Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Year's Eve Dinner Idea: Middle Eastern

CAUTION: This post contains profanity for the sake of humor.

When I was growing up, we had one ethnic restaurant in our town that wasn't a teriyaki joint - Hadi's, a Lebanese restaurant.  My family was slightly starved for culture, so we must have gone to Hadi's at least once a month for a few years.  Lebanese/Middle Eastern food has since become my comfort food - I love all the different lemony dips, the warm and floury pita bread, and the bright green parsley.  Lemon, garlic, sesame, and herbs form the foundation for many of the dishes.  And it makes for quite an impressive-looking spread:


This is a picture of the dinner Alyse and I prepared for our friends Kat and Vanessa (the same Vanessa of the Etsy shop hubuh) a couple of weeks ago.  Kat took this pic with her mobile and tagged it on facebook thusly:

In this photo: Kat, home-made tabouleh, Alyse, Alyse-fried falafel, BEER, pitas!, cukes and 'maters, Katherine, tzatziki sauce - HOME-MADE TOO BITCHES! feta - yum, home-made hummus.

I couldn't have said it better myself.

The only thing that wasn't homemade, I must admit, was the falafel - I made that from a mix (a tasty, tasty mix!).  But the hummus, tabbouleh, and tzatziki were homemade, and from recipes I created after much experimenting to recreate the tangy, exotic flavors of Hadi's from my childhood.  This would make a fantastic spread for a New Year's Eve Dinner Party!  It is easy to prepare, all the different foods go together, it is vegetarian, and it is easy to serve as finger food (minus the tabbouleh, which can be accommodated with a few small plates).  New Year's has always been a quieter holiday for me, and a quiet dinner with friends sounds just about right to welcome in 2011.  So make yourself some tzatziki, pop open a bottle of bubbly, and enjoy!

New Year's Eve Middle Eastern Dinner Party


To create a Middle Eastern-inspired spread, I served everything that Kat mentioned above, plus spanakopita for an appetizer.  Put out a platter of warm pita with all of the spreads (tzatziki and hummus), vegetables (sliced tomato and cucumber), falafel and tabouleh and let your guests go to town creating falafel sandwiches for themselves.

Tzatziki (Greek Yogurt Sauce)


1/2 cup - 3/4 cup plain yogurt (Greek or some other thick yogurt works best)
2 cloves garlic
1/2 - 1 lemon's worth of lemon juice
1 handful fresh dill
1/2 English cucumber (peeled or unpeeled, your choice)
Salt and pepper

1. Slice the 1/2 cucumber in half lengthwise and remove seeds, if any, by running your pinkie finger down the center.  Shred the cucumber using a hand grater.  Salt the cucumber lightly and place in a mesh sieve over a bowl or the sink so that the excess cucumber juice can drain.  (You may want to do this up to a few hours in advance so you get rid of as much liquid as possible - but if you don't have a few hours, it will still taste great.)

2. Finely chop the dill.  Smash the garlic using the back of a large chef's knife and peel.  Mince the garlic very finely.  One trick that works well is to chop the garlic once, then sprinkle with a little salt and, using the flat part of the knife, grind the salt into the garlic to make a paste.

3. In a medium-size bowl, combine the yogurt, garlic, and dill.  Squeeze in the juice of half the lemon; taste, and add as much of the other half as desired.  Squeeze out as much of the cucumber liquid as you can, then add the cucumber to the mixture.  Stir and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Best served as a sauce for the falafel, or as dip with warm pita bread.

Tabouleh


Tabouleh is traditionally an herb salad, so if it is authentic, the ratio of herbs to grain should be about two to one.

1 cup bulgur wheat
1 cup parsley leaves
1 cup dill leaves
1/2 - 1 lemon's worth of lemon juice
1- 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tomato
Salt and pepper

1.  Bring 2 cups of water to a boil.  Add the bulgur wheat, reduce heat, and stir occasionally until the grain has absorbed all the water and tastes done (if too chewy, add a little more water).  Once cooled, transfer the grain to a medium-size bowl.

2.  Finely chop the parley and the dill.  Chop the tomato into 1/4 inch pieces.  Add the herbs and tomato to the bulgur wheat.

