Archive | November, 2010

Quick Tip #4

30 Nov

Here’s a couple of eco-friendly, practical craft projects:

– Make a grocery bag out of an old t-shirt, from the Between the Lines blog.

– Two ways to reuse you sad, old bath puffs, from Salihan Crafts blog


Last of the Summer Pizza

29 Nov

I know Thanksgiving is over, but this is Savannah, and next to the squash and greens, we still have some summer veggies at the Forsyth Farmer’s Market. Kyle is leaving for his job abroad in a few hours, so last night I made him his favorite food, pizza.

The inspiration for this recipe came from white pizza. But I usually find white pizza to be a little boring without some kind of fabulous cheese or super ripe, juicy tomatoes. So this is the recipe I developed: Homemade pizza dough topped with a roasted eggplant puree, mozzarella, carmelized onions, red peppers, and parmesan cheese.

To start, cube up one large or two medium eggplants (more if you are using the small Japanese eggplants). Toss these with lots of balsamic and red wine vinegar, so there is a thin pool in the bottom of your oven-safe baking dish. Sprinkle on olive oil, oregano, rosemary, pepper, and lots of salt. The salt is necessary to draw moisture out of the eggplant. Trust me- forget the salt and you will just have withered, dried eggplant.

Raw eggplant, cubed and seasoned, is ready for the oven

While the eggplant roasts in an 400 degree oven, begin the dough. I developed this pizza dough to have a healthier crust with less white flour. The recipe originally was found in Vogue magazine (love Jeffery Steingarten’s articles). The recipe was from Otto, one of Mario Battali’s restaurants, but it  has been transformed so it is nearly unrecognizable from the original.

Warm up a 12 ounces of beer and add two packets of yeast, a tablespoon of honey, a tablespoon of olive oil, and a tablespoon or two of gluten. Stir in 2 cups of white flour and two cups of whole wheat flour. I like King Arthur’s white whole wheat- it is truly worth the extra dollar or two. Knead the dough for approximately 5 minutes, or until your frustrations are lessened. Divide the dough in two and oil the outside to prevent a crust from forming. Place each on a plate and let them rise at room temperature until doubled in size, or until the eggplant is finished roasting.

caramelized onions and bell pepper

Next chop onion and bell pepper. I like red peppers with this recipe, but they weren’t available this week at the market. Let the onions start to caramelize then add the pepper. How long you sauté the onion and pepper entirely depends on your taste. I like to start them after I finish the dough and let them slowly cook until it is time to assemble. You might not want to cook them at all.

Once the eggplant mixture is throughly roasted and very soft, it will look like this:

roasted eggplant

Carefully put the very hot roasted eggplant into the food processor with enough water to make the processor work. You are essentially making the Middle Eastern spread, babaganoush without the tahini. Blend until smooth.

If you are using a pizza stone, spread cornmeal on your peel (the huge, flat wooden spatula used to transfer the pizza into the oven). Spread one of the pizza doughs on the cornmeal and top with pureed eggplant, mozzarella, onions and peppers, parmesan cheese, and even sliced ripe tomatoes if you have them. I added kalamata olives to my half this time- it was a great addition. Bake in a preheated 450 degree oven for 13 minutes.

The finished pizza!

Let the pizza cool for a few minutes. I usually let the pizza sit while I bake the second pizza. Once the second pizza is done, the first is easily cut and won’t fall apart or burn tongues. Figure on one of these pizzas feeding two hungry adults.

closeup of eggplant pizza

One final caveat- this is not a recipe for fresh mozzarella. Use the cheap, supermarket brand. The fresh mozzarella has too much moisture, and as you can see in the picture, the cheese has overflowed the stone.


Ultimate Thanksgiving Day Pie

22 Nov

Pumpkin pie? Apple pie? Can’t decide? This is the pie for you. The Ultimate Thanksgiving Day Pie is a layer of apple pie topped with a layer of pumpkin pie. I made this pie for our “bonus Thanksgiving”, held this Sunday with friends before we all disperse to have Thursday Thanksgiving with our families.  I really wish I could remember from where the original recipe came.  A call to Mom didn’t shake loose an answer either. So this is my version, complete with freestyle fashion guesswork.


Apples and Butternut Squash ready for slaughter


First, I made the pie dough. I use an all-butter crust from one of the last issues of Gourmet magazine. While that was chilling in the fridge, I roasted the organic baby butternut squash. I was very excited because they were much easier to cut than the pumpkins I had been using all fall. Unfortunately, they were much more difficult to scoop the flesh out of because the skin was so thin. Note to self: next time peel the squash.

While the squash roasted and cooled, I peeled and sliced the apples, tossing them with brown sugar, cinnamon, and a generous amount of dark rum.

Roasted butternut squash cooling on the window sill.

After removing the flesh from the skin of the squash, I put about two cups of squash in the blender with about 3/4 of a cup of brown sugar, four small eggs, one and a half cups of skim milk, a dollop of molasses, and lots of pie spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves). Once the squash mixture was pureed, the pies were ready to assemble.


Buttery pie shells waiting for filling.



I slid the macerated apple slices into the pie shells, filling them a little more than halfway full. I still had leftover filling that I set aside. I poured the pumpkin mixture onto the apples filling the pie shells completely. The pies went into a 450 degree oven for 10 minutes then baked for approximately 50 more minutes at 300 degrees. I also made a mini pie with the leftover pastry scraps and apple filling.


Apple slices macerating in brown sugar and dark rum


Before starting, I consulted two baking books, The Fanny Farmer Baking Book and Shirley Corriher’s Bakewise. They both suggested cream or evaporated milk rather than skim milk for the pumpkin filling. While the skim milk worked perfectly fine, next time I will cut back on the amount. One and a half cups was too much and probably caused the long baking time. Otherwise, simply taste the filling as you go and adjust if necessary. Enjoy!




