Monthly Archives: July 2012

Leek tart


Let’s get back to some food blogging, shall we? This spring and summer, we’ve received a lot of leeks from our CSA. I absolutely love it when we get leeks because they’re so versatile (and usually expensive at the grocery store). I use them in smooth soups often, but lately I’ve been into leek tarts. They are very quick and easy to make, but look fancy. You can make the components ahead of time and assemble and bake at the last minute, making this a perfect party food. I’ve even gotten the stamp of approval from an 8 year old boy- the ultimate taste tester. 

Leek tart recipe:

Ingredients for 1 Leek Tart:
– White and light green part from 3 leeks
– 4 tablespoons of butter
– Salt & pepper to taste
– 1 sheet of puff pastry dough 
Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Thinly slice the leeks and wash them well. Make sure to separate the layers of leek as much as you can with your hands so that all the dirt washes out. Strain water out with a sieve.
2. Heat a heavy-bottomed pan (I use cast iron) to medium-low heat. Melt the butter and add the leeks. The most important thing about making this tart is to allow the leeks to cook very slowly. Leeks, like onions and garlic, are notorious for burning easily and you need to make sure to prevent this from happening. They should slowly “melt” so keep the heat fairly low and be patient. Stir often. 
3. While the leeks are cooking, remove your sheet up puff pastry dough from the freezer. Butter a tart pan and when the dough is defrosted enough (but not too soft), roll it out so that it’s just slightly thinner than how it comes in the package. I use a tart pan like this one, so once I get the dough in and molded to the sides, I just use the metal edge to cut the dough off. 
4. Season the leeks with salt and pepper to your taste. You can also add some dried rosemary (chopped) or dried thyme if you’d like. Once they are soft, put them in your prepared tart pan and spread them evenly. 

5. Bake in the middle of the oven for about 30 minutes. I start checking after 25. The tart is ready when the puff pastry dough is golden. Allow the tart to cool a little bit before removing it from the tart pan. This is nice served with a salad for lunch, or as part of a buffet at a party. Enjoy!

Pruning lavender

This spring, I planted 4 lavender plants in the section between the sidewalk and the street in front of our house. That space used to be covered with concrete, but a tree root had grown too big and pushed up the concrete both in this space and in the sidewalk. The city came out to fix it for us and gave us the choice as to whether we wanted them to put new concrete in the middle space or leave it filled with dirt so that we could plant something. We thought planting something would be prettier, so we chose that. But we ended up keeping the space empty for several months before getting our act together. We like to take things slowly with outdoor renovations (or any renovations, really) because we’d rather get things right the first time. 
So we decided to put lavender there, and my neighbor mentioned that they were selling French lavender at our local nursery. Perfect! So finally, before our trip to France, I cleaned out as many rocks as I could from the space, dug some holes and planted 4 lavender plants. They thrived there (thanks to our neighbor who watered the plants for us while we were gone!). 
Mid-late summer is about the time to prune lavender back, though. This is to avoid the plant from getting tough and woody. According to my gardening books, it’s most important to prune the lavender in the first three years of it’s life. If you don’t, the plant wont survive future pruning well and new growth will have trouble developing on the old wood. 
I had never pruned lavender before, though, so I consulted my good friend Google. I found an awesome video by a lavender farmer in Oregon who walked me through how to prune a lavender plant in it’s first, second and third year. She was so awesome that I’m going to embed the video here for any interested parties (note: this is not me, nor was it created by me. It was created by Sarah at http://www.lavenderatstonegate.com/  If you’re interested in lavender, check out her website. It’s very informative.)

Unfortunately, I didn’t get any “before” pictures of the lavender plants. Too bad because they were really beautiful. It’s tough to see that go, but according to Sarah (above), a correctly pruned lavender plant can last for 20 years, whereas an unpruned plant will need to be replaced much more often. Tough love, lavender.

Lavender after:

Along with a curious little boy who grabbed his walker and toddled over to the door one morning in his PJs. It’s becoming a summer morning tradition, and I don’t mind one bit. 
The benefit of pruning your lavender is having your hands and house smell amazing! We now have several bouquets hanging to dry in our pantry, along with a beautiful bouquet in a vase on the table. I really need to plant more flowers in our garden for making bouquets. 

