Monday, August 16, 2010

How to Use Up Your CSA, part two.

Before giving this recipe for my random whatever's on hand pesto, I should mention that all measurements are approximations. I've tried to estimate what I actually use, but if you're like me, you'll just keep adding until you've got a taste you like.


1/4 cup raw walnuts
1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup cold water
3 cloves raw garlic

Blend until smooth and emulsified.

1-2 handfuls basil
3-4 handfuls arugula
1/2 zucchini, chopped into chunks

Add a handful at a time, alternating zucchini with greens until fully blended. Take a taste at this point. Do you need more garlic? More basil? I tend to add more arugula/basil than I originally thought I would use... Once you're satisfied, transfer to a microwave-proof bowl.

1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated

Incorporate cheese. Cover and microwave on half power for about three minutes, until warmed and garlic has cooked. Serve with my new favorite thing, quinoa pasta!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

How to Use Up Your CSA, part one.

So let's say that your roommates go in on a CSA, but they can't possibly eat all the beets. What's a girl to do?

Delicious Pickled Beets!
(recipe taken from Sept. 2010 Food and Wine Magazine)

1 cup cider vinegar plus 1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 small red onion, finely sliced
1 garlic cloves, quartered
1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
2 bay leaves
2 whole cloves
1 1/2 tsp. black peppercorns
2 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried oregano
2 pounds medium red beets, peeled and cut into 2-by-1/2-inch sticks

(I used a sprig of fresh oregano in place of both the oregano and thyme.)

Bring all ingredients but beets to a boil. Simultaneously, boil the beets for about 10 minutes, until tender. Drain and return to the cooking pot. Pour hot pickling liquid over the beets and let stand at room temperature for 4 hours. Drain and serve!


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

This is (sort of) growing on me.

Get it? Oh, garden-themed blog pun, you are hilarious.

My craftiness has had to take a back seat lately to busy season at my wedding/event floral "dayjob". Dayjob is in quotes there because we've been so busy it was a few 50+ hour weeks in a row, but since I've only got three weeks of work left, things (for me, anyway) have been slowing down a bit. Why only three weeks left, you ask? More on that later.

For now, here's some glamour shots of my meager garden plot:

That last photo is in memorium of my former bean plants and their delicious bounty. The plants succumbed to some sort of unidentified problem (bacterial, I suspect) that caused the leaves to turn red and splotchy and the beans to wither and yellow on the vine. It is also a picture of a cat that I like.

Being such an amateur, I lack the experience to sort out what disease is wilting the beans and what bug might be eating the chard and why the lettuce won't produce the same amount each week. This is my first attempt at a garden that isn't a collection of oversized terra cotta pots, and despite how "rustic" everything looks, it's been producing pretty well. Last night I made a big batch of arugula pesto and could probably do the same tonight if there wasn't so much left over. Last week I recruited my roommates to eat a salad of arugula and baby chard, along with a bowl of green beans and a side of chard cooked with garlic, and just yesterday I got my first of many yellow cherry tomatoes and handful of basil. Still waiting on the neglected cilantro to turn into coriander, but there's no hurry. I'm hoping to leave my roomates with some kale and cabbage to harvest in the winter, now that the beans have vacated their precious space.

Leave kale for my roomates...what does that mean? It means that in a mere 29 days I will be on my way to California in an all-American-road-trip-to-a-new-life-out-west kind of way. The boyfriend is in San Francisco as I write this, searching for an apartment for us in the East Bay. The thought of smelling salt water again fills me with joy, as does the idea of visiting an artichoke farm. Funny what things you fixate on. I've mananged to convince some unsuspecting friends that they really do want my house plants and cat and some odd furniture bits and artwork. Donut and I divided up our cell-phone family plane today (so sad!) and soon I guess I'll have to start packing. Not quite sure how I'll fit into the Wood Street Blog without actually living on Wood Street, but I look forward to, at the least, guest blogging from time to time! Heaven knows there will be plenty of DIY, foodie, crafty awesomeness going on in the Bay Area to report on.

