Thursday, March 25, 2010

new blog

Spring has sprung & change is in the air. And so I've decided to set up shop with a new blog. If you'd like to continue following my adventures in the kitchen, around the garden & bumbling through life, then please mosey over to - cute, huh?

Thanks to all who have read my rambles from the concrete garden thus far. I will be continuing on in a similar manner, just want to refresh my focus & polish things up. I hope you'll join me (and Sausage... and the husband) over in our new home on the webs.

(Remember to update your reader/bookmark/following device if you're stickin' with me!)
my bendy dog

Thursday, March 4, 2010

long weekend

I've been cooking up a storm & making some exciting plans for the patch (at least I like to think so) but I'll have to wait to share the specifics because today is like Friday for me. Home friends Melanie & husband Brian just arrived from Boston this morning. I was up late last night (it was like Vacation Eve for us too) & up early this sunny morning to bake banana nut muffins. Mmmmm. Banana nut.

We love having visitors. You're all welcome to stay in Stoneybatter with us should you ever find yourself in the neighborhood. Sausage even asked for a bath so she would be all soft & flowery smelling for the new folks who would be petting her non-stop.
Check out those fingers!
Last night I took my second stab at Neil's new favorite low fat super fudge brownies. According to the mister, I'm really on to something with those. They are too good & fairly healthy & like lovely super dark chocolate turned into a dense, fudgy square. I also tried making my own crackers for the first time. Simple flour 'n olive oil crackers with sea salt & "magic" Shaker spices (a lovely Italian mix we put on everything). It was busy in the shitty kitchen last night. And smelled kinda awesome.
We're lucky to have some much-needed sunshine today. That always seems to happen when visting Americans arrive. I'm really excited to have a long weekend of meandering around town, sipping coffee while looking at the city through first-time visitor eyes, stopping into pubs for afternoon pints. And of course, catching up with old pals that I feel like I only saw for 5 minutes at the wedding. (Oh, the wedding.)
This is the good stuff.
Pictures & updates to follow once vacation time is over. Enjoy your weekends, all.

Friday, February 26, 2010

black friday

Today is Johnny Cash Day + I am dressed all in black in his honor. I think Johnny Cash would like my little underdog garden. And the bits of homecookin' that come out of my crappy kitchen.

Like homemade bread. Such as this rye bread that I made the other day.
Homemade bread is another of those things that is often intimidating. Does one need a bread machine? No. Does one need a lot of brute strength? Not really (not if you have a stand mixer + even if you don't, the average elbow should have enough grease in it to suffice). Does one need a lot of time? Yes. Yes, you do.
Or really, I should say, just some forward-planning. Because your dough can be going through its scientific metamorphoses, mysteriously bubbling away + miraculously doubling in size, while you go about your business. So don't be put off by bread recipes that seem to take upwards of 8 hours. It doesn't mean you have to dedicate all 8 hours to staring in awe into the mixing bowl as the magic happens.
I followed this recipe that originates from The Bread Bible cookbook, via Smitten Kitchen. I changed it up a bit, using organic wholemeal flour instead of white. No malt or honey because I had none (though I'd like to try to include it next time). Whole caraway seeds + olive oil.
It was a near perfect success, though I'm still coming to grips with my shitty oven. I haven't quite learned how to time things in the alternate universe that it seems to operate in. All three of the risings looked great, yet in the end the baked loaf (or round, I should say) ended up flatter than it should have been + a little on the hard side. Just fine for toasting (and very, very tasty) but it makes the cutting after day one more like sawing through wood. But that did not take away from the taste. I enjoyed two very yummy, very skinny sandwiches for my lunch the next day.
MMMM. Rye bread.
I will experiment with cooking temps, times + tins next time. Hubs really enjoyed this.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

dispatches from the concrete patch

As work continues to stress me out & Dublin continues on bein’ wet & cold, let’s take a moment to look at this.
Signs of life in the mismatched pots. I can't tell you how happy these tiny bits of color make me right now.
Those are bird's eye glimpses of my crocus, hyacinth & tulip bulbs making their presence known.
This is how the concrete garden was looking last Saturday. Bathed in rare sunlight & perhaps a harbinger of spring? Maybe. (Though I woke up to a light dusting on the neighbors' cars this morning, so maybe not yet.)
Hydrangea buds.
Mini mini carrot.

