25 May 2010

Klimt cane and a day of pendant experiments

[First off, allow me to apologize for the mediocre photos.  I have to take them in the daylight, using my actual camera instead of my phone's camera.  The lighting here is pretty poor and the camera's flash was blowing out all of the colors so I used my phone's camera instead.]

This past Sunday I was finally able to devote some serious time to working on my polymer clay beads.  I thought I'd share a sampling of what I came up with. 
These lovelies were made using a Klimt, or retro, cane design.  I'm very happy with the end result and I am very excited about the plans I have for them.  However, they still have a lot of prep work ahead of them before they are ready to be strung and donned around the neck.  The final steps of sanding and the varnishing can be rather tedious but I believe that the time put in pays off in the end.

The image above shows two of the six pendants I designed.  This was an experiment that I had been thinking about for quite some time now.  It again utilized the Klimt Cane- at left, before reduction and at fight, after the cane was further reduced and then quartered.  Again, the clay will be sanded to a smooth, level surface and then encapsulated in a pool of resin that will be poured into the bezel settings, atop the baked polymer clay.  I can't wait to get started on this. 

I also ordered some lovely raw brass vintage findings today.  They make me swoon.  I can't wait until they are sitting at my doorstep.  My (soon to be) pretties: a simple solid brass chain that I plan to use with the Klimt beads, raw brass head pins, and stunning vintage brass leaves on stem branch findings that I will use for wrapped filigree.  So inspiring, they've already given me ideas for future polymer clay jewelery designs.

I'll be sure to photograph them (in better lighting) as soon as they arrive!

23 May 2010

Edna Mae's Sour Cream Pancakes

If one were to drop by our place on either a Saturday or a Sunday morning, chances are we are most likely making, have made, or are planning to make these delicious sour cream pancakes. 

Honestly, they are in full rotation and are perhaps the most popular dish we've ever made in a three month period.  Did I mention that they are delicious?  They are also a snap to make.  And best of all, these pancakes don't leave me feeling as though a I have a pile of bricks hanging out in my tummy.  Dan loves them so much I'm fairly certain he would eat them at least once a day if he could.

I originally stumbled upon this recipe while perusing  Smitten Kitchen, who got the recipe in Ree Drummond's The Pioneer Woman Cooks.  As Deb explains, they are Ree's husband's Grandma Edna Mae's sour cream pancakes.  Honestly, it puts a smile on my face every time Dan suggests these and I get to respond, "You mean Edna Maaaaae's sour cream pancakes?  You bet I want Edna Mae's pancakes."  I really love the idea that we, in our tiny little kitchen in Philadelphia, are carrying on someone's grandmother's pancake legacy.

You can follow the recipe with confidence, but I prefer to add the zest of half to one whole lemon.   One time I switched the vanilla extract for almond extract and they were divine.  I've even skipped the extract all together (I ran out) and they were still fabulous.  As Deb suggests, you can even replace the sour cream with Greek yogurt if you've of sour cream.  This is a helpful suggestion because many a'time I've used yogurt in place of my missing sour cream and it worked just fine.  The only thing missing is the tangy snap of the sour cream but that is forgivable because these puppies are just so light and tasty and I doubt that anything could do them wrong.

If you are a fan of the pancake or not so much (such as myself), try these.  You will not regret it.  I promise you.  A clean plate every time that would make Grandma proud.

Edna Mae's Sour Cream Pancakes

7 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/ 2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream 2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Zest of 1/2 - 1 whole lemon (depending on size of lemon)
Maple Syrup

Heat a cast iron skillet, griddle or frying pan over medium-low heat; I find the cast iron skillet works rather well.

Stir the flour, sugar, lemon zest, baking soda and salt together in a medium bowl. Add the sour cream and stir together very gently being careful not to over mix (texture will be slightly uneven).  In a separate bowl whisk together eggs and vanilla.  Being careful not to over mix, add egg mixture to sour cream mixture.     

Melt butter in the skillet. Pour the batter into skillet 1/4 cup at a time. Cook for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes or until bubbles form on the surface, then flip the pancakes. Cook for another 45 seconds and remove. Repeat with the remaining batter. 

Makes approximately 9 - 12 (4-inch) pancakes.

19 May 2010

Chicken with Roasted Lemons, Green Olives, and Capers

Lemons, roasted + Olives + Capers = Perfection?  Almost.

I spotted this recipe a few weeks ago as I was hurriedly trying to plan out our week's meals so we could hit the market semi-prepared.  (This is a weekly occurrence with me.  If I could only decide the night before to chose 3-4 recipes to make for the week, rather than 20 minutes before we decide to leave, I (and my wallet) would probably be much better off.)  The dish immediately caught my eye because it seemed incredibly easy and the minimal ingredient list included Mediterranean ingredients of olives and lemons.  Perfection.  Unfortunately, I never had the chance to make it until last night.  

The recipe was simple enough to make but seemed like it took a long time.  Had I purchased pitted olives and if I had a working space larger than a cookie sheet, things might have moved along faster.  Also, I was so engrossed in pitting my olives and catching up on last week's episode of Lost so that I would be prepared for this week's episode, I completely forgot to take photos.  And by the time the dish was plated (at 9pm) I was ravenous with hunger.

