Saturday, December 19, 2009

In the kitchen: Mexican Chocolate Cookies

I'm sure I'm not alone in obsessing about cookies this time of year. I've been following along with many blogs who are counting down the holidays with cookie recipes and when Chicago-based Lottie & Doof got to number 8 — Mexican Chocolate Cookies adapted from Cooks Illustrated — I knew I had to get baking. A big old hunk of butter along with a wollop of cinnamon and cayenne pepper give them a unique kick.

Mexican Chocolate Cookies (via Lottie & Doof, adapted from Cook’s Illustrated)
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (I would use a tad more next time — love the heat!)
  • 20 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 1/2 sticks), softened to cool room temperature (about 65 degrees)
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/4-1/2 cup turbinado sugar (or other raw or sanding sugar)

In medium skillet set over medium heat, toast almonds, cinnamon, and cayenne until fragrant, about 3 minutes; set aside to cool. In food processor fitted with metal blade, process cooled mixture until very fine, about 15 seconds. Set aside.

Melt 4 tablespoons butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and instant espresso powder; stir until mixture forms smooth paste. Set aside to cool, 15 to 20 minutes.

In standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, mix remaining 16 tablespoons butter, sugar, salt, and cooled cocoa mixture on high speed until well combined and fluffy, about 1 minute, scraping sides of mixing bowl once or twice with rubber spatula. Add yolks and vanilla and mix on medium speed until thoroughly combined, about 30 seconds. Scrape sides of bowl. Whisk nut/spice mixture into flour. With mixer running on low, add flour mixture in three additions, waiting until each addition is incorporated before adding next and scraping bowl before next addition. Continue to mix until dough forms cohesive ball, about 5 seconds. Shape into two dough logs, 2 inches in diameter and about 6 inches long; use parchment paper or plastic wrap to roll into neat cylinder. Chill until very firm and cold, at least 1 hour. (At this point the dough can be frozen for up to a couple of weeks.)

Preheat oven to 375º F with rack set in the middle. Roll chilled log in sugar. Slice cookies 1/4 inch thick and place on parchment-lined baking sheets.

Bake until cookies show slight resistance to touch, 10 to 12 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking time; if cookies begin to darken on edges, they have overbaked. Cool for 5 minutes, then, using spatula, transfer cookies to wire rack; cool completely.

What are you baking this weekend?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The best taste of 2009

If I had made this recipe in say, March of this year, I probably wouldn't have even considered that title for this post. But that's what happens in December. You start thinking in superlatives and lists. Top ten! Best of the year! 2009 favorites! But the fact is, it
is December and these ribs are just that good. We had spareribs from the CSA and while barbecue is the obvious choice, I really haven't found a sauce I love. I was digging around online for a non-barbecue recipe and boy did I score. The best taste I've had in recent months, if not all year. AND I overcooked them. I can only imagine their perfection when well-cooked. Okay, enough of the hype. Here it is:

Tuscan-Style Spareribs with Balsamic Glaze
Adapted from
Food & Wine, November 2004

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons chopped rosemary leaves

1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt

1 1/2 tablespoons fennel seeds

2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons chopped sage

2 teaspoons chopped thyme

2 teaspoons sweet paprika

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

6 pounds pork spareribs

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, preferably one aged for at least 5 years

  1. In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, rosemary, kosher salt, fennel, black pepper, sage, thyme, paprika, crushed red pepper, coriander and allspice. Rub the spice paste all over the spareribs and let stand at room temperature for 2 hours or refrigerate overnight.
  2. Preheat the oven to 325°. Arrange the ribs on a large, rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan, meaty side up. Roast the ribs for 2 hours, or until tender.
  3. Preheat the broiler. Brush the meaty side of the ribs with the balsamic vinegar and broil 6 inches from the heat until browned, about 2 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes, then cut between the ribs and serve.
Note: We probably only had a little over a pound of ribs, so I halved the ingredients thinking there would still be too much. But I was glad to have as much as I did.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Down a Red Velvet Rabbit Hole

I started in Detroit and ended up down the rabbit hole in southern Missouri. Reading through some of my favorite blogs this dreamy photo caught my eye on Perfect Laughter's latest Starred column. Perfect Laughter has become my go-to for news about the Detroit art scene and, in this case, beyond. I love the color and mood and how could you not love Christmas lights cascading down a wall to form a headboard? I noticed it was from Skunkboy Creatures who I have been captivated by lately.

