Thursday, February 25, 2010

Clutch...Done!

custom clutch order

ruffles

This clutch took me awhile to complete. But I'll tell you what - it's my best one yet. I'm so happy with the result. It's made from a wool skirt. See those ruffles? That is the satin lining of said skirt. I lurve it.

And look at these photos! Not professional quality by any means, but way better than previous ones that I've posted on here. I've discovered that our upstairs room is a natural light box, in that the light bounces just right off of the light-colored walls to give me that elusive ambient light that (I think) is crucial to getting a good shot. Yay!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Bad cookie

cookies I wish I was eating

I'm eating a bad cookie* right now, and I'm really mad about it. I'm at work, hating work, stressed out, and what do I do? I reach for the too-hard, plastic-wrapped cookie that came in my boxed lunch (yay for office food, huh?), and I start to eat it.

I know it's bad. But I can't stop eating it. Damn you, stress.

So to prevent any of you out there from making my mistake, please, please for the love of god go check out these recipes and make one of them ASAP. That way, when stress attacks, you won't succumb to bad cookies. The horrors!

The Last Chocolate Chip Cookie, by Not Without Salt
Chocolate Chip Cookies, by Chocolate & Zucchini

OR, for the ultimate stress relief:
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake, by Peabody (she and I, we're on the same track here)

*Ok, so the inside was sort of moist and not that bad. But overall, I could do much better.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Moroccan Chicken Pot Pie

pot pie

Guys. This weekend was so good. Our plans to have a low-key Valentine's meal on Saturday turned into a surprise dinner party, as my husband had secretly invited over two very good friends (friends that, I might add, brought lobster to accompany our already glamorous meal of scallops and glazed carrots - do we have great friends or what?).

I'm still talking about that meal. My husband's best bud is a chef at the Ritz in St. Louis, and went along with the surprise by supplying my husband with a recipe for lobster and scallops with a citrus beurre blanc sauce, with glazed carrots and red bliss potatoes. Drool. I really need to share that carrot recipe with you, because, as someone who has never really been thrilled about carrots, I would eat carrots every day if they always tasted that good.

But instead, I brought you a recipe for Moroccan Chicken Pot Pie, from a December version of Bon Appetit. I made this cozy, hearty dish on Friday night, knowing full well that it's an extremely yummy meal, but also was going to be quite humble when compared to our dinner plans the following evening. And I was ok with that, because, well...this pot pie is just really good.

One note: make sure you splurge for the golden raisins. They make all the difference.

----------------------

Morrocan Chicken Pot Pie
Bon Appetit, December 2007

1-1/2 lbs skinless boneless chicken breasts, cut up into 1 inch cubes
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 lemon
3 tbls butter
1 large onion, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 cup imported green olives, pitted, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup golden raisins
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 cup chicken broth
1 refrigerated pie crust (I made my own, because I'm weird like that...recipe below)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Mix chicken cubes with paprika, cumin, and cinnamon in large bowl to coat. Sprinke chicken generously with salt and pepper. Cut lemon in half; remove seeds. Using a small spoon, scoop out enough pulp and juice from between membranes to measure 2 tablespoons. Add to chicken mixture; stir to blend.

Melt butter in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, olives, and raisins. Saute until onion is almost tender, about 4 minutes. Add chicken mixture and stir 1 minute. Sprinkle flour over; stir 1 minute. Add broth and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Transfer filling to 9-inch diameter deep-dish glass pie dish.

Place pie crust over dish and seal dough edges to rim of dish. Using small paring knife, cut several slits in pie crust. Bake pot pie until crust is golden brown and juices are bubbling thickly, about 20 minutes.

------------------

My mother-in law's No Fail Pie Crust
(makes two)

2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup shortening
1 egg
1 tblp white vinegar

Blend flour, salt, baking powder, and shortening with a pastry cutter until pea-sized pieces form. Beat one egg in a cup and add vinegar. Add enough cold water to egg mixture to equal 3/8 cup. Add egg mixture to flour mixture by hand. Divide dough into two equal portions.

You can either roll it out between wax paper and use it now, or gather it up into a flattened disk, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and store in the freezer for later.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Marble Tops

marble top

On Saturday we grabbed some coffee and headed to the Common Market antique store located in downtown Memphis. As the fairly new owners of a victorian house, our goal is to restore it as accurately as possible, so we love going antiquing. As we were walking into the store, my husband (who had been there before) warned me of two things: to take my jacket, and prepare to be overwhelmed.

And he was completely right. It's a huge old warehouse (not heated!), full of everything (and I mean everything) you could ever imagine from old antique homes. I'm not talking about antique furniture, although there was some of that there. I'm talking whole fireplace mantels. Exterior dentalwork. Columns. Transom windows. There was even a victorian staircase you could buy (for only $10,000). In the basement there were hundreds of old pocket/sliding and front doors, countless claw foot tubs, and old commodes (I was racking my brain for who would want to buy those, but who knows?). Not to mention the hundreds of bins of antique doorknob sets (we found a set that matches our house's knobs - they go for $150 per door!), door hinges, plumbing fixture handles...you could spend weeks in there and not see everything.