Here's another picture I like and a recipe to go with it, because this is my blog post and I can do that.

Steph's Keep-Me-Full-At-Work Granola

3 cups Old-Fashioned Rolled Oats
1/4 cup Flax Seeds
1/3 cup Dark Brown Sugar, dissolved to a thick syrup with water
1/3 cup Light Oil (vegetable, canola, safflower, etc.)
1/2 cup Raw Walnuts, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup Dried Fruit (strawberries, raisins, dates, etc.)
1/4 cup Pumpkins Seeds, raw

This recipe is something I always toss together, depending on what bulk leftovers I have from my last Whole Foods run. The basic idea is to mix the oats, nuts, seeds, etc. in a large bowl, then drizzle the oil and sugar water over it. It gets a quick toss before being spread on a cookie sheet and placed in an oven set to 350. There's no real "done", but once things get a bit more golden and the oats become crunchy, I call it done. It usually takes about 20 minutes. After cooling, the fruit is tossed in and a handful of raw sesame seeds are sprinked over the top before I scoop it into one of the storage jars I can't stop buying at thrift stores. Easy! And seriously, if I eat this for breakfast I won't need food for 6 hours or so.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Mighty Cardoon and Other Wild Edibles

A few days ago, Chrysteena asked me what these are:

(I really wish I could find my digital camera battery, because every empty lot in Chicago seems to have at least 5 of these plants in it right now. But for the time being, this Googled image will have to do.)

"They're some kind of thistle. I think you can eat them...?" was my answer. Not totally uninformative, but still. After a bit more research, I've discovered how wonderful the Cardoon really is!

Yes, folks, the cardoon! Step right up to learn all about this versatile little wildflower. Obviously it's botany/foodie 101 level knowledge that the artichoke as we know it, that spiky ball of deliciousness that I would walk over my own mother to eat, is a flower head. Here's some in bloom, the way we see them at the floral wholesaler for work.

See the resemblance?

Apparently these are quite good steamed or fried or eaten like a regular artichoke, although I can attest from the few times I've tried to nab some for cut flowers that they are prickly as can be. I'm not entirely sure how one deals with that, I guess a stealthy peeling is all it would take.

I suspect that I'm so excited about these because not only is the cardoon a locavore's alternative to the artichoke, but because of the time my father would spend on camping trips enticing us to learn our wild edibles. In some sort of Tom Brown-induced fit of modern naturalism, I dutifully memorized the edible (and otherwise useful) parts of the cattail, water lily, sumac berry, indian cucumber root and puffball mushroom. And I have to say, this knowledge has come in handy every now and then. Why pay top dollar for wild mushrooms when you can find them walking home from work?

Maybe not at it's tastiest this way, but takes like gourmet gnome food (ie: earthy and delicious) in homemade ravioli!

I'm getting a little side tracked, I know. Back to the cardoon. My last exciting tidbit of information is that the heads and stems of this versatile and (from what I've heard) tasty flower can be used as a vegetarian rennet in the curdling of homemade cheese!

WHAAAT? But it's true! It's even in Home Cheese Making by Ricki Carroll, so it's got to be true. The Portugese, it would seem, rely on the milk-curdling properties of this particular thistle in the production of Torta Serena and other soft, fondue-like cheeses, which I will be sure to buy from Cowgirl Creamery as soon as I settle in Oakland this September. (!!!!) I'd love to try this myself, but all recipes I find online advise against the use of cow's milk, as it becomes bitter with the addition of the cardoon "rennet". So unless I can find a sheep to milk in the next few months, I'll have to content myself with trolling through the local Whole Foods in the hopes of finding it there.

In the meantime, I'll just have to don some gloves and figure out how to cook these things!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Grilled Pizza

The pizza blogging continues. The girl can't help it.

