Friday, March 30, 2012

fantasy friday: luna lovegood's scarf

"A Wrackspurt - they're invisible, they float in through your ears
and make your brain go fuzzy," she said. "I thought I felt one zooming
around in here."

from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
by J.K. Rowling


Anyone else feel like a Wrackspurt got to them this week? Maybe it was the return of the rain and the cold. Maybe it's because J was nursing his second cold in as many months. Maybe it was the two enormous papers I spent all last weekend writing. Or maybe it was a Wrackspurt.

Whatever it was, this week my brain was decidedly fuzzy. No creativity inspired me to post on my blog. Instead, I spent my days either wrapped up in work, or wasting hours watching Grey's Anatomy and eating delivery Thai food (I blame Anna). And maybe I managed a little crochet.


I hope you'll forgive the lack of a recipe this week. Blame the Wrackspurt.

Instead, I'll share this pattern with you, which I used to make this replica of Luna Lovegood's scarf from the Harry Potter movies. I decided to honor Slytherin with this rich green tone, seeing as I never honor Slytherin, and we all know how important house relations are.


Go out and enjoy the sun, and with any luck, we'll be packing away our Luna Lovegood scarves for good by next Friday, and I'll be able to offer some clear-headed fantasy food again. Happy Friday!

Monday, March 26, 2012

detox your floors

Snooki is pregnant.

The crazy, over-the-top, partying Snooki, whom we all know and love from Jersey Shore, is bringing a baby into this world. I'll reserve judgment for now.

What I can give her is this: apparently she has (at least for the moment) turned her life in the opposite direction. No drinking, no partying. Less toxicity.

And so I hate to say it but...maybe we should follow Snooki's lead.

Before you rush out to buy furry slippers and a spray tan, take a look at the recipe below. You can reduce some of the toxicity in your life by transitioning your cleaning supplies to homemade alternatives. So the next time you need floor cleaner, you can opt for this non-toxic version instead of the bottle that's loaded with chemicals.


Hold on to an old bottle, and refill with this recipe.

Non-Toxic Floor Cleaner

Ingredients:
3 cups white vinegar
3/4 cup borax
25 drops tea tree essential oil
25 drops lime essential oil

Bring the vinegar to a boil in a tea kettle. Pour over the borax in a large bowl and stir until dissolved. Allow to cool until just warm and pour into your container. Add the essential oils and shake with the lid on. Use 1/4 cup in a gallon or two of water to clean floors.

All of the ingredients in this cleaner will help disinfect a surface. The borax and vinegar are a fantastic combination for removing grime. Tea tree can have a strange smell. The lime does a great job of masking it, but if it really gets on your nerves, you can omit.

Over time, the borax might crystallize slightly, giving the cleaner a look that's not exactly...clean looking. But no worries...it will still clean, disinfect, and smell wonderful.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

pb + jel-brie

Do you ever feel like you complicate things a bit too much?

This week, I was asked to pass on any dietary restrictions I had for a little luncheon I attended. It's always a little weird. I always want to say, "Well, really I can eat anything I want, but I would appreciate it very much if you could have something healthy on hand, because quite frankly, these things come up a lot, and if I have pizza at every single one, I won't feel so good."

But I can't do that.

So I sort of made this half-hearted vegan request, and the super sweet organizer was more than obliging. And I felt like a little bit of a liar. Because I'm not really a vegan. I eat fish and eggs in small amounts. And I generally avoid meat and cheese. And every once in awhile, I break all my own rules...


And at the end of the day, I try very hard to forgive myself...for being overly complicated, for misrepresenting my complex dietary habits, for indulging in cheese...


And I think that's the healthiest thing of all.

Because what else can you say but "yes" when your darling boyfriend comes up with an exciting idea for a very weird sandwich?

Peanut Butter and Jel-brie

Ingredients:
two slices of whole wheat bread
unsweetened peanut butter
fruit-sweetened strawberry jelly
brie cheese
coconut oil

Spread a very thin layer of coconut oil on the outsides of each slice of bread. Place oiled side down in a pan and top one of the slices with a layer of brie. Cover the pan, and heat over low heat until brie is beginning to melt and the bread is a toasty brown. Remove both pieces of bread from the pan and spread the peanut butter and jelly on the plain piece. Close the sandwich and enjoy warm and melty!


Honestly, this was really good. Brie is such a delicate cheese, it goes with just about anything. We also thought cheddar or swiss might work really well here. Let me know if you try. And don't feel bad if you do. ;-)

Friday, March 23, 2012

fantasy friday: rumaki from betty draper's kitchen


Remember this amazing dinner party Betty Draper hosted in season 2 of Mad Men? She called it her "Around the World" dinner, starting with gazpacho from Spain, and rumaki from Japan.