And inside the homestead...
Saturday sun shining on a tin can full of flower seeds. And a succulent arrangement I made that reminds me of my wedding.
So... spring has sprung… almost.
Would you believe it snowed later that night?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

leopard print pill box hat

Love this. Imagine making your own little pill box hat from pieces of a cereal box & a roll of tape?
I probably wouldn't buy one of these 'cause I'd feel silly wearing one. BUT I'd feel ever so glamorous sporting one I made myself. (I recently wore a little electric blue wool skull cap  that was meant to be a hat - very proud of that one.)

Image from Inspiration + how-to by Threadbanger.

(I'm doing this tomorrow.)

Friday, February 19, 2010

homemade vietnamese wontons

When I discovered Andrea Nguyen’s vegan wontons recipe on design*sponge not too long ago, I had already embarked on this “from scratch” kick that’s been occupying me in the kitchen lately. So I thought it was about time I tried something a bit more advanced. Something a little intimidating. I view these little nuggets as advanced. And like homemade spaghetti or Grammy's gnocchi, it certainly intimidated me.

But unlike some pastas of the long strand variety, no fancy machinery is required for these wontons. Unless you count my favoritest thing in the world right now
Bear in mind, a KitchenAid mixer isn't technically required, but it's so fun & makes a very easy task even easier. (And really, what’s easier than flour & water for making simple dough?)
This recipe, more formally known as Poached Vegetable and Tofu Dumplings with Spicy Oil (yum), is really surprisingly simple. The steps & all measurements are so precise & really so small – I was shaking my cynical head as I composed a teaspoon of this & a half teaspoon of that. I’m normally a big handful of this & a lump of that type of gal. But these seemingly microscopic ingredients add up to one mighty tasty morsel.

The end result – my first try! - was fantastic. So impressed with myself! You could easily make a ton of these & freeze them for future quick meals (as a main course or dropped into soup).
Light-yet-filling, low-fat, so tasty & just darn to pretty to look at. Well, maybe not in this lighting, but check this out for proof of tastiness
Mmmm. Lovely gingery, garlicky, with a hint of heat, perfectly textured crumbled tofu (read: not squidgy, cause Neilo doesn't do squidgy). Dashes of soy with toasty sesame add even more layers to this unsuspecting little dumpling.

We served ours with my own version of fried rice: brown rice stir-fried with bits of egg, more sesame oil & wilted bok choy.
{Note to defensive meat-eaters, who might otherwise bypass a vegan recipe, mistaking it for a pile of sprouts - don't. This isn’t a watered down vegan version of something else. Yeah sure, you'll find it stuff with pork in other places, but this recipe is so satisfying with its harmonious, aromatic flavors & made simultaneously light & somehow hearty by using nutritious tofu to fill it out.

Poached Vegetable and Tofu Wontons in Spicy Oil
From Andrea Nguyen {modified slightly to suit what we had on hand}
Serves 4 as a snack, 6 to 8 as a starter - we kinda lost count to be honest!

1/4 pound tender leafy greens, such as mustard leaf, baby bok choy, or spinach {We went with spinach}
3 ounces firm tofu
3/4 teaspoon minced ginger
1 small scallion, finely chopped, white + green part
Generous 1/8 teaspoon salt {How exactly do you measure 1/8 tsp? I just did a pinch}
1 pinch white pepper
Scant 1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1 1/4 teaspoons light soy sauce
1 teaspoon Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry {I left this out completely}
1 teaspoon sesame oil, plus extra for garnish
24 wonton skins, homemade or store bought **See easy wonton skin recipe that follows
1 to 2 tablespoons chilli oil {or a lovely little fresh green chilli like I used! Just seed as needed, chop & let steep in oil of your choosing)
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 small clove garlic, minced + crushed into paste
3 or 4 sprigs cilantro, coarsely chopped {Left this out too}

1. Fill a saucepan with water & bring to a boil. Add the leafy greens & blanch until tender. Drain immediately, flush with cold water & drain well. Finely chop & then put in a dishtowel. Squeeze to remove excess moisture. You should have 1/4 firmly packed cup.

2. Put the tofu in the dishtowel & squeeze to remove excess moisture. {I usually put the whole block on a paper towel on a dish, cover with another paper towel & lay something heavy, like a pot, on top, then leave until lots of moisture comes out.}
Transfer tofu to a bowl, mash, then add the chopped greens, ginger & scallion, combining well.

3. In another bowl, combine the salt, white pepper, sugar, 1 1/4 teaspoons soy sauce, rice wine (if using) & the sesame oil, stirring well. Pour over the vegetable & tofu mixture, and then vigorously stir to create a compact mixture. Cover the filling with plastic wrap & set aside. Makes about 1/2 cup. Mine measured more than 1/2 cup!

