Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Quinoa Salad

Quinoa [KEEN-wah] is a seed that originated in the Andean region of South America, where it has been consumed for 6,000 years. It's considered a complete protein because it contains all 8 essential amino acids. It's higher in unsaturated fats and lower in carbohydrates than most grains and provides a rich and balanced source of vital nutrients! (Food Lover's Companion 4th Edition)

  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 2 cups vegetable broth or chicken broth or water
  • 1/2 medium cucumber diced 
  • 1/2 can of unsalted corn, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 can of low sodium or unsalted black beans, drained and rinsed (you can cook your own too of course)
  • 2 stalks of green onions, chopped
  • 1/2 cup of carrots, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup of red, yellow, orange bell peppers, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 T fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 T of red wine vinegar (adjust to taste)
  • 1 T of sesame oil (adjust to taste)
  • 1/4 cup of dried cranberries (optional)
  • garlic salt to taste (maybe 1/4 teaspoon at most?)
The vegetables can be whatever you prefer. I like to pick a bunch of colors of vegetables for the beautiful bouquet that results :o)

1. Stir quinoa in a small saucepan on medium heat and wait for a toasted smell and popping noises (should take a few minutes, maybe 5-10? I usually start chopping my veggies while I wait for them to toast)

2. When you hear the quinoa start to pop, pour in 2 cups of broth or water, return to boil, cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until all the broth is absorbed and you can see the outside ring of the quinoa somewhat separated from the grain.

3. Once broth is all absorbed, take pot off the burner and let it cool while you finish preparing the rest of your veggies in a big bowl.

4. Add the red wine vinegar, sesame oil, and garlic salt into the bowl of veggies. Mix well.

5. Pour the cooled quinoa into the bowl of veggies. Mix well. Cover and store in fridge until everything has cooled. You can eat this dish warm as well but it's great in the summer as a cold side dish! Add the dried cranberries right before serving.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Baby Blue & Chocolate Brown

My dear friend Michelle is getting married in a few weeks! (YAY! I LOVE weddings.) She wishes to include her adorable niece (almost 3 years old) and nephew (being welcomed into this world any day now) on her special day. Given the colors and idea, I went to work to come up with something that fit her wedding and her little munchkins! (Photographed are two versions of each)

Congrats Michelle & Cory! I wish you a sweet and beautiful life together!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Chicken Marsala

The best part of chicken marsala is the mushrooms. Flavor-packed slices. Umami overload.
Warm gooeyness going down, down, down to your belly. 

YIELD: 2 servings
TIME: 30 minutes

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 chicken tenders about 1/4 inch thick (mine had been marinating in Worcestershire sauce overnight but you don't have to)
  • grape seed oil (for coating your pan; you can use olive oil but it'll alter the flavor some, grape seed oil is pretty flavorless)
  • 3/4 cup marsala wine
  • 1 cup vegetable stock (or chicken or beef stock)
  • 1 cup mushrooms, sliced to 1/4 inch thickness
  • 1 green onion, chopped
  1. Coat chicken tenders with flour in a plate. Tap off any excess. Tip: Using tongs or chopsticks makes this process much less messy than using fingers.
  2. In a saucepan over medium heat, add enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan and allow it to warm. After warming, gently lay in the chicken and cook until browned, about 3 minutes a side (depending on how thick your tenders are). Transfer to plate and keep warm - I covered my chickens with a dish towel in the microwave (you may have other tricks up your sleeve).
  3. Add marsala to the pan - stand back! It'll steam and make all sorts of noise and you'll feel like a real chef. This exciting action deglazes your pan. After deglazing, let the wine reduce by 75% volume, stirring here and there. Keep an eye on it though because it cooks down pretty quickly.
  4. Add mushrooms to the pan, stir and scrape the sides down as needed. 
  5. Pour in stock and allow mixture to thicken for about 5 minutes before removing from heat.
  6. Stir in chopped green onion.
  7. Spoon sauce over chicken. Garnish with fresh herbs like parsley! I served my chicken marsala with angel hair pasta coated in butter and grated Parmesan.

