Sunday, June 27, 2010

Hits the Spot

Alternate Title: Yet Another of my Mom's Treasures

I'm pretty much (sorta) over apologizing for the fact that I quote my mom here over and over and over... though saying "quoting her" should be taken lightly, seeing as how quoting anything is neither of our strong suits.

Speaking of strengths, I must give credit for the presence any athletic bone in my body to (wait for it) my ice cream-loving father. Gotcha, didn't I!? You'd have guessed my mom - and I wouldn't have blamed you - except for the fact that I've seen her (attempt to) tread water and break her toe at the mere touch of a soccer ball. Luckily, while my dad and I take care of the sports in our family, my mom can do just about everything else.

And this time, she exercised (no pun intended) her gift of uncovering a treasure (which happens to be my favorite spot #3 - I told you it was just a spot!).

If you don't recognize those dogs, then you must be new (welcome!). Seeing as how we're a little black-and-tan-long-haired-dachshund-obsessed around here, when my mom spied this beautiful, life-like graphic of two long-haired dachshunds in a vintage garden book (because dachshunds like gardens?!?), she snatched it up knowing I'd be all too happy to find it a home.

And it didn't take long... about 3.5 seconds after she presented it to us and I had quieted down from my ooohing and aahing (finding pictures of these wonderful creatures, especially of the long-haired variety, is much harder than you'd think), this space on our family room (yes, that same room that fills me with "eh") bookshelf was cleared, ever-so-slightly rearranged and then voila!

Who'd have thought that just a small piece of art could provide me so much happiness. It has since provided me countless moments of secret glances... not that the real thing is ever that far away.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Perfect For the Heavy-Handed

Recipe: Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream

Is it a dad thing to love ice cream or just a my dad thing? Either way, it's almost a given that anytime I have the slightest thought about ice cream, it's accompanied by any number of fond memories of my dad scooping what remains to be the largest serving you've ever seen into his bowl (hurriedly at that, lest someone should swat his hand away).

I'm not sure that I can do this image justice but picture if you will a half gallon (or whatever they are, these days) of insert-ice-cream-brand-name-here... you remove the top expecting ice cream resting just at or below the lip of the container. At this point, in my house, if my dad had gotten to the ice cream first, sure, there might be ice cream left, but the entire first inch or two would have been removed via a swift (precise and practiced) motion (see above comment about a hand being swatted).

So it's with those memories in mind that I can sincerely say... eat your heart out, Dad (literally)! It's finally your day to shine (on the blog, at least)... and although you unfortunately don't get to take your gratuitous scoop(s) of this particular ice cream, this recipe is dedicated to no one else but you.

As far as the rest of you... whether your dad has a heavy hand or not, I willing to bet this'd be a winner on your Father's Day table too.

Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream
from Cuisinart

1 1/8 c peanut butter (not natural)
3/4 c sugar
1 1/4 c whole milk
2 c heavy cream
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 c peanut butter cup candies, rough chopped

In a medium mixing bowl, use a hand mixer or whisk to combine the peanut butter and sugar until smooth. Add the milk and mix on low speed until the sugar is dissolved, about 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the heavy cream and vanilla.

Turn your ice cream machine on; pour the mixture into freezer bowl, and let mix until almost thickened, about 20 minutes. Five minutes before mixing is completed, add the chopped candy through the top and let mix in completely. The ice cream will have a soft, creamy texture. If a firmer consistency is desired, transfer the ice cream to an airtight container and place in freezer for about 2 hours.

Remove from freezer about 15 minutes before serving.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Fitting Right In

I'm finally back with show-and-tell spot #2 of our casa. And no, my silence regarding all things home and garden wasn't because I couldn't find something else that I loved about our house (though admittedly, I always see room for improvement, or er... overhaul) or for that matter, because we haven't been working around the house (primarily in the yard... it's summer, after all, indoor updates can kinda-sorta wait!). Instead, it was a bit because I couldn't decide if we've got anything really worth sharing (and dreaming that it might - dare I say - inspire you?) even if they do make us happy and another, a sadly bigger dose of sheer laziness.

Buuuut... we (humbly) think that this corner of our family room housing this gorgeous drafting table was worth the wait. Truth be told, this nook lives in the room that without a doubt frustrates me the most of any in our home... daily even. Thank goodness for this little, inconsequential corner... that which gives me hope.