3.  Squeeze the lemon juice into the salad to taste.  Stir in the olive oil.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve at room temperature.

Hummus


There are a frillion grocery store hummuses on the market now, but I really like being able to control what goes into mine - I like plenty of lemon and garlic and a creamy, smooth consistency.  All of the measurements in this recipe are basically to taste - the secret to getting hummus the way you want it is to taste as you go along.

1 medium can chickpeas
3-6 heaping tablespoons of tahini (available in most grocery stores these days)
3-5 garlic cloves
2 lemon's worth of juice
Olive oil
1/4 teaspoon cumin
Salt and pepper

1. Rinse and drain the chickpeas.  Smash the garlic cloves with the flat part of your chef's knife and remove the peel. Run your knife through the garlic once.

2.  In a food processor, add the chickpeas, garlic, splash of oil, and a big pinch of both the salt and the pepper.  Run the food processor until the garlic has been incorporated into the chickpeas and the chickpeas have broken down.

3.  Add the first 3 tablespoons of tahini, the juice of 1 lemon, the cumin, and another splash of olive oil.  Run the food processor until these combine and the mixture begins to look creamy.  Taste and add, according to your own tastes, more tahini, lemon juice, salt, pepper, or oil (or all of these).  Run the food processor until the mixture is smooth and at the desired consistency.  To serve, sprinkle the hummus with paprika and chopped parsley, drizzle with olive oil, and present it on a platter with warm wedges of pita bread.

Thursday Feature: Coveted Crafts

Every Thursday, Dexter & Dinah will feature a new crafter/artisan whose works are handmade.


It is C-O-L-D COLD in Seattle right now!  I've been watching the snow flurries outside my window all day (thankfully nothing has been sticking, this city shuts down when it snows!).  I'm hankering after soft woolen things as a result.  I like this uncomplicated orange "scarfette" from Etsy seller trishafern - the one wooden toggle makes for an interesting detail, and this would be perfect under a mandarin-collared jacket (which makes a regular scarf, with all of its bulk, tough to pull off).


Dark Pumpkin Scarfette


I never did learn how to do a cable knit - maybe a good resolution for the new year!


Happy Thursday, Crafters!  Stay warm out there!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Work and Christmas prep took over this month, and blogging got put on the back burner!  Before the day is completely over, here's a picture of the Christmas tree that Alyse and I decorated - my first real tree in over a decade.  I hope you all had a happy and safe holiday, and I'm looking forward to telling you all about the cooking and crafting we've been up to in the days to come and the new year!  


Friday, December 3, 2010

Thursday Feature: Coveted Crafts

What?  It's Friday?  Erm...well, just pretend it's Thursday, for the purpose of this post.  I'm a smidge late with this one, but it is too good not to share!


Our good friend Vanessa has officially reopened her Etsy shop!  Hubuh is a delightful place to find clever cards and bright prints from Vanessa's original art.  I particularly love this card:


Please Forgive Me Note Card


I can totally see a guy giving this to a girl after putting his foot in his mouth.  Or you know, vice versa.  


I'm always looking for good every day cards, for when you want to send someone a note to let them know you are thinking about them, but not something so sappy that it feels forced.  This card fits the bill, in addition to being smart:


Hello Note Card


I'm also fortunate to have an original painting of Vanessa's hanging in my house.  Vanessa sells lovely prints of her work, such as this one:


The Spanish Bride Print


For those of you in the Seattle area, Vanessa is currently showing her art in the Forgotten Works Challenge in Pioneer Square, at the Tashiro Kaplan Building, 115 Prefontaine Place South.  For more information, click here.


Happy "Thursday," crafters!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Turkey Stock

Well, hello there!  Why yes, I did survive Turkey Day!  The food was delicious and well-received by all, the house looked well enough, and both my family and my boyfriend's family got along!  It truly couldn't have gone any better.

And, in true don't-waste-anything-if-you-can-help-it fashion, I made some tasty turkey stock!  I hope all of you out there with Turkey carcases did or are planning on doing the same!  Here's my basic poultry stock recipe - homemade stock is great for risottos, soups, stews, gravy, you name it.  Works with rotisserie chicken bones, too!  I usually just keep a freezer bag of vegetable peelings in the freezer for when it comes time to make the stock, and throw those in.