Marsala is imported form Sicily and made from local grapes. Marsalas have a rich, smoky flavor, much of which comes from oxidation during aging, as with sherry and madeira. Marsala wines are made in various styles - secco (dry), semisecco (semisweet), and dolce (sweet). The quality levels are Fine (the lowest level), at least 17% alcohol and 1 year wood aging; Superiore, at least 18% alcohol and 2 years wood aging; Superiore Riserva, at least 4 years wood aging; and Vergine (the highest quality), at least 5 years wood aging.  (Food Lover's Companion 4th Edition)

I used California Marsala, 17% alcohol. I have no idea how many years it has aged. This bottle came home with me because it was on sale (but also wasn't the cheapest one). It got the job done!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Green Tea Madeleines

[mad-LEHN] The madeleine is a small, buttery sponge cake that's eaten as a cookie, often dipped in coffee or tea. These feather-light cakes are baked in a special madeleine pan with indentations that resemble an elongated scallop shell. Madeleines are best eaten fresh from the oven, while the inside is moist and warm and the exterior exquisitely crisp! (Food Lover's Companion Fourth Edition)

The recipe below is adapted from Martha Stewart Living Number 214 September 2011.
Active Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 40 minutes
Yield: 80 mini madeleines

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons ground green tea*
3 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon packed light-brown sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
2 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

* Grind 1/4 cup of high quality jasmine green tea in a spice grinder until powdery. I don't have a spice grinder so I cut open a few tea bags and figured they were close enough....HOWEVER, the taste of the tea was hardly noticeable. If I were you, or if I were to try this again, I might invest in a spice grinder OR cut open a lot more tea bags.

  1. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.
  2. Whisk together eggs, granulated sugar, and brown sugar with a mixer on high speed until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Sift flour mixture over top in 2 additions, folding in after each addition. Fold in melted butter in 2 additions, then honey and vanilla. BE PATIENT! FOLD GENTLY! The key to airy madeleines is to keep the fluffiness of the batter. Refrigerate, covered, for at least 1 hour.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Let batter stand at room temperature for 5 minutes. Generously butter  mini nonstick madeleine pans using a pastry brush. I saved the bowl that had melted butter stuck to its sides to butter my pan.
  4. Transfer batter to a pastry bag (or Ziploc/sandwich bag with a small hole cut in a corner), and snip tip to create a 1/4-inch opening. Pipe some batter into molds, filling each about 3/4 full. OR use a small spoon and small spatula and carefully nudge a little batter into each mold. Bake on middle rack until pale gold, 6-8 minutes. I left mine in for too long (10 minutes?), it didn't look done but the other side was definitely browner. If you're using non-stick pan, I recommend sticking closer to the 6-8 minutes. Immediately shake madeleines out. Wash and re-butter molds. Repeat with remaining batter. 
  5. Dust with confectioners' sugar prior to serving for extra credit. Best to be enjoyed the same day but can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days (but I doubt you'll have them sitting around that long!). If you don't use all the batter, it can be refrigerated for up to 2 days (I only did one batch for a test run - now I have lots of batter for lots of cookies for the next couple days!).

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Ingrid's Maternity Photo Shoot-8/20/2011

This weekend, I had the honor of capturing the Love awaiting a baby girl to come. At 37 1/2 weeks, Ingrid is absolutely gorgeous! In the years to come, mother and father will share with their daughter the memories of preparing for her arrival. She will see the beautiful life her parents prepared for her. Her outfits of all colors, neatly folded in little drawers, waiting to be displayed on chubby arms and legs. Her toys, waiting for a playmate. The hand-painted walls of her room, waiting for additional colors from stray crayons. She will look back and see the care with which they took to ensure a warm welcome into a humble life of joy and comfort.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cherry Bread Pudding

Ever wonder what to do with stale bread? I always feel bad throwing it away....
Solution: Bread Pudding. It's like French toast, in a bowl. Yum.

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 5ish minutes
Bake Time: 30 minutes


  • 2 cups stale bread in cubes (make sure there's no mold or anything else that looks suspicious....)
  • small handful of semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup dried cherries
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup milk (I used soy milk because I don't usually have cow's milk in stock but either is fine)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine eggs, milk, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg in small bowl.
2. Evenly spread bread, cherries, and chocolate chips in quart-sized baking dish.
3. Pour egg mixture over bread mixture.
4. Using a wooden spoon, press down on bread so everything gets a good soaking. If your bread is as stale as mine, you might need to give it a few minutes before you can do any squishing.
5. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes.
6. Serve warm, topped with cinnamon sugar, powdered sugar, or vanilla ice cream!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Fluffy Fabric Hair Flowers

The flower obsession continues! This time we venture into fabrics. I LOVE textiles. Colors. Patterns. Feel. My latest project comes from Ruche: Petit Plume Hair Flower DIY. With a few minor adjustments, the below is the first of many variations to come!