Skunkboy Creatures

Katie, the lovely creature responsible for Skunkboy Creatures, was my neighbor at Renegade in Chicago and she just oozes talent. Not only does she sew the most delightful creatures, but she is full of style and sweetness. The caption beneath the photo said that it was via A Beautiful Mess, so of course, I clicked through and found myself in a wonderland of breathtaking photos and southern charm.

Leigh-Ann of Freckled Nest. One of the blogs featured on A Beautiful Mess

The blog is by Elsie Flannigan and the link was to her post listing 10 blogs she enjoys. Bonanza! Each one is more delicious than the last. But even more importantly, this jump led me to Elsie's shop: Red Velvet Art.

Cuckoo Clock Necklace available at Red Velvet Art

Poster by Chris Merritt at Red Velvet Art

It is both online and a brick-and-mortar shop in Springfield, Missouri. Browsing through the shop makes me want to take a huge detour on our trip to North Carolina to soak up the atmosphere in what must be a charming, charming place. Sigh.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Circus is Coming to Town…

Late notice, I know, but tomorrow night the circus — the first-ever holiday craft circus, that is — will be in town! Come on down and shop the night away with 20 artists and live music from Lucky Club, a swing guitar duo. I promise it will be a festive low-key, low-stress way to find those perfect last-minute holiday purchases! To find out more about the participating artists, check out the Craft Circus blog or become a fan on Facebook!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Make the season BRIGHT with Sloe Gin Fizz

To celebrate the season of giving, I will be offering another extended weekend of FREE WORLDWIDE SHIPPING in the Sloe Gin Fizz Etsy shop from now through Monday, December 14. Come on over and let's get festive!

Now in the shop: gift certificates!

I'm a list maker by nature. Every day there is a new set of lists: in my head, on paper, anywhere I can. That's one of the many reasons I love this time of year. Everyone is making lists. What to give, what they want, best of the year, worst of the year. My favorites are always the gift guides! I love seeing what and how people put items together and this year, I'm even more excited and honored to be included in a few. Check out the guides below for some terrific gift ideas!

The Sub-studio Design gift guides are beautifully organized by color, starting with black and moving on through the spectrum.

Jen over at IndieFixx put together some great gift ideas for guys.

Christina from the incredible design blog, Perfect Laughter, did a guest post over at discover: interior design with affordable art picks.

I even made it into a guide with the word chic in the title: Etsy's Geek Chic Guide!

Happy shopping and thanks to everyone!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Renegade Treasures!

After waking up Monday morning to a blanket of snow over Chicago, I made way home. The weekend at the Renegade Holiday Fair was great fun. I shared a booth with Michelle of Elevated Press and we were surrounded by some great peeps. I took the opportunity to do a tiny bit of shopping while there, though there was certainly SO much more I wanted to buy than I actually did. Here's a peak at the goodies:

2010 Letterpress Calendar
from One Canoe Two
Their drawing style is right up my alley!

Letterpress card
from Pearl & Marmalade

Their cards are so well-written and witty, not to mention beautifully printed.

Bookmark, also from Pearl & Marmalade

Beautiful postcard from the lovely Kitty Rogers Photography to remind me that I want to buy a print in the near future.

AND, last but not least, this wonderful letterpress ship from Elevated Press. It has such a deep impression and I love the illustration style.
I can't even start to tell you about all the other wonderful vendors and treats I wanted to scoop up. If you're still looking for holiday gifts, stop by any of these shops and you won't be disappointed! Or check out the full vendor list with links here.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Off to Chicago: Renegade Craft Fair

Detroit Urban Craft Fair, November 21, 2009

Well, I'm off for the weekend! I'll be at the Renegade Holiday Fair in Chicago this Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. It is the hottest show in town this weekend and takes place at the Pulaski Park Fieldhouse. Over 150 indie vendors will be selling their wares and spreading cheer, so come on down!