But Betty was a little misinformed on this one. Rumaki is actually an American dish, made to sound like it has Asian origins, and originally developed as a menu item for Trader Vic's restaurants.


Traditional rumaki consists of chicken liver wrapped in bacon, served with water chestnuts. They get seasoned with soy sauce, ginger, and brown sugar and roasted until cooked. I'm surprised no one at the party noticed what an American dish rumaki actually is...full of sodium, sugar, and cholesterol. They were probably distracted by Betty's beautiful dress (and beautiful face).


My version of rumaki is pretty drastically different than the traditional. I traded the bacon for smoky-flavored mushrooms and the sugar for naturally sweet pineapple. Served on toothpicks, each little skewer has a lovely salty and sweet flavor, accompanied by the crunch of the water chestnuts. These are perfect as a dinner party appetizer, but don't hold up very well after they cool off. So eat them while they're fresh! And if you're doing it in true Mad Men style, enjoy a cocktail or two...or three...



Vegan Rumaki

Ingredients:
1 8-oz. can of water chestnuts
1 8-oz. can of pineapple chunks, in juice
4 oz. fresh white mushrooms
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tbsp white vinegar
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp powdered ginger
1/2 tsp liquid smoke

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Wash the mushrooms, cut into bite size pieces, and set aside. Drain the water chestnuts and set aside in a different bowl. Combine the soy sauce, white vinegar, garlic powder, and ginger and pour half of the sauce over the mushrooms, and half over the water chestnuts. Add the liquid smoke to just the mushrooms. Stir each bowl gently, to coat vegetables. Cover, and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.

After 1-2 hours, drain the pineapple, reserving the juice. Grease a baking sheet with a thin layer of oil. Spear appetizer toothpicks with at least one each of mushroom, water chestnuts, and pineapple. Keep an eye on how much you have...I had to cut some pineapple in half again to make sure I had a balanced number of pieces. Before placing each spear on the baking sheet, twirl it in the pineapple juice.

Bake the rumaki for about 15 minutes, checking often to make sure the toothpicks and pineapple juice are not burning! Serve warm.

It's okay, Betty. You can serve these at your next party.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

sweets and beets

There are roots that I love and roots that I hate.

Roots that I hate include those dark ones at the base of blonde hair that hasn't been dyed recently enough. (No offense.) I have no idea how Heidi Klum made those trendy. Probably just by being Heidi Klum.

Roots I love include the kind that grow underground, which, when roasted or boiled, make for some of the healthiest and most delicious nosh you could want.



Believe it or not, prior to last week, I had never prepared beets before.

But when I spotted these beautiful golden babies, I knew it was time.


The following is one of those hardly-a-recipe-recipes. It's pretty simple. Combine the stuff that tastes good. Cook it until it's done.

Roasted Sweets 'n' Beets

Ingredients:
about 1 lb. of sweet potatoes
about 1 lb. of red beets
about 1 lb. of golden beets
2 tbsp oil
1 1/2 tsp garam masala
3/4 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Wash and dice the vegetables. I left my skins on, but you can choose to remove them if you'd like. Dice the beets a little smaller than the sweet potatoes, because they cook slower. (Or, set the sweet potatoes aside, and add to the mix 15-20 minutes after the beets have been cooking.) In a large mixing bowl or plastic bag, toss the veggies with the oil, garam masala, and salt. Spread in a large baking dish and bake for 60-90 minutes, until fork tender.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

two science lessons i learned in my kitchen

Today I decided to hard boil some eggs. And since I live with a scientist, boiling eggs in this apartment is...well, a science. I add salt and vinegar to the water, and bring it to a rolling boil before carefully lowering the eggs in to prevent cracking.

Shortly after I put the eggs in today, I heard a faint crack. I was sad, but I knew that the vinegar would keep the egg white from getting too messy. (science) Anyway, remember that cracking noise. (foreshadowing)

Then I got caught up in other science-y things (pinterest) and forgot about the eggs. Fifteen minutes later, I sprinted to the kitchen and began rinsing the eggs in cold water. They felt a little slimy to me, and as I was feeling for the leaky point with my fingers, this happened:


As I was puzzling this phenomenon (are they dying my eggs?!), I heard a gunshot in my kitchen. YES. I heard a GUNSHOT in my kitchen. Not literally. But it sounded like a gunshot. Smack dab in the middle of my confusion, this had happened:



We often leave our pots and pans on the stove to dry. Apparently the glass of this lid became unevenly heated, increasing its thermal stress and causing it to shatter. After I closed my mouth, I had to deal with the very complicated clean up. The lid kept making creepy crackling noises...it's still going in the other room.