4. Fill each wonton skin with about 1 teaspoon of the filling, creating triangles or nurse’s caps (form a sealed rectangle, then bring the two folded corners together, cross then seal). Remember to moisten the edges with water before folding & seal well. As you work, put the finished wontons on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet that’s been lightly dusted with cornstarch. When done, loosely cover with plastic wrap or a dry dishtowel to prevent drying. {I didn't do the cornstarch thing, or the plastic wrap & all was fine + dandy}

5. To cook the wontons, fill a large pot half way with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add all the wontons to boiling water, gently dropping each one into the water. Use a wooden spoon to nudge them to prevent sticking. Return the water to a gentle boil & then lower the heat to medium to maintain it. After the wontons have floated to the top, let them cook for another 3 minutes, until they are translucent.

6. While the wontons cook, combine the remaining 1 tablespoon soy sauce, chilli oil, canola oil & garlic on a serving plate or shallow bowl. Taste & make any flavor adjustments. Add a touch of sesame oil for nutty goodness, if you like. Set near the stove.

7. Use a slotted spoon or skimmer to scoop out the wontons from the pot, pausing above the pot to allow excess water to drip back down. Put the wontons in the dish with the sauce & toss gently to coat. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro & serve immediately.

Unbelievably simple wonton skin recipe from Recipezaar here. Enjoy.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


You think I'd learn by now. Yet, this morning - as I have for the past 4 years, I fell into a Valentine's Day trap.

Neil, stereotypical Valentine's curmudgeon, swears up & down how stupid the day is, how he's not getting me anything. So not wanting to be the one fool who buys a card or does anything too special, I stick to simple baking (which I do a lot of anyway, but I just put the word "valentine" in front of whatever it is I'm making - hence, today's valentine brownies). And then he goes & does something really sweet anyway.

This morning, after having a terriblenogoodverybad night spent writhing around on the bathroom floor with stomach pains from the depths of hell, followed in the wee hours by fitful sleep, I had a lovely breakfast in bed. And this:
He knows I love green things. And goofy schmaltzy things. And I'll admit it, cards. Not just a cookie cutter card. But something funny, a little stupid, preferably with a monkey on it. Or in this case, a bear. 

He didn't even realize it I bet, but this card is very similar in, um, tone to the very first card Neil ever gave me. My first birthday card from him. And then, even more girly giggle inducing, this was my first card with the word WIFE on it.

I couldn't help but feel like an ass - AS USUAL - for not having anything on hand. Well, I had made my own low fat dark chocolate brownies from scratch last night before the pains set in, but somehow not having them on a pretty plate for morning presentation left me feeling a little lacking. 

So I used his red envelope & mades a tiny response card.
I don't think it's all about store-bought presents & boxes of chocolate, but just the act of getting a little schmaltzier than usual. Just for an afternoon or morning. Handmade paper sentiments, ladybugs filled with flowers. Anything baked with cocoa. 

Happy Sunday.
My first Valentine confection 4 years ago today. See the encouragement I get??

Saturday, February 13, 2010

taking a moment

I'd like to use this blog in a diary-like fashion for a moment.

Basically, there's been a real hubbub happening in my tiny world recently.

Yes, first it was my laptop problem. But now it's a little more serious. As in, losing my job serious. And what better place to air a few rattling thoughts than a humble blog where a handful of nice people come & visit? It's just that little bit better than talking to yourself. Or the dog. (Though I enjoy doing that too.)

Without getting into it too much, my job is in danger. As you might expect, this kinda blows not having a computer plug out of the water. To say I'm distracted & a bit stressed is putting it mildly. So I apologize in advance for being erratic in both my blogging as well as in my personal life, if you are reading this & fall into both worlds.

But change is good right? And what better test can a newly married couple take on than changing the way they live & think about the future in the face of drastic financial changes? We can handle it. We can handle anything (right?) & we are keeping our chins up. "Chins up!"(old family motto:)

I think the best way to approach something that, on the face of it, seems terriblehorriblenogoodverybad is to use it as the spark you've been needing to make changes, get on with things & basically get sh*t done. Which for me, means finally making some changes that will put me on a better path career-wise as well as personal happiness-wise. I've been more motivated than ever since getting married & starting the new year. But now it's a little more urgent. I think we can all relate to that.