The Ultimate Thanksgiving Pie: apple-pumpkin pie




Environmentally Friendly Swiffer Socks: Knit and Crochet

20 Nov

My mom told me about a pattern to knit environmentally friendly swiffer covers. The covers work exactly like the paper, commercially available pads but can be thrown in the washing machine after each use.  But then she couldn’t find the pattern again. A few days ago, I came across a crochet version, and sent it to Mom. She sent back a knit pattern which had appeared in the meantime.

The crochet version is on Craftstylish. The knit pattern is available on Skull Charms blog. I haven’t personally tried either, but they both seem to be well-written and charming. I’d love to hear if anyone tries these!

Seashell windchime

17 Nov
Handmade seashell windchime

Handmade seashell windchime

I don’t have a garden for a windchime. I do have a small “container garden” of herbs and a chilli pepper plant. Although even garden in that sense is probably a stretch.  I made this windchime hoping to put it in a garden someday. It did “ring” in my last apartment when the AC vent blew air thorough the shells.

To make your own, all you need is shells, string, and a drill with a tile bit. First I chose my shells for the top ring and figured out how I they best fit together. These are actually partial shells (probably scallop).  I drilled nine holes in the top shells so I could thread the hanging strings and space them evenly. Also drill holes at the edge of the shells destined to hang from the strings. It is very important to use a tile bit when drilling through shell so you don’t ruin your good bits (or worse). I like to put a thick magazine under the shell I am drilling (good use the September Vogue). Watch your fingers!!!! The drill slips easily on the slick shells.

Next, I glued the top shells together two at a time, making sure to arrange the holes so they were equidistant and roughly at the same elevation. It is best to glue two at a time and wait for the glue to dry before attempting to glue again.

Top ring of shells that supports the hanging strings of shells

While waiting for the glue to dry, take your string or yarn of choice, (I used hemp) and start a simple crochet chain by making a loop, pulling the tail through the loop slightly to make another loop and repeating. I am not a crocheter (crochetess?), so this is definitely the place to expand this idea and make it prettier. Every inch or three, string one the shells and continue crocheting.

Once the full loop is finishing drying, tie the crocheted strings of shell to the holes in the top ring. Finish by crocheting two more strings and running them under the bottom of the ring at right angles.  Bring them to the top of the windchime and use them to support the weight of the windchime. Balance the ring and tie the ends together in a loop for hanging.

Hang in your favorite garden or porch!

Crocheted hemp strings with seashells

closeup of the crocheted strings with shells


17 Nov
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Quick Tip #3

16 Nov

Craft Site Directory is a great resource for finding information on all types of craft. The site is ridiculously easy to navigate, just click on the subject of your choice on the right hand menu. Links to useful sites are displayed on the left. Easy.

Quick Tip #2

14 Nov

Instead of a button, use a seashell to close a purse or sweater.

Chocolate brown purse with shell closure Close-up of shell closure on purse

Close-up of shell closure on purse


 Purse is available for purchase here.

Photo Wall: Memories of Travel

14 Nov

As an archaeologist, I am always looking for cheap ways to craft better. Purchasing art for my walls was never an option, but now with digital cameras cheaper than ever, and many online print options that will print in larger sizes, making your own art is easier than ever. Whether family members, your favorite park, or your last vacation, printing and framing your photos is simple and cheap.

 I love to scour thrift stores whenever I have the chance. I pick up photo frames for a dollar or two. They are small enough to store until I need them. Incidentally, this is also a great way to pickup craft supplies. Vintage yarn, random zippers, buttons, beads… it can all be found. But you have to be willing to pick up what is there at the time. You will rarely ever find exactly what you are looking for. Fortunately, this is classic freestyle fashion, crafting with what you find. This is also a wonderfully eco-friendly way to craft. Reuse is the best kind of recycling.

Photo Collage of the Abbazio San Galgano

This is my photo collage of the Abbazio San Galgano in Tuscany. I took these photos in 2006 with a basic point and shoot digital camera and had them printed by an online photo service. I put the photos in frames from local thrift shops and hung them from nails. No fancy photo hooks needed. Several of the frames had cardboard stands with metal hinges for placing photos on tables. These can be removed moderately easily with the claw end of a hammer. Be careful not to break the glass! I attempted to match photos with frames that complimented them. Be creative in swarming the photos or creating a geometric pattern with the frames. Then enjoy your memories!

Outside the ruined Abbazio San Galgano

Door at the ruined Abbazio San Galgano 



Not the Food Network

12 Nov

Today I saw a preview for a relatively new PBS TV show, “Nourish”. Apparently, it has been running since October. Of course, its not available here in Savannah. The article and preview are posted on the great environmental news site, Grist. The article was not super informative, but the show seems to have interviews with the usual food suspects (Michael Pollan, Anna Lappé, and Jamie Oliver) and will discuss food, sustainability, and creativity. The show’s website lists the stations that are running the show by city and has clips, but not whole shows, available for streaming.

I adore “Gourmet’s Diary of a Foodie“, a collaboration between public television and the late, lamented Gourmet Magazine.  Episodes travel the world following foodies on their particular obsession. The cinematography is lush, the people are engaging, and the stories make you want to bite into your computer (in a good way). Each full episode is available on iTunes or in streaming video on their website.

Since the Food Network has turned to the same “reality TV” competition shows as the rest of the networks, I was delighted to find we get the new Cooking Channel. It has all of the great educational, informative shows that the Food Network had 10 years ago, plus new shows that cover cuisines from around the world (for example Luke’s Vietnam). And they run old classics from Julia Child and the Two Fat Ladies.

Bon Appetité!

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