I hope you all had a lovely holiday, and even that if you didn't, the stress has hopefully subsided now!


Basic Poultry Stock


Turkey or chicken carcass, meat and skin removed (a little skin is okay)
1 onion (or, the skin and ends the onion)
2-3 large carrots, unpeeled (or, the peels of several carrots, and their tops)
3-4 stalks celery
1 handful parsley, stems and all (great when you have extra parsley that's getting a little yellow)
1 handful dill, stems and all (optional)
2-3 sprigs fresh thyme (great way to use up those extra herbs from the holiday feast!)
5-6 whole black peppercorns

Add all ingredients to your largest stock pot.  Fill to cover with water; place over medium-high heat and let simmer 3-4 hours, until vegetables are completely cooked through and the stock is a lovely golden color.  Occasionally skim the scum off the top with a spoon.  Strain the stock into a bowl to collect the solids (all the vegetables and bones); discard the solids and place the stock in the fridge overnight.  Skim the rest of the fat off the top of the stock the next day.  Place stock in the freezer for homemade stock whenever you need it!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Project: Autumn Inspired Table Setting, Part 2

It's almost time for Thanksgiving, and the perfect time for a fun and festive project! These placemats are cute and simple, and I have received many compliments on them. If you would like to make the tablecloth as well, please see my post about it here.

The autumn table



You will need:
*Felt - multiple colors of the precut rectangle pieces
*Felt - dark brown by the yard for the edges/ backing
*Rotary cutter - optional
*Scissors
*Thread
*Sewing machine
*Measuring tape
*Straight pins

Materials

First, look at the premade pieces of felt, and decide if you want to add another layer to the back for thickness and to create a border. I chose to do this, but you can skip it if you want this project to be really quick and easy. (Just remember your placemats will be a bit smaller)

To make the backing, simply measure your felt by the yard so that it is an inch or two longer on each side than the precut pieces and cut it out. 

Center the precut piece on the piece you just cut, pin it together, and sew!

Trying different stitches can create a fun look.

Next, sketch some accent ideas out on paper. Draw the ones you like best in the size you want, trace around them lightly with a pen or pencil, and cut them out. 

It is important to cut out the entire shape in the base color. For example; I cut out the entire pumpkin in orange, even though I wanted the stem to be brown. The layers will add more volume to the project and make it much easier to put together.


Cut out any detail pieces, such as the stem, in your desired color.


Put the pieces together as you want them, pin them in place on the precut rectangle sheets of felt, and carefully sew around the edges.


Sewing some details in by hand really makes these placemats pop!

Notice the detail work on the pumpkin and the leaf

Make as many placemats as you like, and get ready for a beautiful autumn table and many compliments! My favorite was when my fiancée asked me where I bought them.



Happy Thanksgiving Week!
The forecast may call for snow, but I am holding onto fall for a little longer.




Friday, November 19, 2010

Grandma's Foolproof Cranberry Sauce

Turkey day is drawing nigh, people.  And I'm hosting this year.  9 people.  This is my first time hosting.

Gulp.

I have at least one recipe, however, that is completely foolproof.  My grandmother's cranberry sauce.*  Because if there wasn't cranberry sauce on Thanksgiving, there is a strong probability my family would riot.

Grandma has been making Thanksgiving dinner for nearly 50 years.  And it is perfect.  And I can't top that.  So I decided to go a different direction with some of the other favorite dishes.  Instead of Grandma's sausage stuffing, I'm making a wild rice stuffing.  Instead of herb-roasted turkey, I'm doing apple-cider-brined turkey.  Because if I were to make Grandma's stuffing, for example, it would be good, don't get me wrong, but not AS good as it would be if Grandma made it.  Because she's been making it for fifty years, you see.  And I haven't.



But her cranberry sauce.  It is so easy.  No one can say it isn't just as good as Grandma's.  Because it will be.