I should have taken more pictures, but honestly I was so cold that my hands wouldn't stop shaking. But I did snap the above pictures of two (two!) hand-carved marble vanity tops that we're seriously considering buying. We have grand plans to redo our master bathroom, and how pretty these would be! We would have matching but separate sinks! And isn't that every married couple's dream?

But look at that crack! Obviously it's been repaired, but now the crack sealer has yellowed. Does anyone have an ideas about lightening that up? Is that possible? If I could figure out a way to lighten up that crack to be closer to the grey veining, I'd buy them in a heartbeat. So, help! Any ideas?

Monday, February 8, 2010

Ruffle Clutch

custom order - progress pictures
{custom order progress...}

Another snow day in Memphis! Of course, I still made it to work, but 90% of the office did not. Thus this post. :) I can't work when no one is here, right?

As promised, here are shots of the clutch that I'm working on. Of course (of course!) I ran out of black thread yesterday and had to give up mid-ruffle, but you can see the front is almost done. My customer picked out the interior fabric, which I ordered here. It's Climbing Lantern Pods in turquoise, by Laura Gunn for Michael Miller.

Assuming that Memphis will clear the roads enough for me to venture out past the Parkways, I'll hopefully be able to get some more thread tonight. (fingers crossed)

Friday, February 5, 2010

Custom Order

clutch trial run
{prototype purse, by moi}

Way back in December I had a custom order request for a purse through my Etsy shop (which I've seriously neglected lately). Of course, it happened right when we were moving into our new house, so I informed the customer that it would take awhile for things to get back to normal and for me to finish it up. You know how awesome she was? She said to not even worry about rushing it, because she doesn't need it until April.

It will be very similar to the one pictured above (my original prototype), but with different exterior fabric, a custom lining, and much better ruffles. I've perfected how to ruffle that silk and attach it without any edges or stitching exposed (hence the tiny fraying you can see). Final pictures to come...

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Liberty of London...for Target

l of l

Wow, this is pretty exciting. I've posted before about how much I love their fabric.

But part of me is disappointed that now it will become so...mainstream. Sort of like the Orla Kiely collection. For awhile there it was everywhere, and that signature pattern was really starting to irritate me.

However, I think I'd get over it if they offered this (pictured above) at Target. So beautiful.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Adorable!

cookie cutters

cookie cutter

cookies

Gasp! I must have these.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Ruth's Pumpkin Bread

pumpkin bread

We had quite the weather weekend here in Memphis. Ice! Snow! Sleet! Stock up on milk and bread now! We were sent home from work around 11 am on Friday, so I found myself at home, with my husband (he teaches, so of course he had the day off), with no plans. So the weekend turned into a feast of sorts. We always plan our weekends around our meals, so with all of this time to ourselves, and neither one of us feeling up to doing responsible things (clean? why?), we mapped out our gastronomic weekend.

First, I made scones (I deviated and added apples and cinnamon, and a tad more salt = perfect). Then for Friday night dinner we had gourmet pizza at our local trattoria (man do I love our neighborhood). To continue the Italian theme, Saturday night we decided to immerse ourselves completely in Italy by making L's grandmother's "famous" spaghetti sauce, along with salad, fresh bread and olive oil, and followed by panna cotta by yours truly (another post for later, I promise!).

I also had grand plans to make tea cakes, as we received this when we got married and I still haven't had a chance to use it. But ultimately, pumpkin bread won out on Sunday afternoon. A little background: L's father got this recipe from his dear secretary of twenty-something years, and passed it on to us. I was fortunate to have met Ruth last summer, and she is sweet as can be. Can I say that one day, I hope to be a Ruth to someone else? The idea of someone else using my recipe and having it bring them happiness...gosh, what a great feeling.

(Yes, yes, this uses shortening. I know! Shortening scares me too, but don't try to sub butter here. The shortening just gives this recipe a softness, a real tender crumb that I don't think butter could without adding any butter flavor. But if you try it with butter, let me know your results!)

Ruth's Pumpkin Bread
yield: 2 9 x 5 loaves

1 cup shortening
2-1/2" cups sugar
3 eggs
1 can (15 oz) pumpkin
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line two 9x5 loaf pans with parchment paper. Butter and flour the parchment.
2. Thoroughly combine shortening, sugar, and eggs in large bowl. Add pumpkin, mixing until smooth (there will still be lumps of shortening, but that's ok - as long as they are about pea-sized).
3. Sift together the remaining ingredients in a separate bowl. Add the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture, mixing until just combined.
4. Fill the loaf pans equally, spreading the batter smooth on top. To eliminate any bubbles, hold each pan about 5 inches above your counter and then drop it flat. Repeat if necessary.
5. Bake 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (mine always takes the full 60 minutes, but start checking around the 50 minute mark just in case). Let cool on a baking rack for 10 minutes, then remove from pans (use your parchment as a sling, and lift out loaves straight up and out of the pan - does that make sense?), and let cool on the rack completely.

This bread freezes and travels really well (I mail this to my in-laws, who live about 350 miles away, almost monthly, and have heard no complaints).