I expect this blog to change too, which I've been contemplating for a while but haven't really gotten around to (ya know, due to that whole getting married, losing my computer, having my salary slashed thing recently). So you can expect some changes here & I am grateful that any of you might be patient with me & follow along as I figure out what my purpose is (I mean on this blog, not in the universe - that's a bit heavy).

I have an overhaul in the works that I hope will give my blog a little more polish & focus. I plan to post more regularly & on more cohesive topics (though not completely, cause that's the fun of it). I'm also contemplating a complete move to another format. Anyone have any strong feelings about other blog services other than Blogger? I'm researching Wordpress right now. Will I go down the multi-blog route - one with a food focus, one for the personal mish mash? I haven't quite decided.

Anyway, that might explain why I keep changing the blog title & header picture. It's kind of like when you think you might get the can & start obsessively re-organizing the plants on your desk. Or perhaps in those student days when your thesis deadline was looming & you found the task of rearranging kitchen cabinets irresistible? Surface housekeeping as a means of procrastination & creating a sense of control.

So that's that. I'll announce any major changes as they happen. I also have a few more posts planned that I hope to get to this weekend. I made some rather awesome vegan wontons from scratch recently that beg to be shared. And with V-day being tomorrow, I hope to bake up something chocolatey & wonderful today. As ever, even though it's arctic outside, I've got the gardening itch too.

I'll leave you with a cute mental picture: it's Saturday morning. Neil's working some overtime (good husband). Sausage & I are snuggled up in our room easing into the day, when those weird people start knocking on the door selling... LOGS. Seriously, is this something that happens in other countries? Neil seems to think it's the most normal thing in the world ("What's the deal with those people?" "They're selling logs." Carries on watching TV). Door to door tracksuit-wearing LOG-PEDDLERS? Are they stolen or something?? Anyway, poor Saucy goes *mad* when they knock on our door. It just happened.
The Sauce in more relaxed times.

Friday, February 5, 2010

i defy you, laptop

It's a hectic day at work today, but at least it's Friday. So I have a late wake up call, some yoga & general pottering around to look forward to tomorrow.

To pass the day today, I'm fantasizing about surrounding myself in vast quantities of spring bulbs. As the teensiest of green starts to poke its way out of my many mismatched pots out in the concrete patch, my bulb fever is coming back with a vengeance. I'm just browsing because really how many pots can I *actually* have out there? Plus, the ones I'm waiting on are my first ever & I hear they're tough, so maybe my heart will be broken come spring.

For now, hope springs eternal - is that how the saying goes?
Isn't that a pretty sight? Imagine that greeting you some chilly spring morning. (That's what we have here, chilly spring mornings, most likely covered with drizzle.)

I hadn't really considered planting MORE bulbs, having already gone a little bulb crazy in the fall. I always relate bulbs to fall. But if I coul d possibly have beauties like this in my garden, I'd happily go bulb-mad again & get some more dirt under my nails.

Thursday, February 4, 2010


My internet rambling will be halted for the foreseeable future... at least until I fix my computer woes. It's sad how reliant I am on this little silver machine for making me feel connected, amused, knowledgable, productive. I have a few creative projects at the midway point, a few written things I'd like to finish up, some purchases, trip planning & wikipedia diagnoses I'd like to do as well. Humbug. And now all I have is my husband, dog, TV, DVD player, books, nature to keep me occupied? Double balls.

All those projects will have to wait until I'm back up & running with a new bought-with-cash fancy computer machine.

Just so I don't feel like I'm not accomplishing anything, I can tell you that Neil finally allowed me to capture his kitchen wizardry on video so the first episode of Neilo & Doodles Kitchen Canoodles* is not too far away. He made this delectable green curry:

I also continued on with my rice krispy fascination by trying the fluffernutter krispy treats I mentioned before. Very tasty. Still can't quite get the  amounts right to form a neat little bar, but the sticky clumps of marshmallow, PB & dark chocolate is yummy.


In lieu of an actual recipe, since my quantities were questionable, you can follow a traditional rice krispy treat recipe involving butter, marshmallows & cereal.... and take it to the next level by using peanut butter melted with globs of that monumental non-food stuff treat (FLUFF) instead of the mallows & dump that sugary slop on top of rice krispies tossed with chunks of dark chocolare. Oh boy.

Unintentional bonus - Fluff is vegan! :)

*Name has been changed to amuse myself & embarrass Neilo.

