmed and frayed because you're so sick of the effing curtains you want to scream and don't care anymore how they look. Pin them up to the same length, take the curtains down, trim, starch, iron and hem as you did the top, then come over and finish mine for me! BlogBooster-The most productive way for mobile blogging. BlogBooster is a multi-service blog editor for iPhone, Android, WebOs and your desktop

Friday, October 8, 2010

Crochet Helicopter



Recently I've been going a wee bit crazy with to-do lists (my favorite right now is Hiveminder), and one thing I'm trying to do is finish all my in-progress projects and chores (like cleaning out closets -- ugh). At the top of my list is a mobile for T before he gets too old for a mobile! I started crocheting little aircraft a couple of weeks before he was born, and finished them about a month ago. My dad made a nifty wooden frame that attaches to the crib, and the only thing holding me back is a lack of nylon thread for attaching them.


I used other people's patterns for two of the planes, but wrote my own for the little chopper and the biplane. Once I get them hung, I'll share the finished product. Until then, T is playing with them and I'll leave you with the helicopter pattern (I haven't finished writing out the biplane yet). It's about 4 inches long -- just the right size for chubby little hands.



Helicopter
I used Lily Sugar n Cream yarn, some bamboo quilt batting that was awful for quilt batting but makes nice stuffing, a size 6 hook and size 5 circular needles.

Abbreviations:
sc = single crochet
sc inc = single crochet increase
sc dec = single crochet decrease
co = cast on
instructions for knitting i-cord can be found here



Body

round 1: 5 sc in ring, join, ch1, turn
round 2: 5 sc around
round 3: 5 sc inc (10)
round 4: 10 sc
round 5: 2 sc, 5 sc inc, 3 sc (15)
round 6: 15 sc
round 7: 5 sc, 5 sc inc, 5 sc (20)
round 8-9: 20 sc
round 10: 8 sc, 5 sc inc, y sc (25)
round 11-15: 25 sc
round 16: (sc dec, 3 sc) x5 (20)
round 17: 20 sc
round 18: (sc dec, 2 sc) x5 (15)
stuff
round 19: (sc dec, sc) x5 (10)
round 20 (sc dec) x5 (5)
Tie off, using the yarn tail to close the opening.

Knitted i-cord rotor (make 2)
co 4
knit 30 rows i-cord

Knitted i-cord skids (make 2)
co 3
knit 17 rows i-cord

Knitted i-cord tail rotor (make 2)
co 2
knit 3 rows i-cord

Finishing:
Sew rotors and skids to helicopter body. Make sure to attach very, very securely if this will be a baby toy.


Download a PDF version of the pattern here!
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