Thursday, March 15, 2012

Peanut Butter & Jelly Yum Yum "Sushi" Rolls

 It is hard to be witty or creative when I am in a state of peanut butter and jelly induced bliss.     

I think we can all agree that a simple PB&J feeds a hungry tummy and the soul.  Yesterday I would have agreed  that there is no room for improvement.  But today for snits and giggles I made a "sushi" roll version. So as it turns out I was wrong there was room for improvement.

This is a great recipe for the little ones, your Peter Pan types and the silly at heart.  

All you need is peanut butter, jelly and a great sandwich bread.  I chose this Italian bread that is larger than regular sandwich bread. 

I chose strawberry jam after careful consideration.  My fridge is stocked with cherry, guava and Frutti di Bosco jams.  But I this recipe called for a classic. 

The peanut butter is creamy.  Do I really need to explain more?
 Spread onto your bread.  Leave 1/2"on the end without peanut butter or jelly.  When you roll peanut butter and jelly will "squish" out and you want a clean end.  

Now roll and voila you've got PB&J Yum Yum "Sushi" Rolls.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Almost Vegan Style Chinese Steamed Buns

Mr. Chica and I always ring in the new year with Chinese food.  This past new year's eve was no exception.   

Since we ran a 10.5K race I prepped the Char Sui Bao (aka steamed buns) the day before.  That turned out to be a stroke genius.  I finished the course 1 hour and 9 minutes and for 48 hours after hobbled around on sore legs.  So having buns ready to eat was a blessing.

You don't have to run 10K to enjoy these tasty little buns.  So what are you waiting for?  Get started!

The recipe below is vegan friendly version of Cooking Light's Steamed Pork Bun recipe.    

1 cup textured soy nuggets soaked in 3 cups of hot water 
1 teaspoon Five Spice Powder
3/4 cup sliced green onions 
1 teaspoon minced peeled fresh ginger
1 teaspoon minced garlic
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1/2 tablespoon Bragg's Liquid Aminos
1 1/2 teaspoons honey (omit the honey and it is vegan)

Drain soy when soft and mix with Chinese Five Spice Powder.

Lightly spray a pan with oil and add green onions, garlic and ginger.  Sautee for two minutes then add the remaining filling ingredients and mix.  Then remove from heat.

1 cup warm water (100° to 110°)
3 tablespoons sugar 
1 package dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (about 14 2/3 ounces) 
3 tablespoons canola oil 
1/4 teaspoon salt 
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

To prepare dough, combine 1 cup warm water, sugar, and yeast in a large bowl; let stand 5 minutes.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Add flour, oil, and 1/4 teaspoon salt to yeast mixture; stir until a soft dough forms. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes). Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 1 hour or until doubled in size. (Gently press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, dough has risen enough.)

Punch dough down; let rest 5 minutes. Turn dough out onto a clean surface; knead in baking powder. Let dough rest 5 minutes.

Divide dough into 10 equal portions, forming each into a ball. Working with one dough ball at a time (cover remaining dough balls to keep from drying), roll ball into a 5-inch circle. Place 1/4 cup filling in center of dough circle. Bring up sides to cover filling and meet on top. Pinch and seal closed with a twist. Repeat procedure with remaining dough balls and filling.

As you can see I do 8.  I like big buns.....please feel free to insert your best Sir-Mix-A-Lot jokes here. 

Arrange 5 buns seam side down, 1 inch apart, in each tier of a 2-tiered bamboo steamer. Stack tiers; cover with lid.

Add water to a large skillet to a depth of 1 inch; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Place steamer in pan; steam 15 minutes or until puffed and set. Cool 10 minutes before serving.

Serve with Thai Sweet Chili Sauce.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Love Is All Around

Love Necklace - Sterling Silver & Bronze
 Earlier this week my mother told me that one of her dearest friends had been diagnosed with cancer.  It was unexpected and a tough blow for everyone.

Rather than wallow this amazing woman has rallied and is ready to face what lies ahead and come out smiling.  Make no mistake the road ahead is going to be rough.  There will be surgery and radiation therapy.  But she has wonderful medical care, a loving husband, supportive friends and a devoted dog.  And now a necklace meant to remind her that she is loved.

