On my lunchtime walks I've been passing this milkweed plant, watching it go through its various stages of growth. I wondered how the flower cluster could create pods - and now I've seen for myself. The pods grow from the base of the flower cluster, as it is wilting.
I made these little bites for a party the other day. I used English cucumbers with thin skins, cut into chunks. I used a melon baller to scoop out a hole in each chunk, and using a pastry bag, filled them with sour cream. I added baby greens as a garnish. Quick, fresh and summery!
This lovely orchid plant was given to me for my birthday last year - almost a year ago. About 2 months ago I noticed it was sending up stems with flower buds! The first buds shriveled and fell off. I think the window seat in my kitchen where it was living was too cold.
So I moved the plant to my sunny office, where it's flourishing! Two more branches with multiple buds have appeared. It's so much fun to watch them grow.
This winter Bettie started watching TV. It started with a chance viewing of a PBS Nature episode about polar bears. She was sitting next to me on the couch, and suddenly noticed the lumbering bears on the screen. Since then she joins me whenever I turn on the tube.
We've watched Nature's special on hummingbirds (I bought the dvd to ease her winter boredom), several artist documentaries, including an American Masters episode on Andy Warhol, and the biggest surprise - "8: The Mormon Proposition" about the Mormon financial influence on the passage of Prop. 8 in California. She watched the whole thing!! She's transfixed by Rodney Yee's "A.M. Yoga." As soon as I cue it up in the morning, she takes her seat by the set!
When November rolls around I want to bake pies. I'd like to bring a really good one for Thanksgiving dessert, but I confess my pie-making has really gone downhill in the last few years. When you're eating gluten free, pie crust is a challenge. It's not easy to find a decent recipe. All the same, I was seeing the glass half-full this week, so I got it in mind to make a rustic, free-form, French-style tart. I used this crust recipe developed by Helene over at Tartelette. She is a French ex-pat pastry chef, living in the US, and she's an amazing baker. Sadly for her, she had to go gluten free. No need to tell you that her loss is my (and many others') gain! She has come up with some beautiful gluten free pastry recipes. You can read all about them, and drool over her food styling and photography on her blog.
Because I can't get enough of cooked apples, I chose this recipe from Epicurious for the filling. It uses what I think are traditional French elements: the apples are tossed not with cinnamon, but with lemon zest and a little sugar. The crust is spread with a thin layer of apricot jam beneath the apples. I used Bonne Maman preserves - a little pricey, but delicious and not too sweet. This combination of flavors is new to me, and really good! Still, I must face facts. This crust is tasty, but not fabulous enough to warrant all that extra folded up around the edges. Next time I'll make this in a tart pan, and keep the crust really thin. I think that will be just right.
In May, my nephew and his wife had a lovely little baby girl named Addianna. If my sister Anna were still living, this little girl would be her first grandchild.
I wanted to make something special for her. I didn't start the quilt until Addi was a few weeks old, and she's just received it - at around her six-month birthday. I'm sad that it's so late in arriving, but I really enjoyed making it. I think she'll still be able to make use of it.
It's my first real quilt. I've made a few pieced tops that I stitched onto store-bought comforters. This is the first time I designed, pieced, filled, quilted and finished a quilt - although I did it all on a sewing machine - not by hand. I used my mother's 1951 Singer Electric Sewing Machine, Class 15-91.
I have a baby quilt that my grandmother sewed by hand, while she was expecting my mother, her first child. It's yellow and lavender - gender neutral colors - because back then there was no way to know the sex of your baby until her arrival.
I chose fabric patterns and colors I thought a little girl might enjoy. I hope Addi will get lots of use out of this thing.
And here she is, my great-niece and her great-grandma, who just happens to be my mother. (Photo from Addi's mom Caty's Facebook photos.)
Last week Gluten Free Girl & The Chef featured homemade gf oreos on their site. (You'll find the recipe there if you want to try it.) I had to give them a try! I figured it was best to make them for a party - so I wouldn't eat more than a few. I've been wanting a pastry bag - this was my excuse to go out and buy one. I whipped them up for a Halloween party, where I knew there would be at least one other person on a gf diet.
A few comments on the process: I substituted brown rice flour for the white rice flour because that's what I had on hand, and coconut oil for the vegetable shortening because I don't like to use trans-fats. I also think that this dough could be rolled out and cut with a cookie cutter, or rolled into a log and sliced. It was a bit labor intensive to form each wafer by hand. The chocolately smell that filled the house while they baked was out of this world!
To decorate them for the holiday, I bought some yogurt covered raisins and poked holes in them with a fat needle to make little skulls, which I attached with a little blob of icing. :-) They were well received at the party, even by non-gf people. That's always the test: will the people who can eat everything else enjoy these too? They did, although I have to say I liked them best the next day, after they'd spent the night in the fridge. The filling stayed really firm when cold, so it didn't squeeze out when I took a bite. Let me know if you make them - and how they turn out!
This afternoon some weather rolled in - magical autumn weather - the kind of weather that stirs thoughts of something much bigger than our puny selves. I was at my desk, on the third floor of the office building where I spend my days. My cube-mates and I were in awe of the drama taking place outside the glass.
Leaving work, walking to my car, across a little wooden bridge over a wetland, the slanting rays were hitting bittersweet berries with a light that made me see them for the first time.
A half hour later, when I exited Whole Foods, this greeted me. It lasted for the longest time, and grew in size and brilliance until it was a full rainbow, spanning the sky from horizon to horizon. I watched people come and go in the parking lot. Some were oblivious, others stopped for a moment to appreciate it. I spied a very tall young man standing in the next row of parked cars. He stood almost motionless, sometimes in the falling rain, from the moment he noticed the rainbow, until it faded away. When it was over, I watched him walk toward the store, with the sweetest smile on his face.
Last Saturday, S. and I wandered over to the Hessel Museum at Bard College to have a look at the exhibit Home/Not at Home. The show was okay - there are a few standout pieces. I found most of the work in the collection to be clever, but lacking heart.
As we walked toward the museum door, the breeze picked up, and we heard, behind us, the distinctive sound of a flag - a big, substantial one - unfurling and snapping in the wind.
Expecting to see the Stars and Stripes, we turned, and . . . surprise!
These pieces are actually cut outs made from torn down studio sheds that were constructed as part of Draper's Habitat for Artists program. Roos Arts' current exhibition, which opened this evening, features this work. You can read more about it here.
I took the summer off from blogging. My camera is old, and the Memory Stick I was using went bad. Sony no longer manufactures the cards, and I struggled to find some. I finally found two -- in my desk drawer!! While I was fretting over my camera and its memory, this lovely pile of basil grew in my teeny-tiny garden.
Last night, a dry evening between bouts of rain and wind brought on by a tropical storm, I cut the plants off at the base, brought them inside, and stripped off their leaves. It took about 90 minutes to complete this part of the project. Those bowls you see up there? They're very big! And full of fragrant, lovely basil leaves.
I stuffed as many as would fit into the food processor, poured in a little olive oil, and churned away.
The mixture filled these three zip-lock bags, which I carefully flattened, spreading the basil mush in an even layer, and filling each bag to the corners to keep air out. Also, the thinner the layer, the easier it is to use later.
After a night of laying flat in the freezer, they're ready for use. Any time I need basil, I'll just break off a piece and reseal the bag. In cooked dishes, it's a thousand times better than dried leaves!