October 29, 2010

Aprons and My Kitchen

New Aprons

I'm really excited to tell you about my latest sewing project. I've been bouncing around from idea to idea, brainstorming as I go. I know that I will eventually focus on making the items that I find most successful and interesting, but until then I am chasing ideas in whatever direction they lead me. Since I made these last winter, I have been wanting to come up with more aprons. Finally, ideas and inspiration for this have come along.

I am so pleased to finally have some aprons in my shop. I've realized more and more that I want my creative process to truly combine beauty and utility. I strive to make things that are practical and useful but also pleasing to the eye and enjoyable to use. These aprons are a great example of this intersection between practical and fun, pretty and sturdy. I really enjoy making something that encompasses my creativity in sewing and my love of making things in the kitchen.

Red in the Kitchen

Cooking, baking, fermenting and canning are perfect examples of the practical and delightful coming together. I try to create food that is flavorful and satisfying to the palate, but also good nourishing fuel. Making all kinds of foods from scratch is a practice of discovery and creativity as well as the basic need to feed, eat, and enjoy.

Full Apron

I couldn't help but share some photos of everyday moments in my kitchen alongside these aprons. It is these simple but beautiful moments that make up so much of life and help to inspire my creative process. I am content with the realization that the crux of my creativity is focused on combining practicality and joy, utility and beauty, aesthetic and necessity.


You can see more of these aprons at Seedling Design.

October 26, 2010

Winter Squash, Leek, and Goat Cheese Turnovers

Butternut Squash, Leek, and Goat cheese turnover

Winter squash taste like fall to me.  Like cool sunny days dappled with brightly colored leaves, like crisp nights brightly lit by the moon. Like empty tree branches scratching the sky. It tastes like winter, too. Dark evenings in the kitchen and clouds of breath in the freezing air. I cook squash fairly often, it makes for a hearty vegetarian meal with so many variations and possibilities, both sweet and savory. I realize that I have featured it quite a lot here. But I can't resist sharing another recipe and I can't promise that this will be the last.

I've been working more evenings at my restaurant job which means that I am not around to cook dinner. These turnovers are a flavorful meal we can pull out of the freezer and make for dinner without much trouble. There are several steps involved in making them, but you can freeze them before baking and pop one in the oven whenever you want. The result is an elegant combination of flavors that is worthy of so much more than an easy weeknight meal. These turnovers make a substantial vegetarian main course. They are both simple and out of the ordinary and would work just as well for an on the go meal as for a sit down dinner party.

As I am writing this, the wind is whipping the leafless tree branches and the rain that is coming down feels like it could almost be snow. I am glad to have a meal that warms me twice: first preparing the turnovers and, later, enjoying one on a plate.

Squash Leek and Goat Cheese Turnovers
The idea for this recipe came from Fields of Greens by Annie Somerville. I based the dough on the gallette recipe from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone it is a very buttery dough which makes it so flaky and flavorful. If you are serving several people, you could also roll out the dough into a big circle, place the fillings in the middle and fold the dough around it to make a beautiful gallette. Makes 5 turnovers.

For the Filling:
1 1/2 pounds (about 3 cups) butternut or buttercup squash, cubed
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large leek, thinly sliced to about 2 inches from the leaves
salt and pepper
1/4 cup dry white wine
5 ounces soft goat cheese 

For the pastry:
1 cup unbleached white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, very cold and cut into small pieces
1/3-1/2 cup water

Mix the flours and salt in a bowl. Add the pieces of butter and cut into the flour, using a pastry blender, utensils or your fingers, until the butter is in very small pieces and evenly distributed in the flour. Pour in a small amount of the water and toss with the flour to evenly mix. Add just enough water so that the dough comes together in a ball without any leftover flour. Press the dough into a flat disc and cover with parchment paper. Leave the dough in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling.

In a baking dish, toss the cubed squash with the garlic, sage and one tablespoon of the oil. Bake at 350' for about 20 minutes or until the squash is soft, but not mushy. While the squash cooks, heat the rest of the oil in a skillet on the stove. Add the leeks and stir for a couple of minutes. Cover and let the leeks steam until tender, about 8 minutes. Add the wine and cook until all the liquid is absorbed. When the squash is done, toss it with the cooked leeks and add salt and pepper to taste.

