Escabeche (Spicy Picked Vegetables)

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This recipe for pickled spicy vegetables is a staple in my parents’ restaurant as well as their home. They are a fantastic addition to just about any savory meal, and they’re also great on their own.

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Ingredients: 3 sliced jalapeños, 2  sliced large carrots, 1 sliced green bell pepper, 1 can hearts of palm, 1 1/4 cup peeled pearl onions, 2 sprigs fresh thyme, 1 bay leaf, 3 minced garlic cloves, 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 1 cup white vinegar, 2 cups cold water. Note: you can use any variety of vegetables you want, the key ingredients being the jalapeno, thyme, onions, and garlic.

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Instructions: place each ingredient into separate bowls, you’ll want to sauté each vegetable individually as each requires different cooking times. In a pan heat the olive oil, thyme, bay leaf, cumin, and jalapeños and sauté for a couple of minutes, enough for the jalapeños to be only gently cooked but still crunchy. Remove jalapeños from pan and repeat the process with each vegetable. Once all of the vegetables are ready add to a jar along with the herbs, salt, water, and vinegar. Let the ingredients cool before placing in refrigerator. Allow the vegetables to pickle for at least 24 hours before eating, they will taste better with time.

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This recipe is very easy to make and it will keep in your refrigerator for weeks. Add it to any meat dish, sandwiches, even scrambled eggs to give your meals an extra kick.


Hand Painted Egg Cups

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I’ve been on the lookout for egg cups for quite some time now, but have been unable to find a complete set that isn’t either plain white, or does not suit our kitchen’s color scheme. Instead of continuing the search, I decided to buy some simple white ones and paint them myself at home with some acrylic paint and clear glaze.

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I picked colors that matched our kitchen table and hutch, and alternated them to create three different patterns. The design on the middle part was done using a small handmade stencil.

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Once all of the cups were painted and glazed, I let them dry for about 12 hours and then placed them in a cool oven set to 350F for 40 minutes (the cups have to heat with the oven or the harsh temperature difference can crack the paint).

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I’m very excited to have this little set and can’t wait to enjoy many warm egg breakfasts with them.

 

 


Middle Earth Madness VIII

As noted in a previous post, a couple of good friends of ours host a fun Lord of the Rings themed party every year right around the end of winter called Middle Earth Madness. Each year we look forward to a full day of enjoying the extended films with great company, eating fun themed foods, and creating our own contribution. This year we decided to make a little model of Minas Tirith using white cake, sugar cookies, icing, and powdered sugar.

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We broke down the basic shape into cylinders and triangular prisms that were roughed out in cardboard. We used a cake mix and cookie dough out of a box so that we could focus on cutting out the shapes that we needed.

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The shape of the city is very conducive to a layer cake, which made it simpler to construct. The only tricky part was the wedge shaped section of rock.

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Once we had our basic structure made from the cake, we cut out quite a few buildings and towers from a cookie sheet and attached them with icing.

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To finish the cake we sprinkled some powdered sugar over the top to give a whiter look.

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This is James’ favorite of the treats we’ve created for Middle Earth Madness so far. I’m torn between this and the hobbit hole we made two years ago. We’re not sure just yet what we’ll be constructing next year, but we look forward to thinking up of of new ideas for Middle Earth treats.


Roasted Garlic Knots

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I have finally mastered making delicious garlic knots that are crisp on the outside, and soft and chewy on the inside. For these decadent knots I used a favorite pizza dough recipe, and instead of chopping up fresh garlic as many garlic knot recipes do, I decided to roast an entire garlic bulb and make a thick paste that thoroughly infused the knots with flavor.

For the dough:

Ingredients: 1 packet active dry yeast, 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour (plus more for dusting), 1 tablespoon honey, 1 tablespoon olive oil (plus more to grease a large bowl), 1 1/2 cups warm water, 2 teaspoons salt.

Instructions: Add yeast and warm water to a small bowl, gently stir and let sit for five minutes, then add honey and stir.  Add the flour, salt, and oil to a large bowl. Slowly add the water to the flour bowl and mix thoroughly with your hands. You should be able to make a slightly sticky large dough ball. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for about three minutes. Place dough on a well oiled bowl and cover with a tea towel; let sit for 1 1/2 hours, until the dough doubles in size. Remove dough from bowl and cut into three equal sized pieces. Gently roll the pieces out into balls, cover and let sit for an additional 15 minutes. Roll each dough ball out to flat long shapes, then cut into strips with a knife.

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For the garlic paste:

Ingredients: 1 whole garlic bulb, 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon dry parsley.

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Instructions: chop off top of the garlic bulb and roast in 350F pre-heated oven for 30 minutes (the cloves will gently start to pop out when ready). Let cool and squeeze out garlic cloves. Mash with a fork in a small bowl, add olive oil, salt, and parsley.

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Brush the garlic paste on each strip to cover one side entirely.

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Tie each strip into a knot, and place on a lightly floured cookie sheet. Brush remaining olive oil onto tops of knots and bake at 350F for 20 minutes, until golden brown. Make sure to eat them when they’re fresh!

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Recent Lego Creations

In the past we’ve shown off some of our Lego creations, and since then we have built a few more.

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Here is a city block that is done on a micro scale. It’s very interesting to see what can be created with such a small amount of area.

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Keeping things small, this home interior is equipped with tables, chairs, a tv, and a stove. Maybe the bathroom and bedroom are on the unseen second floor.

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This church is pretty much done to minifig scale.

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Here’s another one in scale with minifigs. This is based on the city gates that we saw in Vieux-Québec.

