Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Envelope pillows are easy and super fun to make

Man Candy and I redecorate our house basically once a week. It's only 500 square feet on a good day, so we get creative. Sometimes it turns out good, and sometimes we end up with a hole in our wall that we can see our neighbor through (sorry guy!).

I've been bitten by the sewing bug, which incidentally is absolutely the only bug I will tolerate. I bought a little brother sewing machine recently, and I've been stitching together mostly any fabric that isn't part of clothing, though that's gonna be fair game soon if I don't get to the fabric store again soon.

Anyway, I made some pillows. I had fabric, I had pillows I hated, and that's where these puppies came from. They're INSANELY easy to make, even I didn't screw them up. Try it out!

1. Measure pillow to make the cover for. Mine was 18x18.
2. Cut one piece of fabric 1 inch larger than the pillow in all directions. So mine was 20x20.
3. Cut a second piece of fabric the same width, but 7 inches longer than the first. Mine was 20x27.
4. Cut the longer piece of fabric in half. Mine were now 2x(20x14.5) and 20x20.
5. Hem the edge of the two shorter pieces where you cut it in half. That's all the hemming you'll be doing, yay!
6. Lay the larger square, good side up (the side you want to end up on the outside, that is), on top, lay the two smaller squares, good side down, lined up around the edges. They will overlap by, you got it, 7 inches.
7. Sew all the way around the edge of the square.
8. Turn inside out and marvel at your work. Clever girl.
9. Sew everything else in your house.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Engagement chicken? No thanks, I'm hitched.

I've been married for ALMOST two months now. It's been a fantastic last couple of months, and a definite learning experience for both of us. Ben is learning, again, that I am kind of a kitchen destroyer. I am learning not to trust him to handle getting us car insurance. It's a give and take kinda game :)

Man Candy and I are spending our Friday night relearning how to do food photography. You see, he's a physicist by training, but he's also a professional photographer (lucky me!!) and does all kinds of athletic photography, from artsy "look at how hot I am!!" to races to catalogs. But the problem is this : food isn't... so much mobile. It's not running past while you hurry to get the shot. It's just there. So it's kinda hard to take photos that are dynamic of something that's inherently not.

Unless it's a chicken. Which is where we come to tonight's absolutely ridiculously delicious roast chicken. Friday night in a jewish household typically means roast chicken in some incarnation. Now, we're by no stretch a typical jewish household; we love bacon almost as much as we love our cat, cherish our long Saturday drives, and don't go to temple very often. A good roast chicken can be almost transcendant.

I feel like Ms chicken died for our sins (or consuming, semantics), so we have to do right by her.

I came across the ludicrously titled "engagement chicken" about a year ago. I got engaged soon after but it's completely unrelated. I suppose if you never cooked, and then came out with this recipe, your man might be surprised into... something. I don't know. It's a pretty basic roast chicken with tons of lemon and whatever herbs I found flourishing outside in my garden today. You should try it, not because it will get you engaged, which it won't, but because it's damn tasty.

Engagement Chicken* - adapted from Glamour Magazine.
makes one chicken, of course

Gorgeous, right?? That's a photogenic chicken - and it's not even moving! Props to the Benji - good job baby

Ingredients :

  • 1 whole chicken
  • some lemons, I used 2 large ones
  • 1 large yellow onions
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Liberal applications of ground cumin 
  • Herbs (I used rosemary, sage, some parsley, and some oregano
  • Sliced potatoes, baby carrots, and perhaps other root veg if you have it around
  • 1 tsp arrowroot powder (ultimate thickener for sauce - try it if you haven't!)
Directions :

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash and dry chicken well. Salt and pepper liberally inside and out of the chicken. Take one lemon and squish it around on the counter to juice it up inside (it ends up steaming the chicken from inside). Using a knife or a fork, pierce the lemon many times and shove it in the business end of the chicken. Follow the lemon with half an onion and you're done with the inside.

Place the chicken breast side down in the pan.

Chop up your veg and spread around the chicken, give a good spray with cooking spray, and season well. Dice your herbs and rub over the chicken's skin on both sides. Finally, squeeze a second lemon over the chicken and throw the peels in the veg.

before beautification

Toss in the oven at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, then remove and reduce temp to 350. Turn the chicken over, so the breasts are up (hehe). Cook until a probe inserted into the thigh reaches 165 degrees.

While your lovely husband is convincing himself he knows how to carve a chicken (though he's really just mutilating the poor girl), heat the pan sauces in a sauce pot with a little bit of the arrowroot powder to thicken. 