Lace Blue - Tea Party
Note: Because you don't need an abundance of fabric, try sifting through the scrap bin at your fabric store. Often you can find the amount you need (and usually more than enough) for 50% or more off the original price! The only barrier is, you're fabric options in type and pattern are limited because all you've got are random scraps. However, take it as an opportunity to create unexpected combinations! I've used broadcloth, taffeta, patterned cotton, and lace. For the lace, I bought a spool because it was on sale and as a neutral color, I could use it for any color palette.
Lace Blue - Pretty On the Side
Pretty in Pink - Peony

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

"Leftover" Lasagna

Do you have random ingredients in your fridge that you don't have quite enough of to make dishes that make them the star of the show? Here's a solution:

Leftover ground beef + Leftover mushroom spaghetti sauce + Lone Japanese eggplant + various cheeses + a few other ingredients + New Azur Emile Henry 9" Square Baking Dish (bought at an I-can't-believe-it sale price) =

Yield: 4 servings
Time: 1 hour

Ingredients (what I used but not what you're limited to!):

  • 4 no-boil lasagna noodles
  • 1/2 lb ground beef (I think that's how much was left...)
  • 1 Japanese eggplant, chopped into small pieces ~ about a cup?
  • 1 cup spaghetti sauce, approximate measurement since I used whatever was left in the jar
  • 1 cup part-skim ricotta 
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan 
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning (or whatever your heart and stomach desire)
  • pepper as you please
  • 1/2 log of fresh mozzarella, sliced thin or chopped up in a pillowy mess (you can use shredded)
  • handful of coarsely chopped fresh basil
  1. In a medium skillet on medium heat (or medium high, depending on your stove and cookware), brown ground beef. While it's browning, you can chop your eggplant and basil. When meat is ready, turn off heat and stir in spaghetti sauce. 
  2. In a medium bowl, mix ricotta, egg, Parmesan, Italian seasoning, and pepper until well combined.
  3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. 
  4. Layer 1/4 cup of meat/eggplant sauce on bottom of baking dish. Lay down two lasagna noodles. Top with half of cheese filling. Layer 1/2 of what's left of sauce. Layer on 1/2 of the mozzarella. Lay down last two lasagna noodles. Top of rest of cheese filling. Layer remaining sauce. Top with remaining mozzarella cheese and basil. Now, in hindsight, maybe I should has used the basil in the middle of the lasagna instead of on top because post-oven, the basil isn't the fresh green it once was. You can use it wherever you like; or omit it if you're not a fan of basil or don't have any handy.
  5. Bake for 45 minutes. Top should be bubbly brown, if not, broil for a minute or two.
  6. Let the lasagna cool for about 10 minutes. 
  7. Top with some grated Parmesan if you're a cheese fanatic, and serve! I ended up adding some extra basil on top for color and extra flavor. Serve with garlic bread, a salad with plenty of veggies, and seasonal fruit for a well-balanced meal!

Sunday, August 7, 2011


Summer = Popsicles!

Blueberry Mango Sliced Strawberries Popsicle
How are YOU enjoying summer? I'm thinking of making a pineapple basil popsicle next...or maybe a mint cucumber one.... Stay cool!

Peach Basil Popsicle (middle one is pureed, side ones are chopped peaches with julienned basil)

French Vanilla Cream Puffs

Looking for an easy dessert that is delicious AND impressive? Try these cream puffs! Recipe courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book 75th Anniversary Edition.

Prep: 30 minutes
Cool: 10ish minutes
Bake: 30 minutes
Oven: 400 degrees F
Yield: 18 cream puffs

1 cup water (measured exactly)
1/2 cup butter
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
ice cream (any flavor, I used French Vanilla)
  1. In medium saucepan combine water, butter, and salt; bring to boiling. Add flour all at once, stirring vigorously (add flour as soon as butter has melted and mixture is boiling so that the liquid doesn't boil away). Cook and stir until mixture forms a ball. Remove from heat. Cool for 10 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well with a wooden spoon after each addition.
  2. Drop 18 heaping tablespoons of dough onto greased baking sheets (I used an ice cream scoop and parchment-lined baking sheets). Bake for 30 minutes-until golden born/firm/dry. Transfer cream puffs to a wire rack to cool.
  3. Cut tops from puffs and remove a little soft dough from inside. Fill with ice cream and replace the tops. If desired, drizzle honey over the top or sifted powdered sugar.
  4. Serve immediately!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Bottle Sweaters Part II

My husband challenged me to expand the fruits and vegetables themed bottle sweaters. I've made flowers (an ongoing thing because I love flowers and there's lots of room to be creative) ....

... and now I've made my first FISH!

More to come! :o)