Friday, September 18, 2009

Feature Friday: Phydeaux Designs

I love wool. I love yarn. My affection for chunky knitted goodness knows no bounds, and I'm fully indulged every time I browse the Etsy shop Phydeaux Designs.


I met Brenda through an exchange of sewing buttons, but she's now an Etsy friend of the dearest kind. In addition to making these delightful yarnworks, she also sells her original patterns to make them yourself. She has recently started a second Etsy shop, Phydelle, with doll-sized versions of her scarves, cowls and neckwarmers. Her blog is always a fun read with the occasional recipe, frequent stunning finds and her own gorgeous photos. And did I mention that she's also really really nice? She is. Check her out!

Monday, September 14, 2009

From the Kitchen: French Bread

The closest I have ever come to anything French was taking Spanish for 4 years in high school. I suppose I've also been to Canada... if that counts. But I have always had a loving relationship with bread. I regularly make my own rolls and homemade loaves for dinner when we have company, but French bread has eluded me. The word baguette itself was something mysterious, something delicious yet otherworldly, something too simple to be cooked in an ordinary oven. Until last week.


I was at a Labor Day party with many friends and our collective offspring where a very good friend of mine (Hannah, the sharer of this delicious pumpkin muffin recipe) brought garden fresh bruschetta and pan-fried homemade french bread toast on which to serve it. It was carbohydrate heaven, if there is such a place. Gastronomical pleasures the world has not yet known. It turns out that she had recently searched out this recipe on Allrecipes.com after a viewing of the movie Julie and Julia. It was easy, bread-machine-able and turned out fantastic results. This is the highest rated French bread recipe on Allrecipes, and it is clearly a winner.

Ingredients

1 cup water
2 1/2 cups bread flour
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons bread machine yeast
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon water

Directions

Place 1 cup water, bread flour, sugar, salt and yeast into bread machine pan in the order recommended by manufacturer. Select Dough cycle, and press Start. When the cycle has completed, place dough in a greased bowl, turning to coat all sides. Cover, and let rise in a warm place for about 30 minutes, or until doubled in bulk. Dough is ready if indentation remains when touched. Punch down dough. On a lightly floured surface, roll into a 16x12 inch rectangle. Cut dough in half, creating two 8x12 inch rectangles. Roll up each half of dough tightly, beginning at 12 inch side, pounding out any air bubbles as you go. Roll gently back and forth to taper end. Place 3 inches apart on a greased cookie sheet. Make deep diagonal slashes across loaves every 2 inches, or make one lengthwise slash on each loaf. Cover, and let rise in a warm place for 30 to 40 minutes, or until doubled in bulk. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Mix egg yolk with 1 tablespoon water; brush over tops of loaves. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven, or until golden brown.


The global mystique of French bread (and so much more) is captured perfectly in this Flight of the Conchord's video. For your maximum enjoyment, I'd recommend watching the whole first season. Preferably all at once...

Friday, September 11, 2009

From the Kitchen: Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo

Today was a day of high hopes, moderate achievements, and fine weather. It would have been the perfect Friday to nap lazily in a hammock while the children happily amused themselves in the yard, or enjoy some manual labor weeding the gardens or edging the walk. Instead, we managed to make it to the school bus stop and back two times without being hit by a car, finish a custom Etsy order, and have dinner planned and in the works before my dear husband got home from work. Tonight I decided to make something creamy and Italian... something that could use up the left over rotisserie chicken from last night's dinner and incorporate some fresh tomatoes. This recipe for fettuccine alfredo, adapted from one on Allrecipes.com, was just the ticket. A creamy, blush sauce. Fragrant garlic... went perfectly with the French bread I baked. We ate outside and enjoyed the evening as you should, if possible, when eating Italian. Delightful and tasty!


Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo

Ingredients

2 cooked chicken breasts, chopped (I used the breast meat from a rotisserie chicken)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon Italian salad dressing (I used fat free)
1 pound fettuccine pasta (I used spaghetti)
1/2 onion, finely diced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups milk (I used skim)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup loosely grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
4 ounces shredded Colby-Monterey Jack cheese
6 roma tomatoes, diced (mine were volunteers from my "garden")
1/4 cup sour cream

Directions

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain.

Meanwhile, heat oil in the skillet. Saute onion and garlic until onions are transparent. Stir in flour, salt and pepper; cook 2 minutes. Slowly add milk and cream, stirring until smooth and creamy. Add Italian dressing. Stir in cheeses; stir until cheese is melted. Stir in chicken, tomatoes and sour cream. Serve over cooked pasta.

Feature Friday: Callooh Callay

This week I wanted to feature the work of St. Louis-based Callooh Callay, a one woman Etsy enterprise that features vintage treasures and button jewelry. I can't resist a well-made button, and exploring her shop is like a walk through the best estate sale you've ever found. Vintage hats, home goods and antique ephemera paired with her own stacked button jewelry makes you want to keep delving into the pages of wonderful items. Lovely photos, honest representation and artful collecting... something I aspire to do!


Callooh Callay can be found on Etsy, Facebook and Flickr!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

From the Kitchen: Lighthouse Cookies

*Spoiler alert: You do not want to make lighthouse cookies.*

Fairly unassuming title, no? One of my wonderful grandmothers had a surprise 75th birthday party over Labor Day weekend. We couldn't be there, but I wanted to do something special anyway. My grand plan was to make some sugar cookies in the shape of lighthouses, which Grandma likes, and decorate them nicely and send them to the party with my parents.

I made the cookie dough, left it to cool in the refrigerator overnight, and baked the cookies the next day. Here is the cookie cutter I used:


And here is the cookie it produced:


I pulled the fist batch out of the oven and decided that this was inappropriate in every way, and that I could not send them to my grandmother's party. Especially since I couldn't be there to defend them as the innocent miscalculation that they were. I also didn't trust my cookie decorating skills enough to be able to prevent them from looking like a terrible Lorena Bobbitt-type kitchen incident. My husband got a good laugh out of it and the opportunity to make innuendos to his darling heart's content, so it wasn't a complete loss.