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

In the kitchen: Feta and Herb Stuffed Burgers with Polenta Fries

We tried out the ground beef from our Old Pine Farm meat CSA last night. I made Feta and Herb Stuffed burgers from one of the recipes included with our share. They were delicious. I've read that the biggest taste difference between corn-fed and grass-fed beef is in ground meat and after these burgers, I believe it. The meat has a stronger, naturally beefier flavor that the boy and I both really enjoyed. The meat is extremely lean, making for a denser burger, but wasn't dry at all.

Feta and Herb Stuffed Burgers
Adapted from The Grassfed Gourmet Cookbook by Kacey and Kelly Petersoon
Serves 3

1/3 cup crumbled feta (I used Greystone Creamery from the CSA)
1 heaping Tb fresh oregano, minced
2 Tb fresh spinach, chopped
1 pound ground beef
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Mix feta, oregano and spinach in a small bowl. Divide ground beef into three portions and form patties. Make a well in center of each burger and place 1/3 feta mix in it. Reform patty up and around stuffing, making sure it is all covered. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

I pan-fried the burgers in a cast iron skillet, though they could also be grilled. If you do cook them in a skillet, I like to cover with a lid when cooking the second side to create some steam to help cook them without drying them out.

Baked polenta fries are a great with these burgers. If you have leftover polenta, spread it in a dish that is a suitable size so that it forms a 1-1 1/2 inch layer and refrigerate. When you are ready to use it, invert the dish to remove the polenta and cut into 1/2 inch strips about 4 inches long. Place on lightly oiled baking sheet and bake at 425º until lightly browned and crisp, 25-30 minutes, turning once.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Driving full force into December

Welcome, December! I've had this festive fellow driving through my sketchbook for some time now and can't quite decide his fate. Maybe he needs a tree-lined shadowy, French-y boulevard in the background? For a card? a note book? Maybe driving through a snow storm? I know he's bound for something, I just don't know what.

Monday, November 30, 2009

From sophisticated to sweet: My Etsy Wish List

While I should have been printing, trimming, packing and cutting this morning in preparation for Renegade in Chicago next week, I got caught up in the spirit of Cyber Monday and spent the whole morning window shopping on Etsy. Here's a peak at what I put on my wish list after browsing through my favorite sellers' shops.

Genteel Leather Wallet
Urban Heirlooms from New Jersey

Sally coat
Little Houses from Vancouver

Set of 4 Soft Cotton Bracelets
Eastern Sky from Shropshire, UK

Printed linen sachets
by Designs Maya Made from upstate New York

Miss Knit brooch
Crafty Folk from Portland, OR

Veekee Agenda/Midnight Tulip
Veekee from Edmonton

Business card and address file box organizer
Freestyle Gifts from San Francisco

Vintage Locker baskets
Old Crow Farm from Iowa

So while I drool some more over these gems, now's the time to take advantage of hot Cyber Monday deals on Etsy. My shop, as well as many others, has free worldwide shopping until midnight tonight. So don't delay! And let me know what favorites you find.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving recap in pictures…

I'm not afraid to tell you that yesterday, at this time, I was sound asleep. While the boy did a thoroughly magnificent clean up job, I was out cold on the couch by 6 p.m., moving into bed around 7 p.m. It was darn nice! Here are some of the things that put me there:

The shrouded turkey…

… the reveal.

Grandma's apple pie

And then today, I simmered this all afternoon for yummy, turkey stock goodness.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Black Friday/Cyber Monday Weekend Sale!

To kick off the holiday shopping season, I am offering free worldwide shipping all weekend long in my Etsy shop! Beginning on Friday, November 27 through Monday, November 30, all orders will be shipped for free. Happy Holidays everyone!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hope you're all enjoying a day with family and friends and great food! We're having a quiet, yet festive (champagne always helps), day of thanks for two.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Local meat and cheese from Old Pine Farm CSA

I've been very busy lately visiting some great farms and chefs for Edible WOW. I don't go into too much detail here on the blog, because I want you to support the magazine if you're in the area (if you're not, but are in the U.S., look for the local Edible publication in your area). But at the same time, I do want those of you living in Southeast Michigan to know about the great food sources right at our doorstep. So today I'm going to tell you all about our Old Pine Farm CSA membership.