Perhaps, like myself, you never would have thought to put a pizza on your grill. I admit to initial skepticism myself. Despite several delicious campfire flatbreads, somehow I never made the connection. You can cook dough over a fire? Surely the ancients used a pizza stone.

In any case, thanks to a quickly googled pretty awesome pizza blogand a boyfriend who watches Top Chef (go Tony!), I recently found myself eating probably the best pizza I've ever made. Here's the basic how-to:

1) Make your favorite pizza dough. For this particular attempt, I used sourdough starter and let it rise with the addition of some vaguely Italian dried herbs. I'm not usually a dried herb user, but letting them "marinate" in the dough for a while brought more flavor out that you might think.

2) Figure out what's going on your pizza, and prepare it. (This is a highly sensitive recipe which requires you follow it to the letter.) We used garlic, chopped as finely as I could, raw tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and zucchini.

3) When the coals were almost-but-not-quite-ready, we tossed the zucchini slices on, brushing them with some olive oil to keep them from sticking/drying out. Once these were done, both the grill and the top of the pizza were brushed with out as well.

4) Then your pizza dough goes on the grill! I had mine already stretched out on a floured board and kind of flipped it off. Good or bad, it had dried out a bit and didn't flop around and get stuck to itself. After only a few minutes, I had a lovely, bubbly crust ready to flip. I didn't take a picture at this point, but it turned pretty nicely. I didn't bother oiling the other side, but it wasn't a problem. Raw garlic went on, then cheese, tomatoes and zucchini, plus a scattering of fresh oregano leaves. By the time the cheese had melted, the garlic had cooked itself and both sides of my crust were deliciously finished.

WHAT? That's awesome. And it tasted awesome. There was a lovely play between the crunch of the outer layer and the someone doughier insides. The only failing was that I made my dough a bit too large for the heat area of the coals and it cooked slightly unevenly; I would have liked to blacken the edges a bit, but I probably would have had to really burn the center to do so. But who's complaining? Time spent outside with a grill and a glass of whiskey and ginger is time well spent, especially if it results in snacks.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Greetings Multitude of Blog Readers!

Wood Street Blog is trying to be more user (and author) friendly these days! I know we don't have much of a following yet, but let us know what's missing! Do you want more pictures of your lovely blog ladies? Less food and more crafty? Do you want to be able to search our fabulous blog? Well, good, because I beat you to the punch on that last one. We now have a lovely google-powered search widget and tag cloud, so it'll be easier to find what you're looking for! Also, we now have new and improved slightly less ugly colors. You know you love it.

Keep reading! And leave us a note once in a while so we know you're out there!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Making pizza, the New York Times way.

I am, I have to say, a pretty accomplished maker of pizzas. I make my own sauce (using my home-grown herbs, of course). I make my own cipolline in agrodolce, thanks to the fabulous Cooking the Roman Way by David Downie. I roast bell peppers, slice potatoes paper-thin, and generally kick ass in the toppings department. I've even been known to make my own cheese. So it goes without saying that I make my own crust. But I'm woman enough to admit that I don't do it especially well. I've never been satisfied with the texture of the crust, always too much like bread. When I try stretching it out a bit more, thinking maybe a thinner crust will be less dense, it turns out almost like a flatbread pizza, uniformly crunchy. What, oh, what am I doing wrong?

According to Oliver Strand's article in the New York Times, I'm not letting my dough rise enough!
"...most recipes for the home cook specify a three-hour rise at room temperature. That might be enough to let activated yeast produce carbon dioxide that inflates the dough. But the prolonged fermentation of an overnight rise not only develops the dough’s structure, it also enables starches to transform into flavorful sugars. The dough becomes complex and nuanced. It’s a crust you want to eat.

It’s also a crust you want to admire. While a three-hour rise yields a crust that has the pasty pallor of raw flour, the caramelized sugars from an overnight rise give the cornicione, or edge, a color that goes from golden brown to the deep bronze of a ’70s tan."