Friday, January 29, 2010

an edible wedding dress

Lazy blogging today because I'm having a sick day. I made rice krispy treats again, though they seem rather pathetic compared to a cake in the shape of a wedding gown. Cake by Lukka Sigurdardottir. Story found via Food2.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

two things making me happy

A bit of randomness of a Wednesday (as they say).

This morning, as I sipped my blueberry coffee (yum) I happened upon the mysterious world of... people who really dig typography. Like really. I love printed things too & over the past year or so - which involved planning a wedding (thus sewing the seeds of paper obsession), becoming more crafty & trying to keep my creative spirits up with small pretty projects - I actually started getting into this myself, downloading free fonts & trying to make small things in my life look better - including my words.

So of COURSE I followed a link to an unknown (to me) website to find out what type I am.

In case you're curious, I am Archer Hairline. (Finally!) Which in fact is a rather purdy set of letters, if I do say so myself. (If only it were free to download - you'd be basking in its glory right the flip now!) Am I really predisposed to quiet cries in the bathroom & small exclamations of emotions? Not sure, but I do like the pretty little dots at the end of the elegant letters. And so this leads to the more esoteric discussion of what our choice of typeface - in publishing, advertising, our own designs - says about us. I'm telling you it's downright fascinating, as is the history behind the creation of all these fonts. They're like little time capsules, they are. 

After taking the fun quiz, I fell into one of those I-should-be-getting-to-work-now link holes (you know, you click on this link, then this link, then this one - oops! you're late) & ended up on a blog all about obsessing over fonts -, it exists. I found that fascinating, too.

Take that printed word pledge (over there, on the right) a little bit further & don't just commit to reading the letters, but take a closer look at them, psychoanalyze them a bit & appreciate them for all their culturally insightful, psychological mumbo jumbo glory.

Oh, nearly forgot to mention the second thing making me happy today: it's PLARN. Yes, PLARN. "Yarn" made from recycled plastic bags. Yes, it's all the rage & like a good art deco typeface, it's got me under its spell.

**pics found via +

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

"3 months is a long time" chocolate cupcakes

Last night, the cowboy & I celebrated 3 months of marriage. We had leftover thai green curry waiting for us, so in lieu of an elaborate, romantic meal, I whipped up some simple chocolate cupcakes.

I think we should eat cupcakes (or something just as sweet) on the 25th of every month.

This was also a long, overdue excuse to test drive the KitchenAid. My oh my, isn't it a wonder! Maybe I'm just so used to beating/whipping everything by hand, but it felt a little indulgent to use not a single arm muscle. I turned it on, stepped back & just watched in awe. Neat. (At one point, I found myself losing my senses & using my HANDS to stir the last ingredient in - this will take some getting used to.)

These are the little nuggets unfrosted. Like little chocolate muffins.

Last night we ate a few with some leftover Mexican chocolate frosting slathered on top, but they disappeared too quickly for me to take a picture. Here's how they looked in December.

Simple Chocolate Cupcakes
*loosely adapted from Joy of Baking*

1/2 Cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 Cup (240 ml) boiling water
1 1/3 Cups (175 grams) all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 Cup or 8 tablespoons of unsalted butter, room temperature (if you can wait for it to warm - I can't)
1/2 Cup white sugar
1/2 Cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 generous teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 375 F (190 C or Gas Mark 5) & prepare your baking cups, tray or whatever you plan to bake these in (I tried mine in my new silicone muffin tray - no butter required! - plus, leftover mini cupcake cups).

2. Whisk the boiling water into the cocoa powder until smooth. Set aside to cool.

3. In a separate bowl, sift the flour, baking powder & salt. Set aside.

4. In yet another bowl, cream the butter & sugars by hand or by magic mixer.

5. Add eggs, one at a time & continue beating until smooth.

6. Beat in vanilla - preferably something you bought on honeymoon (adding an extra teaspoon of lovely memories for flavor)

7. In increments, add dry mixture & mix only until incorporated (don't over mix).

8. Add in cooled cocoa mixture & again only stir until incorporated (here's where I lost me marbles & used my own arm to stir!) 

9. Scoop in messy spoonfuls into your prepared muffin tin or cupcake cups.

10. Bake approximately 15 minutes, though I find every oven is different - & mine downright sucks - so really I judge by eye. You want it to rise up a bit, be a little springy to the touch & when a knife or something pointy is inserted down the middle, it comes out clean.

Then, please tell your husband to be patient & let these cool significantly before attempting to take them out of the pan. Because they will be crumbly, though really nice & warm. Mmm. And if you foolishly frost them while still warm, the homemade Mexican frosting will get all ooey & gooey. Double mmmm.

