Saturday, July 30, 2011

Celebrate a Friend Today

Did you know it's International Friendship Day today? So why not celebrate a friend today and tell them how much you love them and appreciate that they put up with all your shenanigans?

So to celebrate, I want to tell you about one of my best friends, Jacki. Here are 10 reasons why I love her:

1.) She encouraged me to start this blog and to get writing (she started a blog of her own around the same time).

2.) When I say let's make chocolate chip cookies, she says let's make French macarons.


3.) She is a hilarious story teller and always has me laughing at her tell-it-like-it-is outlook on life. Check out her blog, The Delighted Life, to see what I mean (Dairy-Land is one of my favorites!)

4.) She introduced me to beets and sweet potatoes which I could not imagine living without. If I were stranded on a desert island and could only eat three things for the rest of my life, I would eat roasted beets, sweet potato fries, and Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream (so refreshing!)

5.) Whenever I need good advice, she always has some to give, but not usually advice that I would expect. Something better.

6.) Her passion for life - to have adventures, love people, and to use her gifts to benefit others - pushes me out of my little bubble of comfort.

7.) We made a wedding cake together and lived to tell about it. Let's just say there was a brick of frozen icing, hair dryers, and a whole cake to be assembled mere hours before the wedding.

8.) She uses quirky idioms that I think must be straight out of the 50s and she has a special finesse for working Britishisms like "stonking" into everyday speech.

9.) She is a cheese, spice, and balsamic vinegar connoisseur.

10.) She always makes sure we have time to catch up and hang out, even when she's rushing to make writing deadlines.

Jacki, my friend, you delight me!

Who are you thankful for today?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Strawberry Ice Cream

I've been on an ice cream kick lately. Mostly due to the fact that I finally joined the crowd and started using recipes from this brilliant book:


David Lebovitz's, The Perfect Scoop, has taken ice cream making to a whole new level with this recipe-packed cookbook, which is often referred to as the "Ice Cream Bible". 

Now, anyone who knows me, even a little, probably knows that I'm a sucker for ice cream. Growing up we had a mugful of ice cream every night (not sure why mugs?) It's a saying in my family that my legs are hollow, so even if my stomach is full, there was always a place to put some ice cream, and by some, they mean a thigh-full. 

So you can imagine my despair after many failed attempts at ice cream making (and this was after the amazing providence of finding a brand-new, never-out-of-the-box Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker for $5 at a yard sale!)  My first attempt, if I remember correctly, was a pumpkin ice cream which had a nice flavor but it was basically frozen pumpkin pie filling. It was so thick and had a similar texture, not the smooth and creamy I was hoping for. Then there were the sorry attempts at a custard base which left me with a pot of scrambled eggs floating in sweetened cream. There was the time I added the cream too early and things didn't come together (duh, read the recipe!) I fiddled with Philadelphia style ice cream, but my husband kept asking questions like, "Is it supposed to be this icy?" So my ice cream maker sat in our cupboard for a year. 

That's when I had some delicious homemade honey ice cream at a friend's house and that got me to thinking again. I admittedly didn't try her recipe because it was an (eek) custard based ice cream, but I tried this simple honey ice cream that I found on 101 Cookbooks. I, unfortunately, didn't have any vanilla beans around so I instead did a basil honey by infusing a few basil leaves in the warm milk and honey in place of the vanilla. It turned out pretty well, but more importantly, it gave me a little ice cream making confidence. From there it was on to Green Tea, Strawberry, and Peach, all from The Prefect Scoop and all have turned out wonderfully. Even the Green Tea with a custard base. No scrambled eggs this time!

I want to share the Strawberry ice cream with you. With the strawberries that we picked this weekend, this ice cream is packed with intense strawberry flavor and is probably one of the best strawberry ice creams that I've had. The flavor was so good that I even got mad at my husband for eating it too quickly and not enjoying it like it deserved. Remember, this ice cream isn't full of air like the store-bought stuff, it should be eaten slow and savored.



Strawberry Ice Cream

1 lb. fresh strawberries, rinsed, hulled and sliced
¾ cup sugar
1 tbsp. vodka
1 cup sour cream
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 t. fresh lemon juice

Gently mix strawberries, sugar, and vodka in a bowl until the sugar is dissolved. Let the mixture sit at room temperature, stirring once or twice.

Put the strawberry mixture, sour cream, heavy cream, and lemon juice in a food processor or blender and pulse a few times until blended, but still slightly chunky. 

Chill the mixture for at least one hour and then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacture's instructions. 

This ice cream thickened up nicely in the ice cream maker and would be good fresh out of the machine, though it's still much softer than store bought. Enjoy it! If that means scarfing it down...well...okay...just don't tell me about it. 