(In the absence of not-so-fantastic food photography, I offer this photo that I shot a few years ago in Assisi, Italy.  Olive trees peaking through the fog- appropriate, right? : ) )

I really liked the concept of this dish and the method of preparation- quickly searing the chicken to lock in the juices and develop a crispy outer shell, and then simmering it in a very simple sauce until it is reduced.  This method allowed the chicken to remain moist and tender.  I did not pound my chicken breasts out as many reviewers recommended because my pieces were already quite thin and they seemed to have cooked evenly.  If you find that your pieces are on the thick side, I'd recommend following the recommendations of the reviewers. 

Unfortunately I felt the flavor profile was slightly off, and Dan agreed.  Multiple reviewers noted the olives impart a  bitter edge to the sauce; and they were right- the dish was bitter.  I used green Greek olives but next time around I might used a mixture of green and kalamata olives.  Side dishes of simple mashed potatoes with Greek yogurt and sautéed fresh baby spinach with garlic really helped to take the bitter edge off the dish.  

All in all I was happy with it  and I will probably have another go at it, though with a few tweaks next time around- I will make the olive switch, lesson the butter by half, and I will use a  white wine to deglaze the pan, replacing it with some of the stock.  Another commenter found that adding a can of artichoke hearts will cut the bite of the olives nicely, so perhaps I will try that.
This recipe reminded me of a dish Melissa d'Arabian prepared on the Next Food Network Star.  I made a mental note that I would try to make her versatile Rustic Lemon-Onion Chicken at some point and then I forgot all about it, until last night.  Now, with it fresh in my mind I'll be sure to add the ingredients to this week's market list and give it a try.

Chicken with Roasted Lemons, Green Olives, and Capers

Roasted Lemons
    12 thin lemon slices (from 2 lemons)
    Olive Oil 

    4 large boneless skinless chicken breast halves
    All purpose flour
    5 tablespoons of olive oil 
    1/2 cup of green Sicilian olives or other brine cured olives 
    2 tablespoons of drained capers
    1 1/2 cups of chicken stock or low-salt chicken broth 
    1/4 cup (1/2 stick) of butter  cut into 4 pieces (I used unsalted)
    3 tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley 
       (omitted because I did not have any on hand) 

For roasted lemons: 
Preheat oven to 325°F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange lemon slices in single layer on prepared sheet. Brush lemon slices with olive oil; sprinkle lightly with salt. Roast until slightly dry and beginning to brown around edges, about 25 minutes. (Lemons can be made 1 day ahead. Transfer to container. Cover; chill.)

For chicken:
Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Dredge chicken in flour to coat both sides; shake off excess. Heat 5 tablespoons oil in heavy large skillet over high heat. Add chicken and cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Stir in olives and capers. Add stock and bring to boil, scraping up browned bits from bottom of skillet. Boil until liquid is reduced to syrup consistency, turning chicken over after 3 minutes, about 5 minutes. Add butter, roasted lemon slices, and 2 tablespoons parsley; simmer until butter melts and chicken is cooked through, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to platter. Sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon parsley.

10 May 2010

Thai Shrimp Curry

Thai Shrimp Curry, or what Dan endearingly refers to as the "Bomb Ass Shrimp Jawn",  pops up at least once every few months in our kitchen.  We LOVE it.  We love anything with curry really, and we find every excuse to eat it.  Yesterday's lazy Sunday was no exception.  

I've been preparing this recipe from Bon Appétit for a few years now, altering it every now and then or preparing it just as the directions suggest.  In either case, it has never failed us.  Yesterday we decided to mix things up a little bit by adding another fish to this spicy Thai dish.

We headed over to our wonderful fishmonger at the Reading Terminal Market, and picked up Chilean Sea Bass chunks to mingle with the shrimp.  Because we added the sea bass, we cut the pound of shrimp called for down to a half pound and it was the perfect amount for two people, with enough left over for lunch the following day.

This recipe is straight forward and incredibly easy.  I highly recommend it if you are looking for a quick and easy curry dish. 


Begin with the preparation of your shrimp by rinsing, peeling and deveining them and; set aside.  Next, prepare your vegetables- thinly slice one cup of onion and approximately 8 green onions.  Heat sesame oil (or peanut oil- whatever you have on hand) in a large, deep skillet and add onion.  (I sometimes add approximately one tablespoon of minced ginger to the mix at this point.  I forgot to buy it yesterday so this dish was sans ginger but still quite tasty.)  Once the onions have softened and begin to brown, reduce heat and add the lemongrass, green onions and curry. 

The recipe calls for one to two tablespoons of green curry.  Because Dan and I have been finding that our curry dishes have been falling short of our desired spiciness factor and because we are daring individuals, I added three heaping tablespoons to the dish and was near certain that I would have to add more.  Oh, how wrong I was.  This was the first time we've used the Maesri brand curry for this dish and I can confidently say that it packs far more heat than our old stand by, which usually requires an entire jar for one dish in order to make our taste buds happy.  The dish was delicious but it was HOT.  Dan and I were both struggling.  Next time I use the Maesri curry, I will add only two tablespoons.