I test ran the recipe this week, partly because I couldn't believe how easy it was.  It was easy, people.  And there is even a secret ingredient.  An apple.  WHAT?!  An apple in cranberry sauce?  That's what makes it foolproof, you see.  The apple keeps it from being too mouth-puckeringly cranberryish, if you know what I mean.  My grandma invented this recipe.  She's a smart woman.  Trust the apple.



While I am going to make another batch closer to the big day, now I have a perfect topping for my morning oatmeal.  Told you this stuff was good.

Grandma's Foolproof Cranberry Sauce


*I neglected to take a picture of the finished product.  But you know what it should look like.**

**If you don't know what it should look like, go to Google images and type in, "cranberry sauce."  Yep.  That's what it should look like.



1 bag whole fresh cranberries
1 apple (Granny Smith is best)
1 cup water
1 cup sugar

Heat the sugar and the water until the sugar is dissolved, over medium heat.  Sort and wash the cranberries.  Chop up a whole apple (excluding the core of course).  Add both the cranberries and the apple to pot.  You can tell when the cranberries start to get done because they pop.  Stir occasionally, you’ll see when it starts to look done.  Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.  

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Berry-Mint Smoothie



This isn't so much a recipe, as a strong suggestion.  Throw some mint in your smoothie.

Have you seen the commercials for this gum?

A link if you want a lot of this gum

In the commercial, the members of a focus group all start screaming about how the gum shifts flavors from berry to mint, and to calm one another down, they throw water in each other's faces.  While I haven't tried the gum, I'm not sure the experience would be quite as potentially-assault-inducing as the commercial would make it seem.

It did get me thinking, though.  Why not just have berry AND mint together?  (I know there are gums out there that do that, but stay with me here, people.)  And lo, the berry-mint smoothie was born.

Also because I had leftover mint from another recipe and I hate, HATE, wasting herbs, as they are quite expensive.  And I am a cheapskate.

I'm an uncomplicated-smoothie-ingredient kind of woman.  I don't care for bananas in my smoothie at all, and I could take or leave the myriad of juice combinations they present to you at smoothie shops.  I like my smoothies with berries, yogurt, and soy or regular milk, more like a healthy milkshake.  And now, with mint, as it adds that unexpected and delicious twist to your drink.  But if you like all the fruit juices and bananas, go for it.



Berry-Mint Smoothie

Serves 1 (I'm the only one who drinks smoothies in this household)

1/2 cup frozen berries
5-6 mint leaves
2-3 heaping tablespoons yogurt, plain or vanilla (tip: if you used plain, as I did, you are definitely going to want to add a teaspoon or so of sugar.  I use brown sugar, as it works really well with the mint.)
Soy or 1% milk
Optional: half a banana, orange or apple juice

Combine all ingredients in a blender.  Add milk until ingredients are fully covered.  Turn on your blender and leave it running for a few seconds.  Add more milk as needed so smoothie is your desired consistency.  Garnish with mint leaf.  I imagine this would be great doubled, tripled or quadrupled for a breakfast party, just as long as it doesn't overwhelm your blender.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thursday Feature: Coveted Crafts

Every Thursday, Dexter & Dinah will feature a new crafter/artisan whose works are handmade.


My boyfriend drinks a lot of soda.  I mean, a LOT.  We're talking soda at lunch, soda at dinner, and if we're out to eat, as many refills as the wait staff sees fit to bring by.  If I were as crafty as Etsy seller squigglechick (who's located pretty close to me in nearby Bothell, Washington), I would turn all of those sodas into this pretty and useful luggage tag:


Repurposed Coca Cola Luggage Tag

We all know how much I love repurposing!  As squigglechick says: "What a great way to distinguish your luggage from all of the others at baggage claim or to add to your child's backpack just 'in case' it should get misplaced at school or on the bus."


Happy Thursday Crafters!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Confession

I have a confession to make.

I've been feeling less then inspired this week.

My boyfriend's been getting a lot of these for lunch:



Granted, that's a good-looking sandwich, with a thick-cut ham steak and swiss cheese, but still.