I wanted the necklace to have meaning so I gave the design serious thought.  Though simple it was created with her journey in mind.

Bronze is a metal alloy whose healing power is tied to touch.  Physical contact is said to bring calmness and meaningful thoughts. The simple bar shaped pendant is meant to easily be grabbed and touched.   With time bronze tarnishes taking on a rustic gold tone.  She can easily clean it by wiping it with any fabric.  But the stamped letters will only become darker and more prominent with time.  Always reminding her that she is loved.

The pendant is backed with sterling silver and hung on a sterling silver round snake chain.
Monty modeling with the necklace

I hope she finds the necklace to be a comfort.  It was made with the best intentions.  

Monday, January 30, 2012

How to Wash, Dry & Store Your Enamel

I adore color.  So it was love at first sprinkle with enamel.  My first few sessions I was fortunate enough to use someone else's materials.   That meant I didn't have to prep the enamels and used a huge kiln.

These days I am on my own with a humble little beehive kiln and prepping my own enamels.  Though it can be time consuming washing enamel is essential for translucent, as well as opaque enamels.  It ensures a truer color and a better final product.    

The added bonus is that the filtered material can be used for counter enamel.  That will save you a few bucks.  Who wouldn't love that?  

This video from Art Jewelry magazine is a great step by step for anyone interested in learning how to wash, dry and store their enamels.  I hope you find it helpful. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Pumpkin Gnocchi with Cranberry Walnut Pesto

Pumpkin Gnocchi with Cranberry-Walnut Pesto
The first truly delicious gnocchi I ate was at a random trattoria in Genoa.  Those lithe pillows swimming in pesto were the start of a love affair.

Two years ago, we spent eight months in Buenos Aires.  Italian roots run deep in Argentina so while there is plenty of beef with chimichurri there is also amazing pasta.  Every neighborhood has their "pasta joint" which sells fresh pasta.   I found the world's best gnocchi not to mention incredible agnolotti on the corner of Soler and Dorrego in Palmero Hollywood.  The traditional potato version was delicious. But nothing compared their heavenly gnocchi de calabaza (pumpkin gnocchi).  We must have eaten hundreds during our stay.

Organic Cabernet from Argentina
Nowadays, if I need a gnocchi de calabaza fix I can't run to the corner and pick it up.  Those days are gone.  All cravings have to be satisfied with my own cooking know how.  So I did a little research and discovered a Pumpkin Gnocchi with Cranberry Walnut Pesto recipe on Would Rather Gather's blog.   Not only is it delicious but it is also vegan.  You can see how it went below;

The key to this recipe is having the dough remain a bit ooey-gooey.  A more solid dough will yield tough heavy gnocchis.  So stick close to the flour amounts provided and resist temptation to add much more. 

I boiled the gnocchi and then transferred to a pan for a quick sear.  Then mixed it with the pesto.  Viola it was ready to serve with a wonderful organic wine.   

This is an incredibly tasty recipe that I can't recommend enough.  It has the added bonus of being vegetarian, vegan so wonderful even meat-eating pals would pronounce it a satisfying meal. 

This year we'll be eating this for Thanksgiving with simple green salad and a meringue topped cranberry curd tart.  But that will be a future post all it's own.    

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Orlando Philharmonic Concert at Bok Tower

 On our recent jaunt to the Orlando area to see family and do a little shopping we added an outdoor concert by the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra to our itinerary.

The event was held at the Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida about an hour outside Orlando.   The setting was lovely in spite of the uncharacteristically windy and chilly night.  

Live music, especially classical or opera, holds a special place in my heart.  The love affair began when my parents took me to see The Nutcracker.

My mother bought me a gorgeous burgundy velvet frame bag with a gold tone chain strap.  I held it on my arm as if it were a Birkin bag.  It seemed that glamorous to twelve year old me.  The bag was just the beginning.