**The frosting was homemade last December & frozen. My brain is too broken to recall the exact recipe but it involved confectioner's/powdered sugar, cream cheese, dark chocolate, cinnamon & a touch of hot chilli powder. I kept adding confectioner's sugar until it was like frosting, but not enough to make it as stiff as store-bought, which I liked. You could say it was my version of this recipe from FoodNetwork's Ingrid Hoffmann.**

Sunday, January 24, 2010

krispy sunday

This is timely. I've been experimenting with my much loved rice krispy treat lately. I haven't posted it yet because I haven't gotten it right yet. The other day I made a very tasty but very crumbly, somewhat healthy krispy treat involving peanut butter, sunflower seeds, walnuts, cranberry & dark chocolate (not enough PB though so they didn't actually turn into bars).

But please look at this. If only I had seen this before we got married...

A rice crispy treat wedding cake. Genius. Found this through Food2. Very creative. 
Can't wait to try the fluffernutter krispy treats I've got on my mind right now.

Friday, January 22, 2010

all roads lead to strata


We're big fans of eggs in this house. Well, maybe it's more accurate to say the husband is a huge egg fan & I go through phases. If I think about them too long, I get freaked out. It's not that I think that the yokes are melted baby chicks (anymore) but as a non-animal-as-food kinda gal, eggs sometimes put me into a philosophical food quandary. More often than that, though, they just strike me as kind of... gross.

BUT! The majority of Saturday mornings, I am all in favor of those enigmatic, nutrient-packed little balls of fun. We're big time into big weekend breakfasting. We used to eat breakfast in bed every weekend, would you believe it, but that was before the kid (dog) came along. Now we sit on the couch & watch Soccer AM.

Long story long, I was quite thrilled to come across a new-to-me way to prepare my eggs, other than scrambled, badly poached or omelettized. As I delve further into slower, more thoughtful homecooking that takes just that bit more effort, I find myself rewarded left & right. Take this Italian breakfast dish, for instance.

A strata, as far as I can tell, is basically made up of many eggs, milk, bread, cheese & some patience while waiting. (Strata meaning layers in Italian & uh geology - though I was getting romantically confused by Fellini's film La Strada, which means The Road - it's close, right?)

Is there a traditional vegetable/meat used by traditionalists? Not sure. The recipe that piqued my interest came courtesy of Smitten Kitchen, involving my favorite leafy green. As usual her drool-worthy photos are probably what convinced me that a dish that requires preparation the night before, then patient waiting through sleep & another 45 minutes in the oven the next morning, would be worth it. (Neil needed some convincing - he cooks fast.) But as I've said, I'm into slow recipes these days, putting in the extra time to get it right, experimenting & spending QT in the kitchen.

So I deviated from the Smitten recipe & that's OK. A simple search online, you'll find enthusiasts everywhere pairing portobello mushrooms & asparagus, tomatoes, snausages, fakin' bacon, broccoli, you get the idea.

As usual, my tendency to deviate from recipes (dear god - 9 eggs?) means I can't transcribe exactly what I did with mine. But really, I think you can judge it mostly by eye & personal preference, also taking into account the size of your baking dish & how many eggs you want to consume today.


In the end we used 5 or 6 eggs. I think I started with 5 then realized I needed just a bit more coverage of the assembled jumble so I whisked up another. Honestly, I can see where they came up with 9 eggs because I could have used more, but like I said, if I made it we would have eaten it. And half a dozen melted baby chickens just seems like too much for one morning.

I sauteed a small onion in butter (how decadent), adding freshly ground pepper, sea salt, thyme, basil & a touch of hot chili pepper. For a little color I added sliced red pointed pepper. Then I tossed several handfuls of spinach into the pan to wilt & removed the pan from the heat.

In a bowl I whisked all those eggs with a couple cups of milk (the real stuff, which I bought especially for this - I'll try soy next time). I probably added more of the spices to the egg mix too. Why not, right?

I tried my best to cube a day old baguette of an Italian-type bread - at least several cups worth. You want a lot of cubes, people.

I buttered my new, fabulous stoneware baking dish (love it) & layered the bread cubes, the vegetable mix & grated cheddar repeatedly until dish was full.

I then poured the egg mixture over it all (adding that extra egg when it looked like the whole pile wouldn't be covered). You should ideally cover all the fillings with the liquids, though I like the way the bread cubes poke out of the top. A nice rustic touch. I've seen recipes that call for half & half and full slices of white bread. That just seems wrong.