Beautifully colorful eggs from Old Pine Farm

The boy and I bought a half share in the Old Pine Farm meat CSA. Owner Kris Hirth raises locally grown grass-fed and certified organic grain-fed animals in Manchester. The new season started this month and we picked up our first share on Monday. It included a dozen eggs, a whole chicken, spareribs, fresh pork sausage, ground beef and a round roast. We also had the opportunity to purchase some extras, which we took full advantage. We got a turkey (just in time for Thanksgiving!), fresh rainbow trout fillets and a whole range of incredible local handcrafted artisan cheeses.

Some of the cheeses are from Evergreen Lane Farm, a small-scale organic goat dairy in Fennville, Michigan. We ordered the Fresh Chevre, Fresh Chevre with Garden Herbs (Parsley, Lovage and Chives) and Pyramid Pointe. So far, I've only tried the Chevre with herbs and it is remarkable. So tangy and fresh tasting. I can't wait to try the rest.

We also got cream cheese and feta from Greystone Farm and Creamery, a sheep dairy in Chelsea. I had the cream cheese this morning and I can't get over the rich flavor. I will definitely be ordering more cheese in the future.

The fresh rainbow trout was from Indianbrook Farm in Jackson and we had it for dinner Monday night. So fresh and tasty with a bit of sweet tang from white wine vinegar:

Tuscan Grilled Trout
Adapted from Food and Wine
• 1/4 cup olive oil
• 1 clove garlic, cut into thin slices
• 1/2 teaspoon dried sage
• 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, crumbled
• 2 tablespoons wine vinegar
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
• 8 trout fillets (about 2 pounds in all)

Light the grill or heat the broiler. In a small stainless-steel saucepan, combine the oil, garlic, sage, and rosemary. Cook over moderately low heat until the garlic just starts to brown, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and immediately stir in the vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, and the pepper.

Put the trout fillets in a medium glass dish or stainless-steel pan. Sprinkle the fish with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add half of the oil-and-vinegar mixture and turn to coat. Grill or broil the fish skin-side down for 2 minutes. Turn and cook until just done, about 2 minutes longer for 1/4-inch-thick fillets. To serve,whisk the remaining oil-and-vinegar mixture and pour it over the hot fish.

Note: I cut the recipe in half and it worked beautifully.

Stay tuned for more recipes with our CSA gems.
I feel so lucky — and thankful — that we have this resource so near by. Do you think smearing the turkey all over with goat cheese is too much?!?!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Let the DIY HOLIDAY Season Begin: Especially in Detroit & Chicago!

I have never been one to break into the holiday cheer business until well after Thanksgiving — it usually hits me about a week or so before Christmas and then I scurry around like a madwoman. But this year, being so much more involved with the online world of making stuff and with craft shows and all, I have been fully caught up in the business of holiday cheer since the very beginning of November.

This is where the world of online shopping is blessed: no dang Christmas music even if you do start your shopping early — the best! It's easy to get so caught up in it all that you think you are behind. I have to keep reminding myself, that, no, I'm actually ahead of the curve; it really is still a week before Thanksgiving. AND, I am so pleased to admit that I LOVE it. I love the whole kit and kaboodle of dwelling on gingerbread and candy canes, holly and ornaments way too early. So, as I said in the title of this post, "Let the Holiday Season Begin!!"
Bring on the snow! And better still, bring on the shopping! I have two holiday oriented shows coming up right around the corner — come on out and be merry!

The first is this Saturday, November 21 in Detroit. It is the utterly fantastic Detroit Urban Craft Fair at the Majestic Theater from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. I was new to the area last year and went as a shopper to this fair and it blew me away. An amazing roster of vendors, delicious food — and beer, what more could a giddy holiday shopper want?!?! So come on down this year and see what it's all about! More details and directions here:

The second show is the Renegade Craft Fair Holiday Sale in Chicago, December 5 and 6. It's from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. both days at the Pulaski Park Fieldhouse. To me, this is the mother of all craft fairs. Hundreds of tremendously talented vendors from near and far with such a wide variety of handmade items to share. I'll be sharing a table with the lovely, talented Michelle of Elevated Press who makes beautiful letter-pressed stationary.