Note: This ice cream is best eaten the same day it's frozen. It seems to get icy after that, but you can leave it out on the counter for 10 minutes and that should help. Still, eat it the same day if you can (preferably not by yourself!)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Picket Fence Quilt Finished


After more than a month, my Picket Fence quilt is finished. This quilt reminds of country summers with its breezy colors and flower fields, just like looking over a picket fence into a vast meadow. These fabrics by designer Joel Dewberry are from the perfectly named Modern Meadow collection in the berry pallette. The colors range from raspberry to pink lemonade with mossy greens and warm beiges. I want to drag this quilt out to my imaginary wrap around porch on a cool summer night while watching the fire flies dance in my beautifully blooming (I must be imagining!) wildflower garden. *Sigh*


If you have a wrap around porch and a beautifully blooming wildflower garden with dancing fireflies, this quilt will be available in my brand new Etsy shop as soon as it's washed and dried. (Oh yeah, my country dream house also has a clothes line that's just perfect for drying quilts.)




About this Quilt:
Fabric: Joel Dewberry's Modern Meadow and Robert Kaufman Kona Cotton White
Binding: Pieced binding of various Modern Meadow prints
Size: approx. 50" x 66"
Pattern: Pendant Pattern inspired by Joel Dewberry's Pendant Quilt (though I didn't use his pattern)
Quilting: Hand sewn using pink and  green 100% cotton thread



I'm extremely pleased with the finished quilt. It's so satisfying to see it finally come together. I think the pieced binding finished it off perfectly and it gives the quilt a lot of character. 


The back of the quilt mainly features the Dogwood Blooms print but also showcases the Majestic Oak print (a personal favorite) along with the Nap Sack and Flower Fields prints.

Check back soon to see my first Etsy item posted! 

Saturday, July 16, 2011

A Summer Saturday

We went fruit picking this morning and picked the sweetest strawberries along with some blueberries, peaches, and nectarines. 

These strawberries will be finding their way into some ice cream soon. Did you know July is National Ice Cream Month?

Found some leisure time to finish my binding. Goal accomplished! More pictures to come.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Work in Progress Wednesday

I realize I've been bad about sharing my work-in-process quilting this summer. I've been taking it slow as summer seems to permit me to do with little guilt. But I would be lying if I said that I'm not sick of seeing this unfinished quilt sitting around my house. I'm certainly not sick of the quilt, no, I love it, but besides my first quilt during which I got a serious case of quiltophobia after finishing the quilt top, I'm used to cranking quilts out a little bit faster. So I've set myself a goal (is that allowed in the summer?) I'm going to have this quilt all finished by the end of the day this coming Sunday.

So as not to deceive, this quilt is not a bed-sized quilt, it just perfectly fits on top of a full-sized bed for picture taking :)

I finished my Jane Brocket-style hand-quilting this weekend and I love the simple lines with the pop of pink and the subdued green. It gives this gorgeous quilt another layer of texture and more handmade character.


So binding's up next. I'm thinking of doing a scrappy pieced binding which will be my first of that kind, but I think it's the right choice for this quilt. I can't wait to share my finished quilt pictures with you!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Bibimbap!



















I'm going to share with you one of my favorite recipes. As you may or may not have deduced, my husband is Korean. Therefore, many Korean recipes have crept into my cooking repertoire, and for that I am glad. However, my love for bibimbap started even before dating my husband. I lived with a Korean pastor and his Caucasian wife for a summer and she was the best Korean cook! Even our other Korean friends agreed. She introduced me to this delicious bowl of rice, marinated meat, veggies, and fried egg to top it all off which I soon learned was called bibimbap (which basically means "mixed rice").

I've made this recipe many times since and I don't really measure much anymore. So sorry that these instructions are somewhat vague. But the great thing about this recipe is that it's so flexible. If you are having more people over for dinner, just add an extra cucumber and zucchini and make a bit more meat. No problem!

Bibimbap
Adapted from Dok Suni
Serves 2-3

2 cups rice
8 oz. tender beef
1 cucumber
3-4 carrots
1 zucchini
1 bunch spinach
a few leafs of Romaine lettuce
2 or 3 eggs
2-3 cloves of garlic ( I usually just press a few into a little bowl to use throughout the process)

Seasoning:
rice vinegar
soy sauce
saki
brown sugar
sesame oil
course sea salt
sesame salt (optional)
black pepper
gochujang (Korean red pepper paste)

Cook 2 cups of rice (sometimes I forget this until I'm about to make up the bowls and, boy, is that frustrating!)

Thinly slice the beef and marinate in 2 T. soy sauce, 1 T. saki, 1 t. brown sugar, 1 t. sesame oil, a pinch of minced garlic, and a few grinds of black pepper while you prepare other ingredients.

Cucumber: Cut cucumber into 2" long match sticks and season with rice vinegar, salt, and minced garlic.

Carrots: Julienne carrots. Bring an inch of water to a boil. Boil carrots in the water for 2 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking.

Zucchini: Thinly slice the zucchini with a mandolin slicer. Heat some vegetable oil in a pan over medium heat. Saute the zucchini with some salt and a little sesame oil until somewhat transparent (about 3 minutes).