The making of a rainbow cake

It’s been about 3 weeks since little man’s 1st birthday party, so I figure it’s high time I write a post about the rainbow birthday cake I made for it. It was quite an endeavor and, in my opinion, deserves it’s own post, so here goes!
I originally got the idea from this pin on pinterest. I’m pretty sure the pin, though, links to the recipe on Martha Stewart, but the original recipe comes from Whisk Kid. I wont copy the recipe here, since you can just get it from Whisk Kid, but I’ll take you through the process with pictures.
First, I made the batter. Separated it into 6 bowls and mixed food coloring in. I used Wilton gel food coloring that I bought in a set at Jo-Anns. Using the gel is essential because it’s more concentrated than the food coloring drops you can buy at the grocery store.
I was lucky enough to borrow 5 9-inch cake pans from my awesome friend. That allowed me to only have to bake the 6 layers in two batches. It was a huge time saver. Here are the 5 cake pans, lined with parchment paper and ready to go.
All the colors of the rainbow, minus purple, waiting to be baked. 
5 of the 6 cakes just after coming out of the oven. Cooling a bit before going onto cooling racks.
All of the colors of the rainbow. Once they had cooled completely, I wrapped each layer in plastic wrap, stacked them up and then wrapped the whole thing in plastic wrap. I made the cakes on Thursday night and didn’t want to ice it until Friday, since the party was on Saturday. I kept the wrapped up cake layers in the fridge until I was ready to ice. 
The next day my friend and her daughter came over to play with little man while I made the frosting and frosted the cake. I made Whisk Kid’s Swiss Meringue recipe, which, by the way, uses a TON of butter. But you have to consider that this is a 6 layer cake. It takes a lot of frosting to go between each layer. This picture is from partway through the icing process.

Party day!
Friends suggested I go into the rainbow-cake-making business next June for SF Pride. Maybe by then I’ll be up for making another rainbow cake.   

Drip pan magnet board

Pinterest, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I’ve gotten so many great ideas from pinterest. We kind of had a love-hate relationship going on while I was planning little man’s birthday party. There are just too many great ideas and I wanted to do them ALL. I did manage to do many of them, and then asked my friend to kindly slap me if I decided to attempt so many pins again next year.

Now that I’ve had a few weeks to recover from the party, pinterest and I are back on speaking terms. There are so many more pins to complete on my list!

When I came across this pin, I knew there would be a drip pan magnet board in our future. We have a stainless steel refrigerator, which means it’s not magnetized. Same thing with our dishwasher. I thought it was too bad that little man wouldn’t be able to play with letter magnets, but figured he would overcome this first world problem and learn his letters anyway. Well, now he’ll be able to play with letter magnets (and other magnets) galore.

The drip pan pin links to a blog post on Nic and Kate. The blog post pictures an alphabet board on a drip pan, which is a really cool idea for doing matching games with magnetic letters. But, my little guy is not quite to alphabet matching yet, so I figured we’d just leave those off and use the drip pan alone. 

We bought the drip pan at Auto Zone for about $10. We took it outside to give it a good scrub and rinse before mounting it because it was a bit greasy. Not as greasy as I expected after reading Nic & Kate, but greasy enough for a good cleaning. Trevor used 3M adhesive strips to mount the drip pan to the back of our counter without putting any holes in the drip pan (or the wood). He used about 8 strips to make sure it was secure. 

Here it is mounted and ready for play!

A friend’s 2.5 year old daughter, also having fun with the magnets. I was so glad to see little man will be able to grow with this! We eventually want to get the leap frog alphabet letters for him, but for now he’s loving the leap frog farm animals he got from a friend for his birthday.

"Waldorf" Dress- My first home sewn dress!