Hope you are starting to feel the cheer, too!

Monday, November 16, 2009

From the kitchen: Shrimp and Andouille Pot Pie

Perfect end to a crisp fall day: Shrimp and Andouille Pot Pie with puff pastry crust. I've never cooked with Andouille before and liked the bit of spice it adds. (I suppose I could have added it to my "Now I can Say I've Tried it" series!) The recipe is designed to make four mini pot pies, but I threw it all together in one dish. If you do this, cut the dough larger than the dish — I didn't and it gets quite a bit smaller when cooked, so I had big gaps around the edge of the dish. Delicious nonetheless! I'd estimate about one inch larger all around. I used some homemade shrimp stock I had in the freezer, but I'm sure you could even get away with chicken or vegetable stock instead of the seafood stock or clam juice.

Shrimp and Andouille Pot Pie
Adapted from Bob Appetit, March 2009/
  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 3 1/2 cups sliced leeks (white and pale green parts only; from 3 large)
  • 1/2 pound andouille sausage, cut into scant 1/2-inch cubes
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1 1.5-ounce package concentrated classic seafood stock (such as Glace de Fruits de Mer Gold) mixed with 2 cups water; or 2 cups bottled clam juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 8-ounce red-skinned potato, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 1/2 pounds deveined peeled uncooked jumbo shrimp, cut into 1-inch pieces
Preheat oven to 400°F. Roll out pastry on floured surface to 12-inch square. Cut out four 5 1/2-inch rounds. Place on parchment-lined baking sheet; bake until golden, about 15 minutes. Cool on sheet. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Wrap airtight and store at room temperature.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Whisk cream and flour in small bowl. Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add leeks and sauté until tender, about 10 minutes. Add andouille and garlic and sauté 4 minutes. Add vermouth; simmer until liquid evaporates, about 3 minutes. Add seafood stock mixture and thyme. Bring to simmer. Add potato and cook uncovered until tender, about 10 minutes.

Add cream mixture to skillet; stir. Simmer until sauce thickens and boils, about 3 minutes. Reduce heat. Add shrimp; simmer until just opaque in center, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Divide hot filling among four 1 1/4-cup baking dishes. Top each with pastry round. Bake until filling bubbles, about 5 minutes.

Yum! I'm hoping to try a slow cooker recipe or two this week… stay tuned!!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Quick update: Grand Rapids and new prints

I've just come from doing battle with scale on my rosemary plant — boooo! We brought a bunch of the herbs inside for the winter and very quickly both aphids and scale emerged. Of course, I didn't notice until it reached infestation proportions. So I spent way too much time this morning swabbing every surface of the rosemary with rubbing alcohol. Argh. Not an easy task. And now I feel like I'm crawling with scales.

Anyway… back from Grand Rapids. Lots of fun! I loved exploring Wealthy Street — it has so many great little places to explore and feels very urban. I also had a chance to run out to Grand Haven (above photo) and see a piece of Lake Michigan — gorgeous! It really is like looking out at the ocean, though without the saltiness in the air and on your lips. The show there was lots of fun, too, and I had some request for more colors for my Wellington boot, so here they are… my favorite is the polka dots. All to be added to the shop soon, soon!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Now I Can Say I've Tried It: Pea Shoots

Fresh pea shoots! These were sitting right next to the Jerusalem artichokes that started this whole "let's try something new" thing last week. Having never tried them, into my shopping basket they went. Tender and organically grown by the local Gardenworks farm, these greens are remarkable. Perfect in a salad, they are sweet and delicate. So tasty.

Here's my loosy-goosey recipe:

Pea Shoot Salad
Handful of pea shoots
Handful of mixed greens
Cucumber, peeled and chopped
Scallions, sliced

For the dressing, whisk together:
Juice of 1/2 lime or lemon
1 Tb honey
1/2-1 tsp sesame oil
Splash of olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Some toasted sesame seeds on top would be excellent, not to mention pretty. But the taste of the pea shoots are center stage and brilliant!