I did made some pretty fabulous and innovative food for a dinner party last week, including this prosciutto, fennel, and pomegranate salad (result: prosciutto and pomegranate are fabulous together, but next time I'd probably leave out the fennel), and this goat cheese, butternut squash, and penne pasta (in which I switched out the basil for sage, halved the amount of goat cheese, and doubled the amount of parmesan).  But beyond that, I've been cooking really simple food, like turkey burgers, pasta and jarred sauce, stir fry with rice.  I do love quick and simple food, but none of it has really been all that blogworthy.

Tonight, however, that changes - I'm having Alyse and her fiancee over for dinner, where I'm making a pork tenderloin roulade with wild rice dressing and a pumpkin custard for dessert.  Stay tuned for pictures!

Also, here's a sneak peak of the project I've been working on - any guess what it is?  (Your ability to guess might be obscured by the absolutely giant cat filling the frame.  That's Dexter.  Believe it or not, he is on diet food.)

Monday, November 1, 2010

Almost Married Monday

Since Alyse has officially set the date for her wedding, I thought this would be an excellent time to start featuring cute DIY wedding ideas to consider for her big day!  I recently attended a friend's wedding in Idaho, which was at a summer camp and was therefore appropriately fall and forest themed.  I really loved the simplicity of these candlesticks:


They looked good in groups of threes, or by themselves:


Wrapped in raffia with a candle-sized hole drilled in the top and some lovely fall leaves scattered about, these were a creative use for leftover logs from the firewood!  (And, if the bride has too many leftover after the reception, they can always be turned back into firewood.)


Friday, October 29, 2010

Apple Cider Braised Pork Chops and Sweet Potato "Fries"

I was about a fourth of the way through my pork chop a few nights ago when I realized, "Wow!  This is actually pretty good!"  I sound surprised only because I invented this recipe from what I had on hand.  And so I share it with you.  I'm always looking for new ways to serve common cuts of meat (chicken breast, pork chops, skirt steak, you get the idea), and the pork chops with apples pairing is pretty classic.  This way makes the chops flavorful, juicy, and tender while also creating a pretty unique sweet-savory gravy from the braising liquid.



I paired the pork chops with  sweet potato "fries."  I say "fries" in quotation marks because I don't own a deep fryer, and I used a minimal amount of oil on the sweet potatoes themselves.  Instead, I cut them in the shape of fries and threw them in the oven at 500 degrees.  While you don't get the crispiness of fries, you do get some lovely delicious browned bits which are damn close enough as far as tastiness is concerned.  I used both the white-fleshed sweet potatoes and the orange-fleshed yams, which adds a pretty color contrast and a slight variety in flavor to the plate.  Sprinkle a little parsley on top, and you've got yourself a hearty autumn meal.

Apple Cider Braised Pork Chops


(Serves 2)

2 pork chops, either bone-in or boneless, trimmed of excess fat
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon butter
1-2 tablespoons flour
1/2 Walla Walla sweet onion, thinly sliced
1/2 Granny Smith Apple, diced
3/4 cup spiced apple cider (Trader Joe's brand works nicely)
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock (confession: I was out of stock so I used a bullion cube, which worked fine)
Roughly chopped flat leaf parsley
Salt and pepper

1.  Take the chops out of their packaging.  Dry slightly with paper towels and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.  This step is best done ahead of time; the chops can then be left to come to room temperature while you slice up your apples and onions.

2.  Add the 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil to a high-sided skillet or dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Once the skillet is good and hot, place both chops in the pan and allow to sear for 2-3 minutes a side for the boneless and 3-4 minutes a side for the bone-in, until there is some good brownness on the surface of the meat but the chops are still quite raw in the middle.

Mmm, gravy...
3.  Remove the chops and set aside.  Reduce heat to medium; quickly add the onions, saute for about thirty seconds, then add the extra small pat of butter and the flour, stirring to combine, until the onions are coated.  Add the vegetable stock and cider, scraping the bottom of the ban to deglaze any of the brown bits.  Add the chopped apples.  Bringing the liquid to a simmer, place the chops back in, so that the chops are about halfway submerged.  Simmer for about 10-12 minutes; when the chops are firm but not rock hard, they are probably done.  (You can always cut one open - if there is a slight, slight pink blush in the middle, they are ready).  Remove the chops and cover with foil.  Bring the braising liquid up to high heat to boil until it has reduced by more than half and the onions and apples are completely cooked through to make a gravy.  You could also puree the gravy with an immersion blender if you prefer a smoother consistency.  Spoon the thickened gravy over the chops and sprinkle with the chopped parsley to serve.

