Recent Cooking Experiments

I’ve been having a bit of fun in the kitchen lately, and thought I’d share a couple of the resulting meals. Inspiration came from friends Jess and Joanna, respectively.  Please check out their blogs for other fun miscellany!

On Thursday evening I decided I needed to use some tomatoes from my mom’s garden immediately, as they were perfectly ripe.  I remembered Jess’ Doublemint Dinners post on tomatoes and replicated the dish from memory.  Here’s the gist:

 

 

Turn tomato upside down and make slices most of the way through.  Insert thin slices of cucumber into every other cut in the tomato.  Sprinkle salt and pepper on top, and put in the oven at 350°F for about 15 minutes.  Remove from oven, put slices of Havarti cheese in remaining cuts in the tomato, and put back in the oven just until melted.

 

 

Serve with grilled steaks, goat cheese-stuffed squash blossoms (dipped in backyard fresh eggs and rolled in Panko), and a margarita on the rocks with salt.  (Next time, I’ll also try the recipe Jess posted for what looks to be an incredible margarita!)

 

 

My other noteworthy culinary experiment from the past week utilized my new musubi press.  Joanna made some surprisingly delicious Spam musubi while we were at her family’s beach house at the beginning of the summer, so I had to try out the process myself.  I got a press that was twice as long and half the width / height as Joanna’s (whose was designed to perfectly accommodate a slice of Spam) and I am glad I got this smaller, longer model: the resulting “sushi” is more bite-sized.

I made not only the traditional Spam musubi, but also “sushi” with smoked salmon, cream cheese, and avocado, as well as some made with smoked oysters and cucumber.  By the end of the night, I ended up making a batch of delicious musubi with all the leftovers from the evening.  All varieties had a generous sprinkle of furikake on top, and were enjoyed with soy sauce.  (I have already picked up wasabi powder, pickled ginger slices, and rice wine to up the ante for future sushi dinners!)  The musubi press is a super-simple method for creating sushi, and I got mine from Amazon.

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PMC Final Crit

Here’s 95% of my PMC jewelry, set up for our final critique on Monday.  (2 pieces were still in the tumbler getting shiny and beautiful at the time of these photos.)

Many of the pendants I made had jump rings or double wire wrapped loops to enable me to hook the chain to the front… I outfitted 2 chains with little wire wrapped “bra-type” hooks I made so that there is no closure to try to work blindly at the back of your neck, and nothing back there to eventually rotate around to the front.

At the time of this picture, I had not yet dipped the knitted earrings into liver of sulfer, so they’re still bright and shiny, but I have since treated them and now it’s a lovely matching set.

 

This piece was inspired by a photograph by Karl Blossfeldt, and is strung up with rutilated quartz and neat little peanut-shaped beads that fit together in an interesting manner.  I still need to get a yo-yo or channel bead on which to attach the pendant so it sits nicely and looks more professional.

 

 

The pendant was inspired by this photograph, and was created using bronze wire mesh that I accordion folded and coated with 30+ layers of PMC silver slip.  After I was satisfied with the thickness, I added the leaf and vine / bail portions with PMC silver clay.

 

This is my sage leaf set, which I know I will wear a lot.  I created a Sculpey clay mold with a sage leaf from my deck rail planters herb garden and used it over and over to make the silver beads and pendant.  There are also 2 matching rings in the next picture.  I am especially proud of the bracelet, because I tried at least 3 wire wrapping and jump ring hinge methods before finding one that I liked, that kept the bracelet lying flat on my wrist (instead of flipping to the back), and did not detract from the leaves.