Then, to your hungry loved one's dismay, wrap the whole thing in plastic wrap & stick it in the fridge for the night. You can then go back to watching terrible Friday night TV, whilst explaining to said loved one why you just looked like you were making scrambled eggs at night but came back into the living room empty handed.

The next morning, distract your other half with Soccer AM while you bake your fancy egg dish for about 45 or whenever the top of the strata is gloriously golden & a knife stuck in doesn't come out dripping in raw eggs (cause that would mean it's not done). Mine might have taken about an hour but then again my oven sucks.

Next time, I'll try soy milk to make it more heart friendly, a more interesting or sharper cheese, perhaps some different veggies for variety. This one came out lovely & subtle in spice. But we like a kick. A nice bonus was that the small bit of leftovers became denser at room temperature & made for a yummy afternoon snack that could be eaten by hand. An awesome brunch dish that can be made seemingly light years ahead of time. But please don't call it a casserole - it's far too fancy for that.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

lovely & impractical

We've been blogged! (is that what you call it?)

The fabulous Meg of A Practical Wedding has featured our us as one of her wedding graduates. It felt a little intimidating writing my own thoughts for someone else's (highly eloquent & very clever) blog, but it's so amazing reading all these comments from nice people I've never met. Oh, the blog love!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

taking a breath

It's been a rough time recently all over the world, though I don't see much point in blogging here about Haiti, hometown politics or any of the myriad wars & miseries happening at any given hour on any given day. Instead, for now, I'll allow myself a tiny bit of escapism. I paid a modest donation for earthquake relief via (which I hope to repeat in the near future). For now, I'll just sit back & feel a little useless, while meditating in front of these two pieces of eye candy on my desk: 
The scent that comes from my forced hyacinth is delightful  - you can smell it even before you reach my seat. And pictures of angelic pets really gets you through the day, don't they?

Right now, I'm daydreaming about escaping here. We have a road trip in the offing - maybe we will make it to the Catskills & hang out in an Airstream trailer. 

I like the sound of this too. School kids + gardening = bright idea. Is it because of that one suddenly warm day earlier this week that I'm suddenly feeling inappropriately spring-like? I know I have a while to wait yet.

Here's to appreciating all that we have, big & small. Because, if you're reading this, you're probably very lucky indeed. Have a look around & see.

Monday, January 11, 2010

food for thought (or rather, food for talking)

I’ve always loved food. Obsessed, you might say. And I tell ya, I never really could trust somebody who didn’t feel the same. Yes, these people do exist & I have met a few in my time (though I tend to scurry quickly away because they give me the willies). Some people out there just see food as a necessity or, on the more extreme end of sad, a necessary evil. Like gas for an indispensable vehicle, rather than the edible magic that it is. Can you imagine?

Leaving aside tragic people & the creepy feelings they inspire, let’s talk recipes. Maybe it’s just our, um, age or recent nuptials (sounds better) that have pushed hubs & I into being way more domestic than we were a couple years ago. We now live in our own little abode (own, as in no roomies) which we try our best to make homey & cozy without putting holes in the wall. I've been making lackluster items with my hands & trying my best to grow (apparently miniature) vegetables in the cement patch. And we are making our first stab at parenthood, too. All growed up, you see.

So, lucky for me, I married a fella who loves food as much as I do. Our idea of a successful weekend includes adequate couch time with the resident sausage, in between forays into the kitchen for elaborate curries & pot pies, epic breakfasts & baking experiments that go on for weeks. Squeeze in a good flim, plus the requisite play time with the pup (perhaps a light dusting of snow flurries) & I’m in heaven.

It only makes sense then that I find myself talking & therefore blogging about food. And there are so many fantastic foodie blogs out there - perfect for stealing all my time. There’s no greater escapism than finding a new recipe, food story or tasty new blog on a cold Dublin morning, as the paper work piles up & all are sneezing & complaining around you in that cubicle sorta way. I get endless enjoyment from reading about other people’s kitchen shenanigans, taking note of tasty new recipes & especially soaking up art-in-its-own-right food photography.

A particular interest of mine is taking traditional / comfort / much loved dishes that are meat-centric & making them meat-free. Cuz I'se is a meat-free lady. I love Rick Stein even though he's constantly gutting fish & frying poor defenseless shrimps. I also REALLY love the Hairy Bikers & they are so into meat, you could say they are starting to resemble their main ingredient.