And the egg? Not dyed. The explanation for that seems to be that my vinegar dissolved the alkaline pigment that forms on the outside of brown eggs. Most of the shell is actually white, and the color comes from just the surface pigment. Vinegar in the water can break that pigment down so it rubs off.

And there you have it. Two science lessons in mere minutes. And now I'm staying out of the kitchen for awhile.

Monday, March 19, 2012

changes around here...

If you've found yourself here on my blog and the address bar doesn't say "www.findingclairity.com"...well, then I've still got some kinks to work out. Yours truly has purchased her own domain name. You should be redirected from the old url, but it's probably a good idea to update your readers and bookmarks, just in case.

There's also a new facebook link on the right. So far a handful of nice high school friends have liked my page, and it's looking a bit pitiful at the moment. So you should go like it too. That's right...I'm playing the pity card.

And I have even bigger news.

There's a new team member over here at blog central. She's got a big fat lens, 12 megapixels, and plenty of health insurance. That's right, folks. I've invested in my very first dslr camera, and I'm scared. I'm loving it too. I've got a few more posts lined up with pictures from my old point-and-shoot, but you can look forward to lots of practice pictures from my newest sidekick.

This should get you started.

Getting on board at Anthony's Pier 4

Bloggers' night out at the Institute of Contemporary Art 

Champagne in the eve 

Coffee in the morn

Momo

Maus 

Colored pencils 

Colored bands

Saturday, March 17, 2012

a day for patricks

As an ethnic mutt, I sometimes wish I had a stronger cultural identity. Then a holiday rolls around, and I remember how lucky I am to celebrate each year with a kaleidoscope of traditions and a kaleidoscope of flavors. (Plus, I get the fun of hanging with a very ethnic crowd of Italians every time I visit J's family...imagine a nonno with an accent, kissing you on the forehead...and a crazy uncle with such a thick Brooklyn accent you can hardly understand  him.) I am just over a fourth Irish though, which means I merrily celebrate St. Patrick's Day each year with some delicious fare... 


