Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Behold, a Rug!

In the fall of 2007, I got it into my head that my college dorm room needed some warmth and personal touches. And because I didn't (and don't) have cable, I have nothing better to do, so I was going to make it happen myself. A braided rug! I must have exclaimed, in a nod to my Mennonite upbringing. So I trotted off to a fabric store in the 'burbs and purchased whatever I could find on sale.

Fast-forward three and a half years, and the thing is finally done!

It followed me from dorm room to the houses I sat, to my first apartment in Vollentine-Evergreen, home to my parents' house over the holidays, to my current house in Cooper-Young. I worked on it a little at a time, when I had time. It took many nights of cutting, braiding, and sewing (generally while watching Angel or Veronica Mars on my computer, to keep my hands busy), but I finished it last week and it's bringing a little more coziness to my bedroom already.

It's a little over four feet in diameter, and will probably ultimately be a bit bigger than that once the stitches relax a little (I think I stitched too tightly in some places, so the braids bunch up next to one another here and there). Well worth the initial $50 outlay for fabric. Yeah, Anthropologie, I am looking at you.

I'm currently in DIY withdrawal, though. I think my next project is going to be cloth dinner napkins. Will post about them in another three and a half years or so.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Two, no Six, no Twelve, Baker's Dozen: Rosemary-Cheddar Apple Turnovers

Today's perfect for porch-sittin', coffee-sippin', and neighborhood-walkin'. Also making turnovers, AKA, pie turned inside out. More crust=more happiness.

Anyway, I made two of these little turnovers, then looked at them and got a flash of inspiration to put cheddar on top of the apple mixture. So, there ended up being six with cheddar, two without.

Rosemary-Cheddar Apple Turnovers
Adapted from a recipe on The Kitchn
Makes 8 turnovers

2 medium tart apples (Arkansas Blacks from Jones Orchard, which keep well into the winter)
2 tablespoons honey (Wolf River honey from the Trolley Stop Market)
1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary (U of M edible garden)
pinch salt
1 egg, lightly beaten (Flora at Bluebird Farms)
1 oz grated cheddar cheese
your favorite pie crust recipe

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cut the apples into 1/4-inch dice. Combine the apples, honey, vanilla, nutmeg, rosemary, and salt in a bowl.

Roll out your pie crust and cut off the edges to form a large rectangle.

Cut the rectangle into 4X4 inch squares. Any extra you trim off, you can gather into a ball, gently squeeze together, and re-roll out.

oops... put some cheddar on it.

Place a generous spoonful of the apple mixture in the middle of each square, leaving a 3/4 inch border all around. Top with some grated cheddar. Brush the borders with the beaten egg, then fold over the square into a triangle, using the tines of a fork or your fingers to seal the edges.

Place the turnovers on a lined baking sheet (aluminum foil is alright, but a Silpat or parchment paper would be better) and brush the tops with the beaten egg. Cook for 25-30 minutes until the turnovers are golden brown.

I loved these turnovers like McAdams loves Gosling.

I also had a little of the apple mixture left over, so I made a vinaigrette with the honey/vanilla liquids+white wine vinegar+olive oil+salt. Then I marinated Dodson Farms kale with the vinaigrette for about an hour, then added fresh spinach (from the U of M edible garden), the rest of the apples, pecans, and a little more grated cheddar, though Parmesan would have been amazing here. Yum.

Finally, gratuitous cute kitten picture of the week: Chewie-in-a-Publix-bag.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Beer in the Kitchen: Beef Stew with Beer, Coffee, & Cinnamon

With the weather turning super-nice all of a sudden, I'm not sure people are going to be reaching for their Crock-Pots anytime soon. But this stew was a good way to use up the end of Number 14, a grass-fed steer from my friend Jessica's farmstead. Number 14, you were deeply appreciated. And delicious.

I tried to approximate a cinnamon-coffee-beer beef stew I had at the Memphis Farmers Market Harvest Celebration last fall. That one was much better, but this wasn't bad, as cheap at-home meals go.

Beef Stew with Beer, Coffee, and Cinnamon

Stew meat cut into 1-inch chunks - I'm not sure how much I used, as it was unlabeled. Maybe a pound?
1 tablespoon flour
A couple of tablespoons of a neutral oil (peanut, canola)
2 fat garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1 sweet potato (Dodson Farms), chopped
2 baby turnips (ditto), chopped
2 carrots, chopped
Bay leaf
1 stick cinnamon, broken in half
A couple pinches of dried oregano
A couple of whole peppercorns
1 12-oz bottle of a dark, roasty beer (I used Sierra Nevada Porter)
1 cup strong coffee
2 cups beef stock

Dry the meat well and place it in a bowl. Sprinkle it with the flour and stir it around a bit.

Heat a tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat in a heavy-bottomed pan or wok. Brown the meat on all sides. I would work in batches, depending on how big your pan is. You don't want to crowd the pan. Set the meat aside, but leave its delectable drippings in the pan.

Heat another tablespoon of oil over medium heat and add the garlic.

Let the garlic season the oil for a minute, then toss in the chopped vegetables. Vegetables that are the same size will cook more evenly.

Let the veggies cook for 2-4 minutes, until they are a little soft, then season them with salt, ground pepper, and oregano. Cook for a minute or two more.

Then transfer the vegetables to a Crock-Pot and place the meat on top.

Yum! As a newly-minted beer judge, I say this is an excellent representation of the robust porter style.

Cover the veggies+meat with the beer, coffee, and beef broth. Also add in your peppercorns, bay leaf, cinnamon stick, what have you. Go crazy and add other things if you want.

Set it to cook on low for 6-10 hours, then eat. It was pretty hearty. The beer and coffee made the beef super tender, and I liked the spice-sweet element from the cinnamon and peppercorns. Also, I had it on polenta, and polenta is my secret weapon for making everything 10X tastier.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

I Just Wanna Write a Song About a Boy & a Girl

Normally (unless you're a kid and have friends with cool parents who let them pass out candy with their classroom Valentines), I think Valentine's Day is crock. Reading the cooking/design blogs this week has been exhausting for all the red and pink frippery. I weary of the the commercialism of what is basically a made-up holiday anyway, BUT I did get a little crafty on my snow day to tell my SO that I think:

And he is.

Family chocolate cake recipe and Jones Orchard strawberries in the frosting.

Other bits and bobs floating through my life right now:

Put an egg on it. Anything-topped-with-an-egg is such a cooking blog cliche, but polenta+fried egg is really good for breakfast, good for lunch, good for what ails ya.

Delicious Dodson Farm sweet potato and turnip gratin with English cheddar. Check out the recipe here on Design*Sponge. So indescribably savory and good. I'm making another one right now to stave off the temptation that is the Young Avenue Deli's cheese fries at trivia later tonight.

Chewie's no fool; she knows where the warmest spot in the house is.

On another note, I'm in a legal clinic this semester and all of a sudden find my agenda marked with ominous words like "Go to court," so time's been scarce. I'll post again when I can.