 

I had a great time (and quite a challenge) with these rings, partly because I never wear wore rings and wanted something comfortable and not huge.  From top to bottom: super thin sage ring, ring with a ruby earring embedded in it (and yes, that’s my fingerprint in the disc of clay, and yes, I put it there intentionally), super narrow sage ring, wide thin ring with lino-cut swirls I designed and cut, and knot ring with a diamond earring embedded in it.  I especially love the last one, partly because it has a diamond, but mostly because of how I made it.  It was my first experiment with making a ring from a coil of clay (instead of rolling it out to an even thickness) and it’s super comfortable.  Also, later in the class I played with hiding the join on the rings (like I did first with the ruby ring).  Instead of the join being on the underside of your finger, where it can eventually rotate around to the front, with the gemstone rings I was able to hide the join under or around the stone, so the back looks just as good as the front.

I’ll definitely be doing some more PMC jewelry in the future, as funds allow me to purchase more clay!

Summer PMC Jewelry Class

My third school year as a teacher has ended and I’m enjoying my summer so far!  It hasn’t really seemed like summer, though, because (after a long weekend trip to Ocean City the day after the teacher workday) I’ve been taking an all-day summer class through VCU at one of the county high schools.  The class has been incredible, but I always come home counting the hours till bed time!  Monday will be our last class, so I’ll commence relaxing, weeding in my garden, and knitting soon enough.

 

PMC stands for precious metal clay, and it’s a clay-like material made of microscopic precious metal dust (in my case, silver) and an organic binder (the instructor believes it to be rice flour) and water.  It can be molded just as you would normal ceramic clay, but when it is fired (at between 1100-1600° F for between 30 minutes and 2 hours) the organic binder burns out, the “clay” shrinks by 12-15%, and you’re left with solid silver.  When the pieces come out of the kiln, they’re white and chalky looking but a quick run through a tumbler produces a gorgeous high-shine polish.  We’ve also used a chemical called liver of sulfer to add a patina to certain pieces.  The effect can range from copper and gold to green, gray, and almost black.  Then, if you toss the piece back in the tumbler, the raised portions of the piece get shined back up, leaving the patina on the rest.

 

The pictures show most of the pieces I’ve been working on so far, in various stages of completion.  I still have some of the (super-expensive) clay left, so I’ll make a few more things to use it up before Monday’s critique.  I used Sculpey clay to make molds of various textures I wanted to use in my work, my favorite of which include a sage leaf and some knits.  I also used some EZ-Carv linoleum to make some tiny swirls to impress into a ring, with another planned.  I used some single earrings (for which I’d lost the mates) to add gemstones to a few of my pieces.  I also painted layers of PMC slip over brass mesh to enable crisp folds in one piece.

 

During the class we had a lampwork bead artist come in and do a demo before allowing us to purchase some of her beautiful beads, as well as an enamel artist who did a demo before we got to do some enameling ourselves!  I went a little overboard on the blue knit piece.

 

A New Terrarium

Spring Gardening

Since I haven’t posted an update lately, I thought it was time to show off some of the gardening pictures I’ve accumulated so far this spring.  Most of them are from within the last week.

What to knit?

I have been ordering more decadent yarns lately from Webs and yesterday my 5 skeins of  backordered Madelinetosh Tosh Vintage in the fig colorway arrived.  Since it’s a pricier yarn than I’m used to using, I’m agonizing over the pattern choice.  I know I want a cardigan that would be useful for layering and frequent wear, but interesting enough to make it a unique part of my wardrobe.

Here’s the yarn:

Here are the contenders:

Which do you prefer?

Mostly Meatless Minestrone

This was an impromptu dinner creation that turned out awesome!

 

Mostly Meatless Minestrone

2 c broth (I used chicken… use vegetable and it will be meatless!)

3 c water

1/2 onion, chopped

1/2 small head of green cabbage, coarsely chopped

2 carrots, coarsely chopped

1/2 celery heart, coarsely chopped

1 T no-salt seasoning

1/4 t pepper

1 can tomato sauce

1 c pasta of choice (I used Tinkyada spirals)

 

Add all ingredients except tomato sauce and pasta to a medium pot.  Once the vegetables are tender, add sauce and pasta.  Simmer on medium low until pasta is ready.  Serve with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese on top.

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