Are you drooling yet? I am. Don't even get me started on the photos of the radicchio pizza. I can't wait to try this out for myself. It's the perfect project for someone who's recently come into possession of a sourdough starter!

One final plug: If you don't already own Cooking the Roman Way, do yourself a favor and GET IT RIGHT NOW! Seriously.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Kombucha Experiment

Aah, Kombucha, you are a many-splendored thing. Almost as splendored, in fact, as you are disgusting. But in a way that I've really come to love.

After hearing that a person could start their own home batch of Kombucha from a bottle of GT's, I decided to give it a shot and start saving the $3.39 a bottle that I've been paying at Whole (Paycheck) Foods. But wait! What's Kombucha, you ask? It's a tasty beverage! More specifically, kombucha is a tasty fermented beverage made of sweetened tea, coaxed to fizzy, pro-biotic completion not by a mushroom, as is sometimes claimed, but by a bacterial "mother". This mother is often referred to as a SCOBY, which is an acronym for Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast. I've decided to name mine Mr. Scobalina, Mr. Bob Scobalina.

But Mr. Scobalina is really one of the end products of making kombucha, not the beginning. Though it is possible to buy a starter SCOBY, I found the idea of "stealing" one somehow more appealing. So, going off a great many pieces of googled advice, I purchased a bottle of GT's "original" kombucha. One bottle went into a large glass brewing jar, which also held 6 cups of room-temperature water that had been boiled with organic tea and sugar. (There's a recipe for all this at the bottom, by the way. No need to keep track!) This jar was covered with a scrap of linen and sat, more or less undisturbed, for two or three weeks until the SCOBY was about 1/4" thick.

What does that mean, when the SCOBY is 1/4" thick? Your bacterial culture will grow to the size of whatever container you are using to brew in. After about a week of thinking nothing was happening and that maybe I had done something wrong, a few of the little bits of bacteria that had been floating about in my original bottle started to stick together, and after a few weeks more I had a nice round disk (only moderately disgusting) of bacteria and yeast. At this point, I washed my hands (you don't want anything to contaminate your little ecosystem, or you may have to start all over again) and removed the Mr. Scobalina, rinsed out the jar, and brewed another batch of the same tea. This one took even longer, probably almost a month, but I wound up with a nice frizzante batch of kombucha. Not too sweet, either.

The biggest question (and fear) for me during this first batch was when to drink it. When is it done? When is it over-brewed? Can I drink it yet? I think the real answer to all of these is simply, "What do you think?" Of course, you want to be sure that you've let things propogate for long enough to recieve some of the benefits of finished kombucha. (These benefits, incidentally, can range from curing sweets cravings, weight loss, energy gain, detoxification, even curing cancer depending on who you ask.) I got in the habit of taking little sips every week or so, and as soon as it stopped tasting like sugar and started having little air bubbles form underneath the SCOBY I decided it was done and poured it into some old Grolsch bottles, purchased and dutifully emptied for the sake of science. I also made a quick flavor addition of boiling about 2 inches of grated ginger in maybe 3 cups of water, along with a handful of sugar. This I dispersed into the 5 bottles of kombucha for a bit of extra flavor, and also because I'm hoping the addition of that last bit of sugar before bottling might up the fizziness a bit. But mostly I did it beacause ginger Kombucha is damn good.

Basic Tea Recipe:

6 cups water (I've used tap with success, but chemical-free is always best)
1 cup sugar
2-3 T. loose organic black tea
1 bottle GT's original Kombucha or 1 SCOBY + 1 or 2 cups Kombucha from your last batch.

Boil the water with the sugar to dissolve, let tea steep for at least 5 minutes until you're satisfied with it's strength. LET COOL TO ROOM TEMPERATURE! You don't want to kill your new bacteria friends. Add Kombucha starter or your existing SCOBY + a bit of the reserved tea from your last batch. Leave, covered with breathable fabric, in a warm and relatively dark place. Your tea is done when it tastes how you want it to, but also when your 'mother' starts to form 'babies'. Bottle your tea, and feel free to distribute any of the 'babies' to your friends, or just go hog wild and make as many batches as you want at once.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

It may be a rectangular wasteland, but it's mine all mine!