Stir the curry paste and green onions until fragrant, approximately one minute.  Add coconut milk, chicken broth (you can substitute vegetable broth, if you prefer), fish sauce, and sugar and bring to a boil.  Add tomatoes and boil for two minutes.  

At this point I prepared my noodles.  We used cellophane, or mung bean, noodles, but you could use whatever you prefer, such as rice noodles or basmati rice.  To prepare the cellophane noodles, I poured boiling water over a few handfuls of the noodles and let sit until they were softened.  I then drained them well in a colander and set aside until the meal was complete.

After your curry has come to a boil and is smelling divine, add shrimp (and in the case the chilean sea bass) and cook until shrimp is opaque in center and the sea bass is cooked all the way through.

While your fish is cooking, prepare your cilantro and lime wedge garnish.   

Spoon noodles into a bowl and pour curry on top.  Garnish with cilantro and lime wedges (or whatever you prefer) and enjoy!  We paired this meal with a Gewurztraminer from the Finger Lakes and 500 Days of Summer.  Though the wine enhanced the heat of the dish, it was a delicious pairing and the perfect ending to a lazy Sunday.

This recipe to could be altered in many ways.  The fish could be eliminated entirely and more vegetables, or even chicken, added in its place.  The original recipe calls for two pounds of shrimp.  If you intend to serve this to more than two people I would consider upping the amount of  shrimp. 

Also, though the Chilean Sea Bass was delicious, I don't think I will add it to this dish again.  Chilean Sea Bass is severely over fished and is listed as "avoid" on the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch list.  Had I checked the list before hand I would never have included it.

Thai Shrimp Curry
adapted from Bon Appétit

1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 cup thinly sliced onion
1 cup sliced green onions (approx. 8)
1 three inch piece of lemongrass, halved and then quartered lengthwise 
1 to 2 Tablespoons Thai green curry paste (... we used three. three heaping.)
1 14 oz. can of unsweetened coconut milk
1 cup of low salt chicken broth
3 tablespoons Thai fish sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
1 cup diced plum tomatoes
1/2 uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 pound Chilean sea bass chunks
Chopped fresh cilantro
Lime wedges

Heat sesame oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sliced onion; stir-fry until soft and beginning to brown, about 4 minutes. Reduce heat to medium. Add green onions and curry paste; stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add coconut milk, chicken broth, fish sauce, and sugar; bring to boil. Add tomatoes and boil 2 minutes. Add shrimp and cook just until opaque in center, stirring often, about 3 minutes. Transfer curry to large shallow bowl. Garnish with cilantro. Serve, passing lime wedges separately.

05 May 2010

A Weekend Escape

Boy, oh boy I've been slacking on here, haven't I?  It's been a rather busy past week and I haven't had a moment to compose my thoughts in the typed form until now, really.  This past weekend Dan and I shuttled off to picturesque central Pennsylvania to see my family.  We left on Friday, after a miserable day of work and a week of late buses resulting in lots and lots of waiting around.  I ended up downloading two (2!) Beach Boys albums in an attempt to keep my mind off of a bad week and to help move me into a great weekend.  I surprised Dan with my new musical acquisition, we put the top down, cranked the music up,  and sang all the way to my parent's house.  A word of advice to the stressed- The Beach Boys do wonders in uplifting the spirits.

I thought I'd share a few photos from a hike we took on Saturday.

We hiked in R.B. Winter State Park, a state park that I used to life gaurd at, once upon a time.  If I ever complained about that job (and I am sure there were a few times) I kick myself now.  What a peaceful atmosphere to spend your day.

 It was so refreshing to escape the city for the crisp, clean air of the mountains. 

I used this hike as an opportunity to play with my Hipstamatic iPhone app.  (I have a great love for Lomography and any application that will mimic the swoon-worthy LoFi, vintage aesthetic of a plastic camera's image.)  I have a few rolls of 120 film shot on my Diana that have been waiting patiently for nearly a year to be developed.  If I had an endless supply of cash, I would have had them developed by now.  This fun Hipstamatic app offers instant gratification that I really love.

Much like today, Saturday was a perfect day for a hike.  We moved from trail to trail, eventually ending up at a very odd structure a few yards passed a spring.

We were shocked to find it, as there were no other structures or signs in sight.  And we were even more shocked when we peaked through the chicken wire walls.

The "building" is filled with water. Perhaps the trail that we were on, "Boiling Springs Trail", should allude to what purpose the building originally served, but I am still without an answer.  The upper portion does not appear to be original but  matches the rest of the structures in the park.  The stone foundation, however, appears to be older- though we didn't stick around to inspect it further.  Quite frankly, we were a little weirded out as this is how campy B-horror movies start out.  I like to think that at one time this served as a hot spring where the locals and those passing through town came for  healing and relaxation.  I'm no geologist so I am not very sure that is the case.  If anyone has any ideas, please let me know.  In the meantime, I'll update you if my sleuthing turns anything up.