Pour the gravy over your chicken to serve. Or directly into your mouth - I won't judge ;)

Happy Friday, everyone!

*results not guaranteed.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Rustic rosemary olive oil bread, or how I solved my crappy week :)

Do you ever have one of those weeks? You feel a little bit off-kilter, misguided, just not yourself?

Well, I had one of those last week. I finished a piece of a project, and I was SO excited. That is, until I realized I had no idea what to do next. And that's a pretty horrible feeling when all you want is to finish your PhD and get a doggie, like me!

On weeks like these, I self-medicate with carbs. For some reason, carbs help my psyche better than most anything else. I've been known to eat toast for dessert, even.

If I'm eating a lot of bread, you know I'm baking a lot of bread. I made a decision not too long ago to become a master bread maker (yeah - I was SUPER naive about that!), and it's been an uphill battle for me! But I'm glad to say I haven't bought a loaf of bread in... about 6 months now! I even baked all the bread for our wedding :)

I'll say it now and I'll say it again : there is NOTHING better than producing a loaf that looks gorge, and tastes better than your favorite bakery's. Ok, so maybe I'm overstating a bit with the taste, but it's damn close!

So here's my newest bread loaf love. It makes a totally delicious bread, and is super easy to do. No starters or poolish needed (I always end up with moldy starters, so I tend not to use them, but I'm going to try again soon much to my hubby's chagrin!).

Tip : to make a pretty top, after your loaves have risen, spritz with water and sift flour onto the loaf before cutting with a very sharp knife. You'll end up with a stunning bread!

Rosemary olive oil crusty bread
makes two loafs


  ● 2 cups warm tap water, about 110 degrees
  ● 1/4 cup olive oil
  ● 2 1/2 teaspoons (1 envelope) active dry yeast
  ● 3 cups all-purpose flour
  ● 2 cups whole wheat flour
  ● 1/3 cup fresh rosemary, chopped 
  ● 2 tsp. salt


To make the dough, sprinkle the yeast onto the warm water and allow to sit for a couple of minutes. Whisk to mix, and add olive oil. Don't worry about mixing that in, it won't work. I tried.

Add flours (reserve 0.5C of the white flour), salt, and rosemary into the bowl of a stand mixer (or just a big bowl if kneading by hand) fitted with dough hook. Start mixer on low. Slowly add in the liquids, and once they are all in, turn off mixer and allow the dough to sit for a few minutes. This allows the flour to absorb the water and become hydrated. It allows you to be able to decide if it needs more water if too dry, or more flour (hence the reserved half cup - but don't add it too quickly! one Tbsp at a time is the best) if too wet.

Turn on the mixer and knead dough for 5 minutes, until smooth and springy. Put in a greased bowl covered with plastic wrap or proofing container (read : large tupperware with vertical sides) and turn to oil the top. Allow to rise at room temperature until doubled.

Turn out dough onto lightly floured, punch down, and cut in half. Form half of the dough into a ball, stretching taut and form a little outie belly button on the bottom. You should have a very smooth ball other than the bump on the bottom. Let sit for 5 minutes to rest while you work on the other half.

Work the ball of dough outward, rolling under hands, until you have formed a loaf. Taper at the ends. Dust top with a little flour and cover with a towel. Rise until doubled again (don't worry - the second time is always quicker!). 

About half an hour after shaping your loaves, preheat your oven to 500 degrees. I use a baking stone, or a set of baking tiles, but this would work well with a baking sheet with parchment paper as well. Just make sure if you use a baking sheet, you have a couple more sheets underneath so your bottom doesn't burn! Allow the oven to heat up for at least half an hour.

Once your beautiful loaves are doubled, spritz with water and sift flour on top before cutting 3-4 slices across the top with a super sharp knife (or a razor you stole from your husband, as is often the case with me!). Carefully lift the loaves, one at a time, and place on preheated surface in the oven. Spray the inside of the oven well with water, and toss in a hand full of ice cubes to aid in crust formation. Turn your heat down to 450 and bake for 20 minutes.

Peak at your beautiful loaves as you add some more ice cubes, and turn heat down to 350 for another 20 minutes, or until the top sounds hollow when you tap it.

People always say to let the loaf cool, because you risk having it collapse when the steam escapes, but I always risk it. There's literally nothing better in the world when you're having a crappy week than topping your steaming hot bread slice with butter.

I say go for it :)