First off, us Wood Street ladies need to apologize for our general blog malaise. It seemed like such a good idea, but things got a bit off track. Maybe it would be more accurate to say we haven't really decided what direction to take this blog in, to loosely carry out a metaphor. In any case, here's what I've been thinking about in the realm of all things hand-made, crafty, and generally involving what I think of as good taste.

First things first. It's finally been consistently above freezing here in the perpetual winter wonderland that is Chicago, so this evening after work I went outside to spread my seed. Seeds. Sorry, typo. Cilantro, spearmint, a mix of 6 types of lettuce, rainbow chard, and something called "bountiful bean". All from Seed Savers. I take a little bit of pride in my rainbow chard, as it's the very one that Barbara Kingsolver mentions being unable to live without in her book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, recently leant to me by my wonderful boyfriend. (Awwww.) I've got some golden cherry tomatoes started in my bedroom/nursery, as well as some basil and arugula seeds I saved from last autumns bounty, which hopefully will get around to germinating one of these days. Leeks are also in sproutling form, but still too tiny to put in the ground. One of these days I'll post a picture of the little plot of earth I've tilled in the backyard, but for now it looks more like a rectangular wasteland of mud, so I'll wait until it's bountiful and adorable.

I love gardening, even though I do it like a crazy person. I'm of the belief that plants naturally want to grow and, if weeding is any indication, you often have to try pretty hard to get them not to. With this in mind, I scatter seeds like a bit of a nut; aiming for some sort of crop seperation, but not really putting very much work into it. I also have yet to buy a watering can, so I've been scooping water out of a pot I fill by hand and dribbling it over my proto-plants. Joined by my lovely housemates, we also tended a bit to the compost bin, which is definitely somewhat out of balance. Our small yard and numerous household chefs make for more green than brown, but we'll get there yet. Yanking all the grass and weeds out of the ground and adding those to the pile seemed to help.

In other, more decorative news... I've started following Bows and Arrows, named for a shop/gallery of the same name in Dallas, Texas. I'm a little unclear still on the dynamic, but I think I'm correct in saying that the team who run it ( and ) are both artists, and she also a floral designer. They have gallery shows and teach floral design classes and generally seem to ooze funky good taste and adorableness. It occurs to me that this might be a life path worth considering. But decisions like these can be made at a later time. But for now, I'll content myself with eyeballing their adorable crafty wares and delightfully textural floral arrangements. I suggest you do the same!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Petits-Fours Adventure

Gather round children, and you will hear... of the saga of the petits-fours!

Chrysteena (better known to readers of this blog as Donut) decided to host a fancy tea party at our lovely Wood Street abode, and so naturally I used this as an excuse to attempt petits-fours. I used the recipe found at Joe Pastry, a site I often use for recipes/inspiration when I am too lazy to go to the library. His recipe and photo tutorial are more than sufficient to give this a try, but I'll post some pictures anyway. To be honest, these just took so long that I don't think I can justify NOT uploading the pictures I took of the process. But I'll leave the recipe-ing to Mr. Pastry.

My ingredients for the genoise batter, all huddled masses yearning to be baked. Clarifying butter is something I always forget about, but really mean to do more often.

The batter before...

...and after 30 minutes of beating. Mr. Pastry suggests you use a Kitchen Aid type blender, but I thought ours would be sufficient. I don't know if if this was the cause, or some error of mine, but my batter never aerated enough and I wound up with very thin layers of cake. It saved me some time in cutting thicker layers down, i suppose, but I wound up with about half as many cakes in the end.

Out of the oven, cooled and cut down and ready to brush on the cognac and jam layers. I used a bit of sweetened rum, as I didn't feel like having 99% of a bottle of cognac lying around forever, and warmed strawberry jam to make it more spreadable. I was hoping for black currant, but apparently we were all out that day.