Sweet Potato "Fries"


1 sweet potato
1 yam
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons pepper
2 teaspoons onion powder

1.  Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.  (No, that's not a typo - a really hot oven makes for really brown fries.)

2.  Peel the sweet potato and yam.  Cut into fry-sized sticks.

I used two pans for a single layer.  Mmm, leftovers.
3. On a baking sheet or a 13 x 9 pan, toss the "fries" with 1-2 tablespoons olive oil, the salt, pepper, and onion powder.  You could also add any other spices you think might be delicious.  Spread the fries out so they are in a single layer.

4.  Bake the fries, stirring occasionally, for 20-35 minutes, depending upon how brown you want the fires to be.  Taste the fries once they are out of the oven to see if additional salt is needed; sprinkle with parsley and enjoy.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Thursday Feature: Coveted Crafts

Every Thursday, Dexter & Dinah will feature a new crafter/artisan whose works are handmade.

Hi Crafters!  Where did the week go?  It has certainly been busy here!  There's been much cooking and crafting - stay tuned for a recipe this weekend and a new biweekly feature on Monday!  Today's Coveted Crafts is this rustic cutting board from RedOnionWoodworks.  I have two cutting boards but I'm always wishing I had a third.  In addition to combining function (the hole for hanging in the kitchen is great) with beauty (love the natural edge), this cutting board is from lumber salvaged from industrial logging operations.  I want I want...

Everyday Natural Edge Cutting Board 183
Happy Thursday Crafters!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Thursday Feature: Coveted Crafts

Every Thursday, Dexter & Dinah will feature a new crafter/artisan whose works are handmade.


My boyfriend has taken a shine to the birds and squirrels who flock to the magnolia tree in our yard.  We have a PetSmart right around the corner from us, and about once a week he goes to buy a big block of Squirrelola (squirrel food) and suet for our bird feeder.  Both the man and our cat then spend an hour or two staring out our window watching the squirrels chase each other and the birds as they run around the yard hiding the food.


I'm thinking a bird feeder like this one might be the perfect addition to the yard, so we can attract some of the bigger birds:


Hanging Bird Feeder, Tray Style
The entire bird feeder is made from reclaimed or salvaged materials.  In fact, everything in Etsy seller Andrew's Reclaimed shop is from reclaimed and salvaged materials.  I'm eying this soap dish, which is sold by itself or in packs of six or ten, as a great little gift to tuck into holiday baskets:


Soap Dishes, Pack of 6, Reclaimed Cedar
Lovely, practical, and environmentally friendly!


Happy Thursday Crafters!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Vegan Pear and Apple Crisp



All right, waistline.  It’s just me and you.  (Cue Western shoot out music – you know the tune.)  We’re going to duke it out.  Even though the holidays are coming (Butter!  Cream!  Gravy!  Oh my!), I’m going to win.  Especially since Alyse and I have been training all this month for our first ever 5k!  (Yes, we were the girls in the back of the junior high P.E. class who never volunteered for any sort of organized sports team.  It’s how we met, actually). 



I’m also going to win in the battle over my waistline because I’m creating delicious, lower-fat alternatives to my fall favorites.  (Ellie Krieger is my fave Food Network personality, after all.)  I love, love me an apple crisp, but usually the crisp topping is loooooaded with buttah.  Recipes for vegan baked goods aren’t necessarily healthier when it comes to fat content - those vegan muffins I love at one of my favorite cafés are full of all kinds of oil.  But this crisp topping, with only four tablespoons of trans-fat free oil, is relatively guilt free.  I’m also always looking out for vegan recipes for my dad.  He’s been lactose intolerant for a few years – with butter being the number-one thing that upsets him.  He’s been griping over how much he misses crisps, so the next time he and Mom come over, I’ll wow them with this number.