As I mentioned, an outspoken majority of the rest of this room leaves quite a bit to be desired (and thus the only chance you have of seeing it is if I get desperate enough to ask for help); our family room and I have a distinct love-hate relationship... in that I love one or two very minor parts of it (duh... shown here), and strongly dislike what's left.

The story of the life of this beautiful (and don't tell us if you think otherwise) table is one of significance. It was almost (phew!) tragically cut short; as during the move-in process, with my limited "vision", I was sure there was no place for it. After all, it was taller and much larger in surface area than any typical desk so using it as a bedside table or a desk in a guest room was out. Add in the fact that it was too wide for many of our 1940s random-width doorways, and we were left in a bind.

Thankfully, just as we were about to give up and draft a Craigslist ad, my parents arrived in town. And as you might guess, my mom's good eye saved the day. At the time the decorating style of the house might have been best described as (with compliments to the then-current - and only - resident) "clean bachelor pad", complete with only a recliner, ottoman, coffee table, bookshelf, and of course a TV. But through it all, my mom saw this oddly angled corner and stopped the presses. A few minutes (and a door off its hinges) later, and our work/wrapping/crafting station was born.

With the table in place, accessories were in order. Little by little, we added a revived (you just can't kill the suckers) philodendron in a quiet, cream planter, two black and whites framed similarly drawing your eye up the back wall, a task light, a sculptural glass container holding spools of colorful ribbon, and a basket (on the floor) of various wrapping papers (my rather weak attempts at injecting color). Overtime, we've worked in some more personal touches including the cute wooden dog, dried flowers and a picture from our wedding, as well as a prominent place for our ultra useful address-stamper (that sees at least weekly use - thanks, Missy!).

If you can't tell (by my more-than-you-needed details), things about our house that I feel are "put-it-on-the-world-wide-web" worthy get me a little excited... so excited in fact, that I've already picked my next favorite spot (this one is indeed just a spot) to share with you. So while you're thinking of (and letting me know!) how we can continue to dress up our precious desk-in-the-corner, stop by sometime soon to see how we figured out one (simple) way to make another small piece of our family room more palatable. It turns out I have a thing with corners...

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Late to the Party

Recipe: Wheat Berry Salad with Chickpeas, Craisins, Feta and Mint

There are two things you can count on around here... that I'm always going to be the last to do or know about anything - which most certainly applies to new (or once they get to me, old) trends, and that I know nothing, and I mean literally zero, about anything related to pop culture, or that is cool or hip (for that matter, do "we" even say the word "hip" at this point?).

While I'm sure this surprises no one, not the least of which you all - after all, you've been privy to just a few of the recipes I throw around in our kitchen (frittatas? sausage soup? bar cookies? a fruit trifle? and sometimes, two chocolate recipes at once?), it did feel good to wipe yet another embarrassing admission off my chest.

Over two years ago, I read post after post of Susan's (among others) about bulgur, farro, quinoa, and a number of other whole grains that I'd never even heard of (truth be told, at the time, I was cooking whole wheat couscous, calling it a whole grain); and, they sounded not only delicious but each also boasted incredible health benefits. Thus it's fitting, albeit late as expected, that I've finally located (honestly, this was half the battle), cooked, and fallen hard for... wheat berries.

Since then, though, you can be sure that I've seen right through (past, and around) the hour-long cooking time required to transform these once dry and light-as-air pellets into tender little nuggets of chewy, wheaty, wholesomeness. In the very short time that we've been acquainted, our new pal has already met us in two delicious recipes (one of which got unfairly short-changed being served past the bewitching hour of decent photos), leaving us with over half a bag of the little gems waiting for their day to shine. And shine they will... as these low-maintenance guys certainly don't need much help.

How to cook wheat berries:

Add 1 cup dried wheat berries to a medium-to-large sized pot and fill pot with water, covering the wheat berries by at least an inch or more. Bring the water to a boil and then turn down to just simmering for about an hour, or until tender. Drain the wheat berries. From here you can either use them right away or store them in an airtight container in your refrigerator for several days.

Recipes with wheat berries that we've enjoyed:
Wheat Berry Salad with chickpeas, Craisins, feta, and mint
(chickpeas were my substitution)
Wheat Berry Salad with black beans, feta, onions, and red onion vinaigrette
(black beans were my addition; we loved this vinaigrette!)

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