Every once in a while, we will look to inspiration from the photos we took on a trip to Legoland California a few years ago. We never really have enough pieces to think on a grand scale, and we always have to work in white because our color options are extremely limited, but I’m sure our collection will continue to grow. Perhaps one day we can create something like the masterpieces below.

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Personalized Stationery

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Although the times of having pen pals and hand written letters are long gone, I still like keeping stationery at home for whatever occasion may present itself. I have found many instances where I will hand write a card for a birthday or hostess gift, as a sweet thank you, or a ‘just because’ note to make a friend smile. Recently, I ran out of stationery cards and decided to design my own instead buying more.

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I wanted the stationery to have a hand made feel, so I used colored pencils to give the design a gentle texture. For inspiration I looked at several examples of Art Nouveau, and created a digital image as my master reference with a flowered border and monogram at the bottom.

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I then printed out the design and drew it onto a sketchbook, gently filling the shapes with colored pencils. The hand drawn paper was then scanned and cleaned up to create the final version for printing.

I had a lot of fun with this project, love the outcome, and can see myself designing more personalized stationery in the future.

 


My Famous Deviled Eggs

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My deviled eggs are not actually famous, but they sure are popular among my friends and family! This is one of my staple recipes for casual hosting, or bringing to a social gathering. I follow a pretty traditional recipe, with just some minor tweaks.

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Ingredients: 1 dozen large eggs, 1/2 cup mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon yellow mustard, 1 tablespoon dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard, 1 teaspoon white vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoons smoked paprika.

Instructions: bring a large pot of about 2 quarts of water with 1 tablespoon of salt to a roaring boil, add eggs and cook for about 20 minutes. Drain eggs and rinse under cold water. Peel eggs and cut in half length wise. Remove the yolks with a small spoon, place in a fine mesh colander, and push through with a spoon to get rid of lumps. Place yolks and remaining ingredients in a small bowl, mix to combine. Spoon the mixture into a piping bag with a star tip and pipe into eggs. Sprinkle with paprika and serve.

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The Seafarer and the Moonlight – A Paper Cutout Animation

After months of work, we have completed our newest short film ‘The Seafarer and the Moonlight.’ The film is stop-motion animation done entirely with thousands of paper cutouts.

James first conceived of the idea about a year ago, and initially thought that it might be done with lighting gels and diffusion to create a stained glass look. Eventually we decided upon parchment paper, and he created one digital concept image to get the process started. Here it is on the left next to the final shot in the film:

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All of the elements began with either digital paintings, or 3D animatics. Each color layer was isolated and printed out so that we had a guide of exactly where to cut.

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This is a comparison of one of the digital images and the final shot. In many instances, they are almost exact.

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Although originally a Viking story, we changed it to Norman after visiting Normandie on our honeymoon.

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When we first started cutting, we were using the same knives that we used for our Christmas cards, but it was very strenuous on our hands, and we switched to very fine nail scissors.

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These sheets of paper waiting to be cut are for the tentacles of the Kraken rising out of the water. That shot required over 1,000 individual pieces of paper.

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All of the coloring was done digitally. Some of the backgrounds were glued together as one image like this one, but most of the shots had each piece shot separately on green.

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Here are layers of shipwrecks and underwater rock formations.

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The skeletons had two layers, one for the highlights, and one for the shadows.

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Some animated elements were tiny enough to be shot in the same image. This is a bird flying loop, then a smaller bird doing that same loop, and then a flag flapping in the wind.

This was a completely new filmmaking experience for us. We have done stop-motion animation in the past, but the amount of manual labor involved with this project vastly exceeded that. It was a tremendous amount of work, but we’re very pleased with the end result.

You can watch the film below:


Cornish Hen with Morel Sauce and Potatoes au Gratin

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I have always loved French food, and on our recent honeymoon we were able to taste a fantastic variety of many of the nation’s dishes. For one of my favorite dinners we had cornish hen in a morel sauce and the best potatoes au gratin I had ever had. I knew I had to try to replicate the meal at home and am pleased with the results.

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For the cornish hen:

Ingredients: 1 whole cornish hen, 2 cups mushrooms (I decided to use a variety of mushrooms instead of just morels, but you can stick to morels if you would like),  1/4 cup flour, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon butter, 1/3 cup diced shallots, 2 garlic cloves, 1 cup dry white wine, 1 cup chicken stock, 1 cup heavy cream, salt and pepper to taste.

Instructions: cut the hen into eight separate pieces, sprinkle salt and pepper over hen. Lightly dredge the hen pieces with flour. In a non-stick pot (I use a dutch oven) heat the two tablespoons of olive oil. Add hen one piece at a time and cook about two minutes per side. Remove the chicken from pot and place on a paper lined plate. Add the butter to pot and let melt, add the shallots and garlic and cook until tender, about two minutes. Add the mushrooms, wine, chicken stock, salt and pepper to taste and let simmer for two minutes before adding the chicken pieces. Cover and let cook for about 20 minutes. Add the heavy cream and simmer for an additional five minutes.


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For the potatoes:

Ingredients: 4 large thinly sliced russet potatoes, 3 tablespoons butter, 3 tablespoons flour, 2 cups whole milk, 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, 1 tablespoon salt, 2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper.

Instructions: heat oven to 350F. In a saucepan melt the butter and then add the flour. Whisk flour and butter for a few seconds and slowly pour in milk, add salt and pepper and bring to a gentle boil, until thickened. Add in the cheese, and whisk until cheese is fully melted and incorporated. Layer bottom of an oven safe dish with potato slices, add a bit of the cheese sauce, top with a layer of potatoes, repeat process until you reach top of baking dish. Bake for about 40 minutes, until potatoes are tender and lightly crisp on the top layer.

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Enjoy with a glass of wine! Bon appétit!


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