Spinach: Wash spinach well and boil until wilted (about 1 minute). Rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. Squeeze dry and chop if necessary. Add a splash of soy sauce, some minced garlic, some sesame salt, and a bit of sesame oil. Mix well and season to taste.

Lettuce: Wash and chop roughly.



















Okay, all your veggies are good to go! Now just cook the meat in a little oil until browned and fry one egg per person.

To each bowl (use big, shallow bowls if possible), add a scoop of rice and a pile of each veggie and the meat. Top with an egg.

Now for the super important part. The "special sauce".

Spicy Sauce
2 T. gochujang (can be found at any Korean store and most Asian markets)
1 t. rice vinegar
1 t. sesame oil
1 t. water
pinch of minced garlic

Mix all of the ingredients together and plop some on top of your bowl of goodness.

















Now mix, mix, mix! Cling that spoon all around and make a jolly racket. This is the fun part. Add more spice to taste. Mmm, enjoy! (Sorry, no pictures of the mixed bibimbap. It doesn't look as pretty.)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Meet my Little Urban Garden

I figured it was time I do a post about my vegetable garden. Now, I don't at all claim to be a brilliant gardener, in fact, I'm a pretty lame one. All I ask of my garden is that if I put in a little work, it will give me a little food. I never get enough to can or put away for the winter, but I get enough to make me love fresh, straight from the garden veggies. I'm addicted. I can't buy tomatoes at the grocery store. Those hard or mealy things are not tomatoes. Please, wait until they are in season and grab them fresh off the vine, you won't be sorry.

Here's a quick tour of my little urban garden.


First of all, my favorite of the garden produce is the tomato so I have a lot of them, both in pots and in the ground. I think I planted 24 tomatoes in about 5-6 heirloom varieties including zebras, cherries, and julians. I've collected all my seeds from farmers market tomatoes and my CSA tomatoes. I'll do a post later this summer on collecting tomato seeds. It's so easy!

My tomatoes all in a row
I also have three varieties of cucumbers, including Mexican Sour Gherkins which look like tiny watermelons and have a lemony flavor. I love the way cucumbers climb up the trellis with their telephone-cord death grip. 


This is also my first year growing beans. I have green, purple, yellow wax and edamame this year. My edamame isn't doing great, but the others have given me quite a bit already. Thank you, beans!

And then there's the basil which is a must for a home garden. It's so delicious on pretty much anything, but makes a great pizza topping, is perfect for throwing in a pasta dish, and makes up the base of a simple pesto. This year I'm growing 5 kinds: purple, fine verde, lettuce leaf, cinnamon, and lime. Plus, planting basil with tomatoes is supposed to make your tomatoes taste even better. 


So that's that. Not the prettiest thing ever, but it gives me a little taste of summer produce right from my back yard. With my infrequent waterings and my lack of fertilizing, that's really all I can ask. 

Friday, July 1, 2011

Assateague Island

We just got back from Assateague Island today. My husband and I, along with my sister and brother-in-law, journeyed to this Maryland island earlier this week to relax on the beach and enjoy some camping together. The Assateague beach is lovely. The waves are big enough to rough you up a bit, but not overwhelming and the water is shallow a long ways out which makes it a great place to bring kids (not that we did) and the sand is soft on bare feet. Plus there are seashells everywhere for collecting.

Who knew seashell collecting could be so addictive? 



















If you have any fun ideas for how I should use my little stash, I'm up for suggestions. I just couldn't resist these beauties and I don't remember ever collecting seashells before so I enjoyed myself while the others napped on the beach.

Our campsite was separated from the beach by a small dune, but it was so close that we could hear the ocean as we were going to sleep.

The campsite on the left and the ocean on the right.



















When we weren't relaxing on the beach or frolicking in the waves, we were avoiding the mosquitos like the plague because, well, they were like the plague.

My mosquito bitten legs (and sunburned feet!)
We often ate our breakfasts or lunches somewhere else, like this Assateague Market parking lot, where the mosquitoes were sparse and didn't swarm like the skillfully-trained guerilla blood suckers who waited in the bushes for an innocent victim to pass their way.

Thank you, Assateague Market for the bug spray, the hard lemonade,
and the use of your parking lot.




















I have to say that some good food was produced in this parking lot.

Parking Lot Omelet courtesy of my sister and brother-in-law.


















This was a memorable trip, full wave jumping, sweet time with family, and the new experience of beach camping (i.e. sandy beds), but I have to say, that Assateague Island camping is not for the faint of heart. We left a day early since my family loves me enough to not want me to turn into one giant red mosquito bite (the suckers loved me best and my bites swell up big and red) and with the number of bites I had received, we probably left just in time. We were in good company. Three of our neighbors also left earlier than planned.

Glorified Port-a-Potties
Oh yeah, and then there were the chemical toilets. Nice for a water-free bathroom, pretty clean, but also mosquito infested. We avoided these as much as possible. Thankfully, this was never far away...



















Don't pretend you wouldn't have done the same.