To make the turnovers, divide the dough into five equal pieces. On a piece of parchment or waxed paper, roll out the dough (turning it over frequently to make sure it doesn't stick) into a circle or oval, about 6-8 inches in diameter. On one half of the round of dough, place 2/3 to 3/4 cup of the squash and leek mixture and add a couple of tablespoons of the goat cheese (or as much or little as you like). Make sure to leave an edge of dough around the filling and fold the empty half of the rolled out dough over the filling. Carefully press the folded over top onto the bottom half of the dough and crimp the edge to keep it closed. Pierce a few small holes in the top of the turnover to let out steam when it cooks. 

If baking immediately, place on a baking sheet in a 350' oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown. Let cool for 10-15 minutes before eating. If freezing, place each turnover on a sheet pan and freeze. Once they are frozen you can store them in an airtight container for a week or two before using. If baking from frozen, they will take 30-40 minutes.

October 18, 2010

Ordinary, But Just Right


Ginger cookies are perfect for fall. Simple, unassuming, flavorful but not decadent or over the top. They are ready to hop in a lunch box and go to school, to sit beside a bowl of freshly made applesauce for dessert, or to be nibbled as an anytime snack. When done right they are the perfect treat for any season, but this especially is the time of year is for a chewy spicy bite.

I like my ginger cookies quite gingery and, while I enjoy ginger snaps and thin ginger cookies, I especially love chewy ginger molasses cookies. When I see one at a bakery, I just might choose it over chocolate chip. I have tried making them at home several times, but its only been recently that I have finally gotten the recipe right. They take very little time to make and I love the spiciness that fresh ginger gives to these cookies.


My stand mixer used to live on my kitchen counter, but since we moved it has a place on our pantry shelf. When I brought it out I realized that I missed it a little so I took this picture, clutter and all. Sometimes I really enjoy photos that are not perfectly stylized (which I can't really do anyway) that just capture a part of a room or a day. Kind of like a ginger cookie: ordinary but just right.

Ginger Molasses Cookies
If you don't like the spiciness of fresh ginger, you can use a smaller amount or substitute powdered ginger. I wrote this recipe with measurements mostly by weight. I realize that my measurements on this blog are not consistent because some are by volume and some are by weight.  Measuring by weight is an easy and accurate way to bake, all you need is a basic scale. I have added the measurements by volume, too.

20 ounces (4 cups) flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
8 ounces (1 cup/two sticks) unsalted butter
7 ounces (1 cup) sugar
2 ounces (1/4 cup)  molasses
2 eggs
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

Preheat oven to 350'. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Cream butter and sugar until soft and fully mixed together. Add molasses and eggs and beat until smooth. Add fresh ginger and dry ingredients and mix until completely incorporated. The dough might be a bit crumbly. Scoop dough into golf ball sized balls and place on a baking sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes. Yeilds about 24 three inch cookies.

October 15, 2010

Shop Update

Last week I rearranged our project room, the space where I spend most of my time during the week. Usually I am sewing here, but I also write and take photos in this space. We've only been here for a couple of months, but it is truly amazing what a difference redesigning the space can do. It works so much better for me and having a new outlook on the room helped to reenergize my work.

                                    Our desk is now in a nice little corner.

This is the spot where I do most of my sewing.
I just love a pile of new fabrics ready for whatever they will become.

I'm still attempting to create an ideal routine for my days to maximize productivity and creativity, but until that gets sorted I am just trying to work as much as I can.

I've just added some new items to my shop which I wanted to share. I'm making little zip pouches with appliqued veggies on the front. I think they are by far the cutest things I've made and they are useful for storing or organizing or carrying things all in one place.



I just finished two new messenger bags as well. I love having the opportunity to play with fabric and design. I feel like each bag is a medium for me to create something beautiful, but it is also completely useful in every day life. Combining beauty and utility really appeals to me.



I'm really enjoying Seedling Design and all the projects and ideas that I am working on for my little shop. It's wonderful to have a space in our apartment that can be clean and organized or filled with the jumble of works in progress. Have a great weekend!

October 14, 2010

First Fermentation


Fermenting is something that I've been wanting to add to my kitchen processes for a while now. We're already doing a little bit. Ray brews beer using carefully controlled yeast to create an ideal end result. Pretty much every week I heat milk and add cultures to create yogurt. I have been working on getting a sourdough started for bread making. Despite the cultured environment in our kitchen, I haven't done much vegetable fermenting. While volunteering in Costa Rica we ate homemade sauerkraut as part of almost every dinner and I have been wanting to try making it myself.