No no, it’s not for little man. And no, I’m not pregnant. We have some good friends from college who’s sweet little girl was born just 2 months after our kiddo. They recently moved near us (yipee!), so our littles have become good buddies these last few months. Much to her daddy’s dismay, they love to give each other big open-mouthed baby kisses whenever they see each other with absolutely no prompting from their mommas.
Anyway, back when we went to Paris, my mom introduced me to the fabric district. Needless to say, I fell totally in love. In this neighborhood, fabric stores are like Starbucks in Seattle. If you’re standing at the door of one store, you can see at least 4 other fabric stores. Amazing.
I found the fabric for this dress there, and immediately knew I would use it to make a dress for our friend’s daughter’s birthday. I’d never made a dress before, but doggonit, I would make one for this occasion. I found this adorable pattern on Etsy from 5Berries, confirmed that just over a yard of fabric would suffice to make the dress, and set out to work. It took me about 4 nights of sewing to finish it, but I am pretty darn proud of it. The pattern was very detailed and included instructions for how to make French seams (which I had never done before), and how to gather (which I had also never done before). I learned so much from making this dress. Maybe next time, it will only take me 3 nights!
I ended up giving little man’s friend her new dress about 6 weeks early because I was too excited to let it sit in my closet for that long just waiting for her birthday. Happy Birthday baby girl!

Garage sale score!

Just one post ago, I referenced my ongoing search for the perfect mid-century modern piece of furniture to refinish. We’ve been combing craigslist ads for years, literally, hoping to snag the perfect dresser or credenza to purchase as a refinishing project. The only problem with craigslist is that there are so many posts in the furniture section around here that you can spend an eternity looking through posts, even if you narrow down to “dressers.”

What we’re looking for is pretty specific. Clean lines, tapered legs, ideally from the 60s. The problem is, if you search for “mid-century modern” on craigslist, you’re only going to get posts by people who know what they have, and who are trying to get top dollar for it. Well, we’re not interested in paying $200 for a dresser that needs to be refinished, so all my searches have come up empty.
Until last weekend! We met some friends for coffee on Saturday morning. On our way home to put our very tired baby down for a nap, I spotted what seemed to be just what we’d been looking for at a garage sale. I was convinced that it was already sold it was just there waiting to be picked up. Just in case it was still available, I *might have* pulled an illegal U-turn to get to it faster.
Anyway, I parked, walked up, asked if it was still available. Sure enough it was! Asked how much he wanted for it (fully expecting at least 50 bucks). Nope. He wanted 10 dollars. TEN DOLLARS! Then I had a sinking feeling because I remembered that I only had $2 in my wallet. No!! Hubby came to the rescue, though. Phew.
I didn’t even haggle with the guy. I was too giddy. I happily paid the man, asked if we could come back to pick it up within 30 minutes. He agreed, and we were on our way. Then my handsome went back to pick it up while I put the little guy down for a nap.
Here’s a teaser “before” picture for you. It will be a lot of work, but I’m really hoping I can pull it off and end up with a nice piece for our living room!

DIY Repainted Thrifted Mirror

Ever since we moved into our new house, a year and a half ago, we’ve had plans to put a mirror (and hopefully some sort of tall and narrow piece of furniture) in our front entryway. We hadn’t gotten around to finding something, and when we did look at places like Crate and Barrel for a mirror, they were too expensive and we gave up.
Then, the day after little man and I returned home from France, some very dear friends of ours were moving out of state (sad face), so we went out for breakfast with them to say goodbye. The place where we had breakfast shares a parking lot with a Goodwill (which according to my now-moved-out-of-state friend, is a great Goodwill). So in an effort to keep little man’s jet-lagged self awake longer, we decided to wander through the Goodwill. Unfortunately, we did not find the ever elusive mid-century modern dresser that we’re constantly on the look out for. We did, however, find a mirror that was the perfect size for our entryway. It was pretty banged up and the colors were (in our humble opinions) ugly. But those things are easily remedied, and it was (relatively) cheap at $13. We have plenty of leftover paint from when we completely repainted our house last year. So, we decided to paint the frame of this mirror white, to contrast with our blue entryway wall.
Of course, I forgot to take a true “before” picture. This is after I had already puttied and sanded the holes, and started taping it off.
I decided to try keeping the gold inner trim on the mirror to juxtapose the modern white with a vintagey (is that even a word?) antique gold.

Fast forward about a week, and it’s done! I first painted it in an eggshell finish. Then I decided that it would be weird to have the same finish on the mirror as the wall. So I repainted it in a semi-gloss paint of the same color. Luckily for us, we already had both the eggshell and semi-gloss paint in Super White on hand.

Having the mirror there adds so much more light to the entryway. We love it!