Lately I'm finding it pretty easy to avoid meat. But there are three types of meat that each come once a year, and I find them irresistible: ham and kielbasa for Easter, and corned beef for St. Patrick's Day.

~~~

I had a very special uncle named Patrick. I think of him on his birthday every year, but St. Patrick's Day makes me think of him more. Springtime is just arriving, people are feasting, and green is sprouting everywhere. Seems an appropriate time to celebrate a beautiful life.


Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Friday, March 16, 2012

fantasy friday: apple charlotte almost from downton abbey


This apple charlotte almost comes from Downton Abbey, because this is the recipe Mrs. Patmore refused to attempt in season 1, as her failing eyesight kept her from reading the recipe.

Oh Mrs. Patmore, you are so lovable.


It's too bad everyone at Downton missed out. Because apple charlotte is delicious.


Traditionally made in ramekins, I made mine in a muffin pan, since I don't have a whole set of ramekins lying around. (Do you?)

Best served warm from the oven, the insides of these cups contain soft apples, tart with the tang of lemon, but very much infused with the flavor of vanilla. The bread at the top is toasty, on the sides it's doughy, and at the bottom lies a sticky, candied treat. I like to serve them upside down, but it doesn't really matter.

If you don't want to use stevia, try 1/4 cup of raw honey instead.



Apple Charlotte

Ingredients:
6 granny smith apples
juice of one lemon (about 3 tbsp)
1 tbsp lemon zest
4 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp liquid stevia
2 cinnamon sticks
1 tbsp + 1 tsp coconut sugar
10-15 slices of whole wheat bread

Peel, core, and dice apples into 1/2" cubes. Combine in a large saucepan with the lemon juice, lemon zest, 2 tbsp of the coconut oil, vanilla, stevia, and cinnamon sticks. (I added the apples as I prepared them and poured the lemon juice over them to keep them from browning.) Cook over medium high heat, stirring occasionally, until apples are fork tender, about 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Use the remaining 2 tbsp of coconut oil to coat the sides and bottoms of a 12 muffin pan. Spread the sugar among the muffin compartments, then gently shake the pan side to side so that the sugar sticks to the oil, coating the bottoms and part of the sides of the compartments.

Use a cookie cutter or top of a glass to cut circles from the bread that will fit in the bottoms of the pan. Cut off the crusts of the bread and create enough pieces to line the sides. It doesn't have to be a perfect fit...the pieces can hang over the top a bit. You'll want to smoosh them into the cups...I used a small glass to press the bread down.

Fill the bread cups with the apple filling. Be sure to get it all in; they will be heaping! Bake for 20-25 minutes. Serve topped with coconut whipped cream and cinnamon, or apricot jam. Eat leftovers cold, or reheat in the microwave for 40-60 seconds.


P.S. I promise we'll get away from Hogwarts and Downton Abbey someday. But couldn't you just eat their hearty British food all day long?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

mindful moments

I recently bought this book for myself and have been using it to guide my thoughts throughout the day. It's full of little reminders about relaxing, accepting ourselves, and giving our best to the world around us. I find that if I really take the time to digest its messages, I am calmer and more content throughout the day. Highly recommended!

Anyway, I just had to share last Friday's practice.


Last Friday's little reminder said that we tend to get so wrapped up in ourselves and our negative emotions that we forget to have empathy for the suffering of others, and even to support ourselves through our own negative times. Instead of recognizing that tough times are part of life, we berate ourselves and bemoan our circumstances. Practicing compassion towards others and ourselves helps us to feel more whole and present.

The practice is to write the word "compassion" on the container you drink water from all day. Every time you take a drink, that word should be a reminder to think of the suffering of others and yourself. The idea is not to get you depressed. It's to focus on that supportive place inside of you, instead of that black hole we can get sucked into, thinking about how much everything stinks! A simple practice with profound meaning.

P.S. When I open a new container of mascara, I stick a piece of masking tape on the tube with the date written on it. Then I know exactly when three months have passed and I should swap it for a fresh batch!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

spinach patties

We're celebrating green this week, right? With the beautiful spring weather that (I think) has arrived for certain, and our extra hour of daylight, I am definitely feeling like the luck of the Irish has blown in from overseas.

I grew up with corned beef and cabbage every St. Patrick's Day, and I'm hoping to share a few pictures of our meal with you this year. So so delicious and simple. We eat it with my sister's homemade soda bread and a side of vicious pinches for anyone not wearing green. Any other traditions out there?

But until Saturday, you will feel even luckier this week if you get some healthy greens in you.


These spinach patties remind me of potato pancakes, with less starch and many more nutrients. They're not so easy on the eyes, but they are super easy to snatch up and gobble down.


Spinach Patties

Ingredients:
1 1-lb bag of frozen spinach
1 large onion
2 eggs
2 tbsp oil
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp paprika

Allow the spinach to defrost at room temperature for a few hours. Pour into a mixing bowl, and tilt on its side over a sink. Use your hand to press the spinach against the bottom of the bowl while draining the liquid from the side. When you've gotten out as much liquid as possible this way, you can press a paper towel or two into the bowl to get a little more.

Peel the onion and quarter. Add to a food processor and process until very finely chopped. Add the onion and the rest of the ingredients to the spinach and stir until well mixed.

Heat the oven to 175 degrees and put in a baking sheet. As you finish frying patties, keep them on the baking sheet in the warm oven.

Lightly grease the bottom of a non-stick skillet and heat over medium heat for a few minutes. When pan is hot, spoon the spinach mixture into the pan and smoosh to form patties. Cook for a couple minutes on each side, pressing the patties with a spatula to remove extra moisture and cook through.


Monday, March 12, 2012

city, country, or town?

I've always said I was a city girl through and through. I've never gotten over the excitement, the newness around every corner, the anonymity without ever being alone, the feeling that there is always something To Do, and everyone is busy doing it.

But every once in awhile, I miss the quieter places I've lived in. I miss drinking coffee on my parents' front porch, and watching a mist settle over the hills in the distance. I miss walking down a tree-lined street, cherry blossoms falling at my feet. I miss the exhilaration of looking over the country from a high place and having it take my breath away.

Which makes me wonder...

J and I talk a lot about where we might live someday. We list city after city after city. And lately, the smaller cities, and even some towns, have made it into the discussion.

Because I like the idea of a tree-lined street, with a coffee shop and a bookstore within walking distance. I like the idea of a backyard just big enough for a garden and maybe some chickens. I like the idea of a nearby park for dog walking and baby strolling. I like the idea of breathing in morning air that just arrived on the clouds and hasn't yet been breathed in by anyone else.

Maybe we'll end up at the edge of a small city. Who knows? That's half the fun. But in my mind, it looks a little something like this:








City, country,  or town?