This crisp, served warm, is bubbly, spicy, and sweet, the perfect way to follow up a walk through red and yellow leaves.  The pears give it something unexpected, and the lemon adds a little brightness to the heft of the maple syrup.  Is it as indulgent as one made with butter (you’re probably asking)?  No.  But that’s why we put a smidge of ice cream on it.*  It is dessert, after all.

*I realize this makes it not vegan.  But, per my suggestion below, you can use a soy or rice ice cream to keep it vegan.    

Vegan Pear and Apple Crisp

Serves 6 (or, erm, 4, if you’re having your girlfriends over for dinner)

Inspired/Adapted from Joy the Baker

For the fruit:
1 1/2 cups fresh apples (about 3 apples), peeled, cored, and chopped into chunks (I used a Gala, Granny Smith, and Golden Delicious)
1 cup fresh pears (about 2 pears), peeled, cored, and chopped into chunks (I used Bosc pears)
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice (juice of half a lemon)
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon zest (zest of half a lemon)
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of ginger
Pinch of cloves
1/4 cup pure maple syrup

For the crisp topping:
3 cups old fashioned oats
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 Tablespoons canola oil
4 Tablespoons maple syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 Tablespoons water

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 

2.  In a baking dish, combine the apple and pear chunks and toss with flour, spices, lemon juice, lemon zest, and maple syrup.  Set aside while you assemble the crumble topping.



3.  In a separate bowl, combine the oats, flour, salt, and spices.  In a small bowl whisk together the oil, maple syrup, vanilla extract, and water.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and blend with a fork.  Make sure all of the dry ingredients are moistened by the oil and maple syrup mixture. 



4.  Spoon the crisp topping over the fruit in the shallow baking dish and pat down slightly with the fork.  Bake for 45 minutes, or until the topping looks crisp-like and the apples are completely cooked through.

5.  Allow to cool for a few minutes.  While the crisp is still quite warm, scoop a small dollop of vanilla ice cream or something suitably ice cream-like (one of those soy or rice ice creams or some frozen cool whip).  Consume immediately. 

Serving suggestion – reheat leftovers and serve with a scoop of sweetened vanilla yogurt the next day for breakfast!  How can you anyone dislike dessert that doubles as breakfast?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Cardboard Safari!



We have a fireplace in our new house, and I've been looking for the perfect forest-themed objets d'art to hang on either side.  When I discovered Cardboard Safari, I knew I'd found what I'd been looking for!  These animal "trophies" are made from recycled cardboard, a whimsical comment on the environment and hunting for sport.  In addition to being a little humorous.

The trophies come unassembled for efficient shipping, so part of the fun is popping the pieces out of their frames and putting them together:


The deer head above is called "Buck Jr." on the Cardboard Safari website.  I also purchased Fred Jr., the moose:


I love the way the crisp white looks against the wood paneling.  Very sculptural!  Here's how they look together on either side of the fireplace (I apologize for the photo quality, I really need a better camera):


The mantle still needs work, but with these trophies and the lovely hand-blown green glass vase Alyse gave me as a housewarming gift, the fireplace wall is coming together!

Hope you had a lovely weekend, Crafters!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Easy Plum Compote

So, I didn't end up making a kuchen with the rest of the plums.  But I did make a quick, single serving of plum compote to serve over this buttermilk cake.  A compote/sauce like this is incredibly easy to make - fruit, water, sugar, optional spices, simmered over medium heat until the fruit starts to break down, the sugar dissolves, and some of the water evaporates, leaving you with a thick, tart, plummy compote which pairs perfectly with a simple, every day vanilla cake, as the crumb absorbs the sauce.  It's really the perfect weekday dessert.  Enjoy!



Easy Plum Compote


6-7 Italian plums, pitted
1/4 cup water
1-2 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of cinnamon (optional)

Put all of the ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Bring to a simmer and stir with a wooden spoon, crushing the plums with the spoon.  Reduce heat to medium low; simmer gently until skins of the plum have given the compote a jewel-like color, all sugar has dissolved, and the plums have completely broken down, about 10-15 minutes.  For a thicker compote, simmer longer.  Serve with vanilla/yellow cake of your choice.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Thursday Feature: Coveted Crafts

Every Thursday, Dexter & Dinah will feature a new crafter/artisan whose works are handmade.