I've never been much of a pickle eater but as I learned more about how healthy fermented foods are, I started occasionally munching on ruby kraut that I bought from a farm in Maine. I also read two books by Sandor Ellix Katz. The first was The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved which discusses, in Katz's light hearted, personable writing style, things that people are doing to improve our food systems. His other book is Wild Fermentation in which Katz explains how to make everything from sauerkraut to sourdough to beer and wine using the cultures and microorganisms found in the air and on the foods that are going to be fermented.

Fermenting seemed like the next step in my interest in food preservation and making it myself. It is basically the oldest form of food preservation, discovered by some happy accident that brought us beer, bread, cheese and wine. Its the ultimate local food in which microorganisms specific to the location of the fermenting do most of the work to transform vegetables, grains or milk into something that we can digest more easily. Fermentation also breaks down foods in such a way that often makes more nutrients available to our bodies.


In Wild Fermentation Katz gives basic guidelines for the different ferments but encourages everyone to experiment. For my sauerkraut I combined shredded cabbage and beets with a little bit of bay leaves, whole cloves and allspice. The spices didn't add a lot of flavor, but I like the way the beets give a bit of sweetness to the cabbage. I said before that I wasn't really a condiment person but I think this sauerkraut makes a nice condiment or small side dish to a meal. It can be added to salads for vibrant color and vivid flavor. I haven't tried it in a sandwich, but it appeals to you, you can easily ferment your own.

Fermenting is a bit like planting a seed. It doesn't seem like anything could happen when you put a bunch of shredded cabbage in a jar (or a hard little seed into the dark cool soil) but after a few days it will be transformed. It is a biological process that is also a magical interaction with the world.

Red Sauerkraut 
adapted from Wild Fermentation
Feel free to experiment with this and add other veggies or seasonings. Salt is important to fermenting vegetables because it helps draw water out of the cabbage to create a brine and keeps the vegetables from rotting, instead allowing the microorganisms to ferment them.

1 medium sized head of red cabbage
4 medium sized red beets
2 tablespoons salt

1 large ceramic crock or glass jar (big enough to hold the shredded cabbage and beets and with a wide opening)
Plate that fits inside crock or jar 
1 to 2 quart sized glass jars, washed, rinsed, filled with water and lidded
dishcloth or towel

Wash cabbage and beets removing any wilted leaves or undesirable parts. Shred cabbage and beets and place in a large bowl. As you add them to the bowl, sprinkle some of the salt on top. Add other vegetables and herbs, if desired. Once you have finished chopping and salting, mix everything together. Put enough of the mixture to cover the bottom of the crock and pack it down using a wooden spoon or your fist. Add another layer and continue tamping until all of the vegetables have been added and packed in. 

Cover this with a plate and place the jar as a weight on top. This helps press the water out  of the cabbage and keeps it covered with this brine. Initially, there may not be enough brine to cover everything but check it a few times during the first day and press as necessary until there is enough liquid to cover everything. If the brine does not cover the cabbage by the next day, add 1 tablespoon of salt to 1 cup of water, stir to dissolve, and add enough salt water to cover the cabbage. Cover the crock with a towel or dishcloth held on by a rubber band or string.

Let it ferment. Every day or two, check the sauerkraut. Sometimes a white mold will bloom on the surface. It is harmless, simply skim it off. Taste and smell the sauerkraut to see if it has reached a flavor and tang that you enjoy. In a cool place the fermentation can be slower and longer, if it is warm it will happen more quickly so check more frequently. You can remove a bowl or jar-ful at a time and keep in in the fridge while the rest continues to ferment or once it has reached the flavor you enjoy put it in jars and keep in the fridge for a few months. This recipe yields about two quarts of red sauerkraut.

October 12, 2010

Unmistakably Autumn


The past few days have been unseasonably warm here. I can't complain, though. We've been trying to soak in as much of the warmth and sun while we have a chance. The trees have shed so many of their leaves, they litter the sidewalks and the sunlight filters down through the branches casting red and gold light on the day. The air smells of the fallen leaves, going back to the earth. Even though the days are warm, it is still unmistakably autumn.

Last weekend was much cooler when I went to the farmer's market. It was a chilly Sunday morning and the market was like a ghost town compared to the aisles packed with people during the summer. There were fewer vendors, too, but everyone of them still had piles of vibrant produce. As I loaded up my bags with tastes of fall: apples, squash, cauliflower, leeks, my favorite fall recipes started coming back to me. I am looking forward to making them again and also finding new ways to enjoy the autumn harvests. I posted many of these recipes here last year but I couldn't resist taking a look at them again.

