Tuesday, September 28, 2010

BOOKS: Laurie Colwin

I love me a good book. Even better, I love a good book with good food descriptions in it. Something about the description of what characters are eating, makes me feel like I know them and then can truly be friends with them. I think of it as breaking bread with the story and really getting to know the ins and outs of the lives of the people that I will be spending hundreds of reading pages with. Would Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, and Ron Weasley truly be properly wizardish and British without treacle tart, butterbeer, or Bertie Bott's every flavor beans? I don't think so. I was wending my way through a Half-Price Books this weekend and happened upon this book:

And in doing so, I found a kindred spirit. I am not a stranger to Laurie Colwin's writing. The first time I read a column by Mrs. Colwin was in an old issue of Gourmet magazine. I was struck then by her writing style: honest, witty, warm, and friendly. However, reading her collection of essays truly made me feel as if I were in her kitchen, gabbing about the merits of mushrooms, biscuits, and of course, books. In her book, Mrs. Colwin too, writes about her love of cookbooks and novels with fantastic cookery. And here I thought I was the only one who could gain 5 lbs from reading a book. Finding Mrs. Colwin's book made my weekend, as I curled up in a couch, hot chai in hand, and savored her words. Sadly, Mrs. Colwin died unexpectedly from a heart attack at the too-early age of 48 in 1992. I imagine that she is still much missed, though it has been nearly 20 years since her death. But I am glad that the author was able to share so much in her short time, making friends and breaking bread with all of the foodies out there, for generations to come.

Recipes of what I ate while enjoying Laurie Colwin's words:
I got this recipe by way of 3191 (thank you Stephanie!):
Stand-by Family Granola inspired by/adapted from Crunchy Granola in How to Cook Everything & 3191
6 cups rolled oats
2 cups mixed nuts and seeds (I only had nuts on hand, so it was a combination of hazelnuts and pine nuts)

1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup creamy honey
Dash Kosher salt

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Place a baking pan (at least 9 x13) over medium heat on the stove top. Add the oats and toast, stirring for a few minutes. Add the coconut, nuts and seeds and spices and continue to toast for a few minutes more until everything begins to brown and become fragrant. Warm the brown sugar and honey in a small saucepan until the sugar dissolves. Pour over oats mixture and stir to thoroughly combine. Sprinkle with salt. Bake for approximately 20 minutes (it depends on the size of the granola batch and the size of the pan). Check every 5-10 minutes or so and give it a good stir. Allow to cool and store in an air-tight jar.

Chai (from chai concentrate recipe found here)
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Empty condensed milk into a jar or plastic container with tight-fitting lid. Stir in the sugar, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Store in refrigerator.

To use: Brew a cup of strong black tea, such as Assam, then add two heaping teaspoons of concentrate or more to taste. Stir well until concentrate has fully melted.

To give: Pour into small jars with lids and tie with an attractive bow, or wrap the jar first. Attach a tag with instructions to keep the mix refrigerated and how to use it.

To keep: Store in refrigerator for up to 6 months.

Take care and break bread friends!


Monday, September 13, 2010

WEDDING: Project Centerpiece

Hey all!

Sorry it's been awhile, August kind of just flew by, and before I knew it Autumn and September arrived on my doorstep. But what a fun month August was! My friend Dao got married, and I got to learn how to do many things: decorate cans as vases, make flower centerpieces, bake her wedding cake (with accompanying cupcakes), etc. It was such a joyful day! One project that I really enjoyed was decorating aluminum cans as vases. The cans are great because they are: 1) Pretty! 2) Environmentally friendly, and 3) Really, really, easy.

All you need are: old cans (big soup cans work well), cardstock paper, modge podge (or some sort of sealant), scissors, brush, and vintage labels. Here's the how-to:
1. Clean and dry outside of cans.
2. Cut and measure cardstock paper to the proportions of the can. It does not have to be exact measurements. In my case, using a 12" x 12" piece of paper, I eyeballed the approximate height of the can (about 8") and then chopped off 4 inches of paper. Now, a 12" x 8" piece of paper was not enough to make it around the particular can I was using, so I cut the 12" x 4" piece of paper I had leftover to cover the space. Because a vintage label is going to be going over this layer of cardstock, the end results from this step does not have to be neat.
3. Slather on a layer of modgepodge on the can.
4. Press cardstock onto can. Then modge podge this piece of paper. Continue doing this until your can is covered with cardstock and modgepodge.
5. Allow to dry for 4 hours, or for best results, overnight.
6. Slather modgepodge over the area you want you label to be.
7. Press label onto modgepodge.
8. Paint yet another round of modgepodge over your label.
9. Let dry for at least 4 hours.

I found my vintage labels here and here from i-DiY, which stand for i-do-it-yourself weddings. Great site for very pretty labels and other goodies! Here is a preview of some the labels available:

Okay all, take care, and catch you all again soon!