My little cakes assembled now with the top layer of marzipan included and cut to size. At this point, I left them in the freezer for about two weeks. This was to be a test batch, but it took so long and left me with so few that I figured why do it again; I'll just use these.

I'm not sure where all the pictures of our frosting adventure went, so sadly I'll have to leave off here and just cut to the finish product, which was...

ADORABLE!! Chrysteena and I went to town on colored-marzipan toppings. Pay special attention to her mischievous penguin and sexy mermaid (complete with nonpareil nipples). My own favorites were the Pabst Blue Ribbon can and all the flowers; I never knew how to make those before. Thank you, You Tube tutorials!

One note on the poured fondant: I was so worried about temperature and being sure the sugar got to a point where it would harden at the end that I neglected to put any flavoring in it. After sitting overnight, the frosted petits-fours tasted lovely, and their jammy flavor returned, but right after frosting they tasted like a giant sticky sugar cube. I would definitely make an addition of some vanilla or lemon or some such thing next time.

(All done! Wanda is ever so excited for the guests to arrive! Thank you Rachel for the lovely finished-product photos!)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Cookies for Allison

Allison called me today to tell me about her "life changing cookie experience." She then went on to describe eating what I am fairly certain was a almond thumbprint cookie with a Rolo candy melted on top. Being the generous and amicable person that I am, I offered to make her a batch of said cookies and entirely sabotage her attempts at dieting.

She accepted my offer.

Every year at Christmastime my dear friend Sarah Pavis makes me a plate of these delicious noms, which I consume so quickly that it might make a lesser person ill. Here is the recipe, straight from Sarah's mom (insert mom joke here) with pictorial annotations by your's truly:

2 sticks butter, softened
1 egg
1 tsp salt
1 tsp almond extract
1/3 cup + 2 Tbsp Sugar (1 cup if doubling recipe)
2 1/2 cups flour

-Preheat oven to 350° F
-Mix all ingredients together well *

* Dough will look all crumbly DON'T PANIC just smoosh it with your hands like this---->

- Roll dough into small balls
- Place on ungreased baking sheet
- Press thumb into middle of cookie*

*This part is the most fun! Kitties can help too!

-Add desired topping, (sugar crystals, sprinkles, almonds, if you are doing a melty topping like kisses, rolos, jam, etc wait until later...I'll tell you when!)
-Bake 8-10 minutes.*

*While the cookies are baking, unwrap your melty toppings. (Kitties can help with this too!)
-Remove from oven and add melty toppings immediately.*
*Quick, Quick they need time to melt!!

This recipe makes about 30 cookies.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Mick Napier's Hash Brown How-to

Mick Napier, Artistic Director of the Annoyance Theater in Chicago, included this step-by-step guide to making hash browns in the latest email newsletter.