I also swing the other way into the wild world of quinoa & spelt & things that in dried form look like rabbit pellets but are packed with nutrients & make a mean addition to chili. And we need more adventurous, humorous, meat-free cooking out there. I'm on it, don't worry.
random food

I’ve had some lip-smackin’ success in the kitchen recently that I’d love to share with the wider world, but I have a problem. Recipes: they ain’t my forte. My cooking is usually a happy accident – I hardly ever pay attention to measurements of herbs & spices. I’ll sprinkle on some cheese until it looks like enough cheese. You know? Only with baking do I pay a little more attention to cups & teaspoons because that just seems like a more delicate art form.

Thus, I admit it. Like Rachael Ray before me (yeah, I said it) I believe an eyeball is the best measuring tool you can have. When’s the last time you measured out a tablespoon of olive oil when sauteĆ©ing something? Really? I don’t.

But I’m going to try to get more specific when I think I have something worthwhile to share, whatever leads me to the world’s best chocolate cookie or causes a disastrous sauce to ruin my day.

Did I mention I got a KitchenAid mixer? Look out Food Network.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

and now i'm a wife

I've started off the new year all revved up for change & new projects (not a bad thing) but perhaps without spending the necessary time on quiet reflection that is so vital. And that's not like me. I'm all about favorites, best of's, to do lists, dream lists, what I learned from my summer vacation style personal essays & the like. But I, like most people, have a lot going on in this little head of mine right now concerning the areas of home & work so maybe it would behoove me to step back & take a moment . Or two. Or twenty.

As previously mentioned, in the mad dash leading up to the Crimble holiday, I had so many things I wanted to rant about online. A lot of which was inspired by my good pal Kristy, who seems to ask the most interesting questions about life & love on her cutely named blog, I'm Gonna Marry You Someday.

And today I read a post of hers that once again really struck a chord with me. I too can remember the butterflies of anticipation in the days & months before my hubbie finally popped the question. I didn't have as many "this is it" moments, per se. The proposal was definitely not out of the blue, but for how long we'd been talking about getting married before that, with more of a when rather than if, I can't really say. Isn't that funny? It was probably only two years ago, but I can't recall when exactly our first hesitant uses of the words "when we get married," said initially with a hint of humor as a means to test the water with each other, gave way to a real & definite plan. Somewhere along the way, the conversation about if & someday, become when & where.  How delightful.

He did end up surprising me though. It wasn't a moonlit walk on the beach or a dinner under a spraying fountain. (Kristy, do I get all my romantic inspiration from you & Mike??) On a relaxed Sunday afternoon at his family's local pub, we visited with his aunts & uncles & grandma, enjoying a few pints of the black stuff - not exactly your prime spot for a proposal.

This isn't a photo from the proposal day but it was taken by lovely Aurora a while back when she was in town with her Sandy. A romantic spot, no?

A little bit of local color

Anyway, he whipped out the ring that he just happened to have in his pocket (no seriously, it was in his pocket to bring it home for a more elaborate & conventionally romantic proposal the following day) & it turned out to be a perfectly imperfect strangely romantic but more importantly happy moment in the presence of family - including one rather delighted granny.

And now I'm a wife.

If I were to pinpoint something I miss, for me it's not so much the anticipation of the proposal, which I kinda knew wouldn't include fireworks or a mariachi band (imagine that?) but more the period of simply being engaged. That anticipation of the Big Day approaching, the waiting stretched out over a year & a half, the budding obsession with wedding websites (which still hasn't totally abated), the endless thoughts about flowers & decoration ideas, menus & dresses, iTunes playlists with a Mexican wedding vibe - I found all of it (even the online budgeting tools, the spreadsheets & the more boring logistics) to be thrillingly fun! I'd go to sleep every night a little obsessed, unable to sleep for the visions of centerpieces & cupcakes dancing in my head. And I know that at times I tipped dangerously into the obsessed-and-losing-sight-of-what's-really-important zone, but for the most part I enjoyed the meticulous planning, the hours of scouring ebay for finds, the fun process of designing my dress.

So yeah, I miss that. (But lucky for me I have two- COUNT 'EM TWO -  best buds planning their own weddings right now. So the fun continues vicariously!)

But I have to say, so far, being a wife is pretty great. Sure, we have yet to add a mortgage, baby or any major couple challenges into the mix yet, but that'll come when it's time. For now, the husband & I are laying low, putting together the first twigs of a nest egg, trying out elaborate recipes & watching movies. And that's pretty great, too.
by the pool
***Honeymoon feet in Mexico***