Bok Tower

While I loved the lithe graceful ballerinas, I was entranced by the music.   There was a power and life that simply didn't exist when played on our stereo.  It gave me goosebumps.  As a teenager, I patronized the El Paso Symphony but my tastes turned a bit modern.  So I also saw Gwar or The Smithereens while still dressing up and listening to string quartets.

While I still listen to alternative tunes favored by aging wanna-be hispter goofs, I remain faithful to classical music and my beloved opera.  So this was a real treat.
My Pop and I

Shoes off and relaxed.

This concert was a much different experience than my usual symphonic outings.  My mother's lovely gift had impressed upon me the need to dress up if someone was putting to bow to strings.  So an outdoor concert presented more than a few challenges.

For seating we "borrowed" a blanket from the hotel.  It was the perfect size and easily smuggled out in a large tote bag.  With that taken care of my concerns turned to wardrobe.

The nippy weather was perfect for comfy snuggley clothes.  Even so for me jeans or a sweatshirt with sneakers wasn't an option.  My mom didn't raise me that way. I wore tweed pants, a silk shirt and cozy cowl neck sweater.   I actually showed up in heels!  Once I saw the grassy pathway to the venue I put on my trusty ballet flats. 

My dad wore his beloved West Virgina baseball cap.  And despite his aversion to taking pictures he posed for a few to pacify his pushy daughter.  

He loved the music even singing along to a few of the songs.  I shooshed him and he ignored me.  Order remained in the universe. 

When the cold got to be too much we packed up and headed out.  Each of us chilled to the bone but happy to have ventured out to enjoy the music and the company.
Snuggling my fave partner in crime and concerts.
A little wine to keep warm. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Granola Goodness - Recipe

Our house runs on granola. It is a healthy versatile snack that travels easily and makes a great gift.

This holiday season I plan to give granola as gifts.  A portion of today's batch is headed to the home of a dear friend who just had her second child earlier this week.  Normally, we give frozen meals but I thought a hearty snack might come in just as handy.  

Another plus is that you can share granola with just about everyone, especially vegan friends. I like to refer to my recipe as vegan friendly which is a little silly.  It isn't as if there are people out there making granola with ground beef or spare ribs. Though with the current bacon craze you never know.   

My point is that this is why I love my homemade granola, it can feed just about anyone.  It is loaded with healthy ingredients that qualify it as pure nutritional gold but so also damn yummy it'll have you lickin' your fingers and asking for more.  I've shared batches with friends and neighbors and all have asked for the recipe.  I have yet to share it until today.

Boo's Granola (Need a Better Name)

Dried pineapple & peanut butter

Dry Ingredients 
8 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cups sugar (optional - without sugar it has a cleaner taste)

1/2 cup of any or all the following - shredded coconut, slivered almonds, flax seeds, raisins, dried pineapple, apricots, dried cranberries, wheat germ or anything else that tickles your fancy

Wet Mix 
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup canola oil
1 1/2 tablespoons molasses (decrease or optional - this is gives a deeper flavor)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract

Preheat oven to 200 degrees and oil baking baking sheets.  I use a canola spray to use as little oil as possible.  Please note this is not the canola oil listed in the wet ingredients.

The wet mixture before heating
Combine all wet ingredients in a small saucepan and warm the mixture then whisk until smooth.

Combine the two mixtures
Pour wet mixture into dry mixture and combine with a wooden spoon until evenly distributed.  I also like to use my hands to make sure they are clumpy pieces.

Bake all the granola at the same time

Spread evenly in the baking sheets.  Ensure you have single layers so that pieces cook evenly.

Bake for 3 hours or until lightly browned and crunchy.  I rotate the baking sheets every 45-60 minutes.  To test that the granola remove a small piece and allow to cool.  Then taste it is crunchy then it is ready.

Allow to cool and store in airtight containers. 

I am gifting some of this batch in a glass juice jar.  Not only this a yummy and healthy gift but now environmentally friendly too.  Trifecta!
The perfect gift.

On a side note, I've been struggling for months to come up with a good name for my granola.  Any suggestions would be appreciated.