Dude, you have GOT to get your motherfucking Hash Brown ON! Go get that red potato, not a brown or white, a fucking RED potato and the grater. Don't have a grater, then go straight to IDIOTVILLE. Get a grater on the way home from the job you hate and hold the RED potato. We are doing HASH BROWNS moron! OK, now, grate the potato! There's two to four of you so you want to reach for another RED potato but DO NOT!! That's part of the hash brown secret fuck head, one potato! Why? I'll get to that. Now don't be stupid, find the PAPER TOWELS! Why, because you are making FUCKING EXCELLENT HASH BROWNS for A MEAL to enjoy. Put the shredded RED potato (One) on two sheets of paper fucking towel. Roll it. Get two more sheets of paper towels. Unroll potato on new sheets. Roll it and squeeze. Two more sheets, transfer RED potato (One, not two). Roll it and squeeze. That's right, two more sheets. (DO NOT FUCK THIS UP). SQUEEZE. That is EIGHT sheets total. Eight sheets of paper towel. You can actually omit this step if you want to FUCK UP YOUR HASH BROWNS!! Now, get a skillet that is NOT TEFLON. (Doesn't quite burn properly) Now get BUTTER not OIL. The reason for this is to NOT FUCK UP MAKING the hash browns. Heat the NON Teflon skillet and put a slice of BUTTER in it. Let it melt and simmer for a BIT. Now put RED potato (one) in skillet. IMPORTANT: Find a METAL spatula. You want to further chop the POTATO (red) in the skillet and then MASH and POUND IT DOWN!! More even. Now more. NOW you know why you only need ONE potato. You fucking have got to get that THINNED out in the skillet so they will not be "cakey", but they will get to be the fucking crispy hash browns you find in a DINER. (If you've never been to a diner you're really missing out on something). ANYWAY, NOW! DO! Not flip those hash browns yet! Goddamn, do not touch them! Let them burn. Yes, DRY! (remember the paper towel steps earlier???) Yes BURN. NOW! DO NOT flip them yet!! Listen to me, Let them burn a bit more! Is there a little smoke coming out from underneath? Well then YOU DID IT HAWKING!! A little bit more...... and FLIP IT!! Now you've done it! Fuck It!! (Do not add onion, garlic, salt, or pepper..... believe you me, I went down that crooked road, take it from me it's not a good one..... let the potato (red) flavor win) You are done. You did it. Now's the hard part..... You have to go through the entire day knowing that you made perfect hash browns. Good luck to you.

-Mick Napier, Artistic Director

Delicious Red Wine Buttercream Frosting!

Pardon the silly photo, but they always disappear before I get a chance to take a picture of them! I wanted to post a link to the website I got the recipe from, because this is the most amazing frosting ever. Very Small Anna is an awesome food blog written by a pastry student in NY (presumably named Anna and being very small) who makes some awesome baked tasties. Poking around on her blog gives me all kinds of food fantasy ideas. Toasted Marshmallow Frosting, anyone?

This frosting just cries out for chocolately cake! The cupcake recipe I used is my standard chocolate cake recipe, but it's a bit to dry for these. They work better as mini-cupcakes, but I think a fudgier chocolate cake, or one with espresso in it, would be even more exciting. And they definitely want dark chocolate shavings on top!

A few notes on the making of buttercream, as this is the first I've made (twice). Buy yourself a candy thermometer, first of all. But mostly, pay attention to the recipe! The temperatures of the ingredients are super important. I tried to rush it the second time and wound up with a melty butter spread; luckily upon chilling it a bit I was able to whip it back up again. Sadly, the chilling separated the wine a bit, but no real harm done. I also recommend adding a bit more wine and mulling spices to your sauce pot and letting it simmer down a bit longer to the same, syrupy amount. This frosting borders on being too buttery, and the extra spiced wine really takes it to a happy place.

P.S.I'm going to use some of her recipes for the new ICE CREAM MAKER Chrysteena got me. WHOO!!!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

ZOMG! I want a YuDu!

I just saw a very compelling commercial for the YuDu at home screen printing system. Seems that this do-hickey reduces a lot of the mess and frustration of traditional hand screen printing.

They never out and out tell you how much it costs, but it seems to run about $200 on various websites.

I've got a birthday in June. I'm just saying. *wink*

Oh, here's a link to the infomercial. Just try and tell me this isn't cool.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Wedding Flowers; or These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things

I work at A Stem Above, a floral design and event decor company here in Chicago. Today, while writing proposals for the upcoming season's brides, I found myself in need of a bit of inspiration for a bride with no color palate or specific wants other than the color periwinkle. I thought I would share a few of my personal favorites and an antidote to all the cold and grey us poor Chicagoans are putting up with these days.