I've been doing a lot of work out of our home office lately, which is, I must admit, incredibly messy.  I just have far too many odds and ends and not enough storage options.  Which is why I love the idea of these handy felt bins, which would fit on top of my bookshelf, on a side table beside the desk, or even under the desk:


Bohemian Poppies Fabric Bins


Even better, they are made of felt which is made from recycled plastic bottles, and the interfacing is also made with recycled plastic bottles.  What a great use for a plastic bottle you'd otherwise toss in the recycling!  Plus, the fact that they are really attractive with hand embroidered details doesn't hurt either.




Gypsy Forest Fabric Bins


Happy Thursday Crafters!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Easy Plum Tart



My parents brought me back a box of produce from Green Bluff Farms the last time they visited Eastern Washington.  There were apples, pears, and  a large handful of small, almond-shaped Italian plums.  I've been working my way through the apples and pears - a wedge of sharp cheddar cheese and a sliced-up apple is one of my favorite snacks on a crisp October day - but I was a bit stumped as to what to do with the plums.

When we were growing up, Mom would make plum kuchen.  Kuchen is a kind of German cake.  Mom would put a layer of cake in the pan, slice the plums and layer them in neat rows, and sprinkle a cinnamon and sugar mixture over the top, which made the top of the cake crispy and a little caramelized once it had been baked.  Mom learned how to make it from her Mom, and so on.  While I love plum Kuchen and will probably make a small one with the rest of the plums, I wanted to do something a little different, more of a nod to my love of French food and culture.  And this Easy Plum Tart was born.



It really is easy.  Puff pastry from the freezer section of the grocery store, a little plain yogurt, sweetened with brown sugar and spiced with cinnamon (I really love the taste of cinnamon with plums after growing up with Mom's kuchen), some sliced plums and a liberal sprinkling of powdered sugar, and you got yourself a sweet but still tart dessert with buttery, flaky layers of pastry that would be a showstopper at any dinner party or late morning brunch with your friends.  Just make sure to have enough on hand.  

Easy Plum Tart

1 egg, beaten
2/3s of a sheet of puff pastry, defrosted
1 heaping tablespoon plain yogurt
3/4 teaspoon brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
6-8 Italian plums
Powdered sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Grease a baking sheet.  Place the puff pastry on the baking sheet.

2. Pit and slice the plums into thin wedges.



3. In a small bowl, combine the yogurt, brown sugar, and cinnamon.  Spread the yogurt over the puff pastry in an even layer, leaving at least a half-inch edge of puff pastry uncovered.  (Leaving this edge uncovered is important so that the puff pastry will rise when it bakes).  

4. Arrange the plums in neat rows so that most of the yogurt is covered.


5. Using a brush or your fingertip, dab the edges of the puff pastry with the egg wash.  (This will ensure the puff pastry turns a lovely golden brown.  Throw the rest of the egg in with your scrambled eggs the next morning.)  



6. Bake for 15 - 20 minutes, or until the plums are tender and the puff pastry is golden brown.  Using a sifter, sprinkle liberally with powdered sugar.  Cut and serve immediately.


This tart was inspired by a number of sources, primarily by Katie Quinn Davies' Sweet Sour Cream Apple Tart.  

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Thursday Feature: Coveted Crafts

Every Thursday, Dexter & Dinah will feature a new crafter/artisan whose works are handmade.

Etsy has proven to be a terrific source of inspiration for me.  I have an almost-spent candle on my desk in a lovely glass vessel with a lid.  I don't want to trash the glass vessel once the candle is done.  And then it hit me - terrariums! Lately I've been fascinated by the whimsy and prettiness of these little low-maintenance ecosystems.  Etsy seller MossTerrariums has a perfect example of what I have in mind:

Mushroom moss and lichen terrarium
I love the cute little red polka-dot mushrooms!  It's like a scene from a fairy tale.  MossTerrariums also features one of my personal favorite terrarium ideas - the repurposed light bulb.

Light Bulb Moss and Lichen Terrarium
Again, the tiny mushroom - really cute.  What a great idea to avoid another used incandescent in a land fill.

Happy Thursday Crafters!  And also, Happy Birthday Mom!
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