Apple Cranberry Galette
Pumpkin Ice Cream
Butternut Squash Ravioli
Cranberry Salsa
Butternut Squash Soup
Pumpkin Cake with Ginger Cream Cheese Frosting

When the weather gets chillier it will be nice to be able to warm up by the stove. I'm dreaming of a fall pizza, maybe like this autumnal pizza or this shiitake pizza.. I've been browsing for some new recipes to try. I am always so eager to start cooking with squash, apples, greens, potatoes and other veggies that are still going as the weather gets cooler. I realize, though, that even during the winter our menu will still be made up of these cool weather vegetables so there is no need to rush into cooking all of my fall favorites. Luckily there are enough fall flavored recipes out there to last well into spring. Here are a few more that look good to me: balsamic and parmesan roasted cauliflower, maple pots de creme, dinner rolls baked in a jar, butternut squash with browned butter and thyme, pumpkin mac and cheese

In my travels on the internet, I see a lot of interesting, intriguing and inspiring things. I wish I had more time to get lost and absorbed in the maze of the web, but I have so many other things to do away from my computer. I've decided to start a little list on my side bar of things that I have read or seen that are inspiring to me and that I want to share. I hope this will help me to look at few things each week in greater depth and to pass the inspiration along.

October 4, 2010

Visiting and Exploring

 Apple sauce cake with cinnamon cream cheese frosting.

Last Wednesday, I drove to my friend Emily's house in Milwaukee. The route was about five and a half hours of rolling hills, farm land, brightly colored trees and smooth highway. In Milwaukee, I spent a lovely few days with Emily and her husband Jon. They have a cute little apartment in this city with a river on one side and a great lake on the other. We ate good food, took walks, played scrabble, made this amazing s'mores pie and enjoyed each others company. Oh yeah, and I brought this cake which we enjoyed for dessert the first night I was there.

I'll get back to the cake in a minute, but this little bit of travel has gotten me thinking. Living somewhere new and visiting new places in the United States makes me realize just how big this country is. Going someplace totally different and foreign can be a bit mind-boggling for me. It is amazing but also hard to fathom, sometimes, how we all live so differently on this earth. On the other hand, visiting and exploring places that are familiar in language, architecture, and climate makes me really think about all the places full of people living lives vaguely similar to mine.

You would think that bicycling across the United States would have given me a good sense of how big this country is, but when you are going one day at a time for weeks, it's hard to comprehend that you have ridden from one coast to the other. I find that encountering a new place piques my curiosity and makes me think about all the places I might never see and the people I'll never know, but they are out there, living their lives.

And some of these people out there (you) are reading this blog. Too bad, I can't just cut you a slice of this cake and hand it to you across the table as we get to know each other in person, but I wanted to share it with you anyway. I've been thinking about an applesauce cake for a while, so I was glad to have the opportunity to make it for my visit with friends. Its full of the autumnal flavors I love this time of year, but not too heavy or sugary. You could leave off the frosting and it would make a simple and classic coffee cake. It is reminiscent of this fall cake, clearly I am a total sucker for spices and cream cheese frosting.

Applesauce Cake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting
Adapted from Gourmet. I used less sugar than the recipe calls for since my applesauce was sweet and I knew the frosting would be, too. 

For the cake
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour 
2 teaspoons baking powder 
1/2 teaspoon baking soda 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon 
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger 
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves 
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/2 -3/4 cup sugar (depending on the sweetness of your applesauce and your preference of sweetness)
1 teaspoon vanilla  
2 eggs 
1 1/2 cups applesauce 
1 cup chopped walnuts , toasted    

For the Frosting
5 ounces cream cheese
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup confectioners sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon milk

Preheat the oven to 350'. Butter an 8-9 inch square pan (or a 9 inch springform pan, which is what I used). Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves in a small bowl until combined. Beat butter and sugar until soft and fully combined, add eggs and vanilla and beat until smooth. Add applesauce, mix until incorporated. Add flour mixture and stir at a slow speed until mixed. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 40 - 45 minutes. After baking, let cake cool fully before icing.

To make the frosting: cream cheese, butter and vanilla on high speed until fluffy. Add confectioners sugar and cinnamon and beat on low speed. Add milk as needed and beat until the frosting is smooth and creamy. Spread frosting over cake and enjoy!