This first image comes from Floral Verde, a design company in Michigan. This is a favorite of mine for a number of reasons. As much as I appreciate the tradition of carrying all white, it's often so boring and outdated, so lifeless! This is a bridal bouquet with lots of color and personality, but still lots of dignity. I love the dusty purple scabbiosa and succulents and the texture of the seeded eucalyptus pods. I also really appreciate the use of two different varieties of blue delphinium. Full disclosure here: this is almost exactly the bridal bouquet that I've thought up for myself during the boring hours at work. (We all do it, it's the florist's curse!) The differences being that I would want dusty purple roses, yellow mimosa, and maybe some craspedia to brighten things up. I've always really loved the dusty purple, soft yellow and light gray color palate for weddings.

This bouquet is the matching bridesmaid's bouquet to the above one, also from Floral Verde. I love the trade-off between the textural subtlety of the bride's bouquet and the relatively simpler design of the bridesmaid's, made up for with a punch of color. The soft blue ribbon-wrapped handle is an especially nice detail. But in truth, I would probably like almost any bouquet that included craspedia, those funny yellow balls you see above.

This image comes from Brooklyn Bride Online, one of my favorite wedding blogs to peek at now and again. The bouquet is made by Blossom and Branch. I'm not crazy about the folded-leaf-cuff look, but I love the elevation of marigolds to a wedding flower, and I'm a sucker for matte grey brunia you see. The contrast with the bright colors of the roses and marigolds is great, and I love that not too many floral varieties were used in this particular bouquet.

This image comes from the almighty Martha Stewart, and I have to say it's one of the few instances of faux floral work that I like. These silk leaves catch the light beautifully and would look wonderful arching downward against a white gown. Just goes to show that you don't always need bright colors and crazy imported floral to make a splash.

l And finally, another image from Martha. I saw this in Martha Stewart Weddings (Fall '06, to be exact) a few years ago when I first started as a florist, and I've thought of it ever since. Just beautiful. Here's a link to a few images of the spread on her website. The 'Tulip Mania" bouquet is especially dramatic.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Adventures in Baking

Hello. I am Allison and I was once afraid of baking. That is right, I hated baking! Any recipe involving baking soda or yeast sent me running! Yet, I knew somewhere deep down I too could make delicious breads, scrumptious cookies, and delightful cakes. Thus, one of my recent goals has been to teach myself how to bake. There have been a few mishaps (for example I doubled a cookie recipe and wound up with more dough than I knew what to do with) but my inner baker is beginning to emerge. My latest adventure has been making bagels. For these bagels I used Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day cookbook. The book is amazing and I highly recommend it!

The snapshot you see are my bagel results. Let me just say that they taste delicious. I put some cream cheese and smoked salmon on one this morning for breakfast and I simply cannot wait for the lunch sequel!

I am one step closer to embracing the baker within!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Cooking With Dog

I'm currently in the process of transferring all my files to my new computer, so I suspect it'll be a while before my photos of craft projects are available for posting here. But in the meantime, it's just about lunchtime and my thoughts would be turning to food if they weren't always about food in the first place. So I thought I would share one of the YouTube how-to channels that I often use to try to make more authentic Japanese food at home.

For reasons that aren't really explained, this channel is hosted by a poodle, but don't worry... all the cooking is done by an adorable Japanese woman. I've used recipes from 'Dog' a few times, and I've always wanted to try making the Ramen. I never realized how much work goes into a dish we all take so for granted. The dishes aren't always purely Japanense (a few Chinese ones sneak in now and again, and I think there's a hamburger for some reason) and the instructions aren't always the clearest, but I'm a person who prefers not to cook from a recipe anyway. I like the opportunity to know how things are made but also to modify the recipe slightly.

First Official Post of the Wood Street Blog!

A new blog, so exciting! We'll definitely be working out the bugs for the first few posts, but please have patience and keep reading. This blog serves as a virtual idea cork-board, bragging outlet, and general compilation of the various crafty and creative endeavors of the crafty and creative ladies living at the intersection of Wood and Archer Streets on the South Side of Chicago. A more specific direction may emerge some day, but for now it's a way for all of us to keep each other and our friends up to date on the myriad DIY projects we tend to fill up our free time with.

Let's get started!