Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Butternut Squash Soup

Butternut Squash Soup

With its sweet, earthy taste, butternut squash soup is a favorite for Thanksgiving. You can also prepare the soup in a slow cooker, which helps to deepen and meld the flavors.

1 Tbs. unsalted butter
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
4 cups butternut squash puree*
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and
 thinly sliced, I've also used applesauce in a pinch
1 can (14.5 oz) chicken broth
2 small bay leaves
1 tsp. salt, plus more, to taste
1/2 cup cream or milk
1/4 tsp. ground coriander (optional)
1/4 tsp. grated peeled fresh ginger (optional)
8 baguette slices, each 1/2 inch thick,
 lightly brushed with olive oil and toasted
 until golden brown
Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Peel and cube one large or two medium sized squash. Combine squash and 1 cup broth in a microwave safe bowl and cook on high for 20 minutes. Puree squash in a blender.
In a dutch oven over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion and cook until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the squash puree, apple, remaining broth, bay leaves and the 1 tsp. salt to the and stir to combine. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove the bay leaves and discard. Add the cream/milk. Using a stick blender/mixer, puree the soup directly until smooth. Stir in the coriander and ginger. Ladle the soup into warmed soup bowls, garnish each with a toasted baguette slice, and season the slices with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Serves 8.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Personalized Stationery

I was putting together thank you notes for Tater's birthday. I wanted him to contribute in some way to express appreciation to his friends for coming to his party. I had him make some crayon and marker drawings telling him this was his thank-you note to his friends. I then cut out rectangles of his drawings and mounted them on card stock stationary. I used spray fixative, but you could use double-sided tape or rubber cement. I bought a pack of blank white stationery at the craft store for $5.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Pumpkins: Mama's got a brand new (paper)bag

My boys like crafts insofar as they enjoy the sensation of squeezing paint through their fingers and seeing how many times they can cover their shirts with stamp prints before I stop them. This project managed to hold Tater's attention for a little while.

paper bag
craft paint (brown and orange) Tater used washable paint
chenille rods (green)

Fill paper bags with newspaper to create a rounded form. Twist the top to form a stem. Paint the the bag orange on the bottom and the stem brown. Let dry. Tie a green chenille rod around the base of the pumpkin stem for a vine.

You could also make an apple for a back to school project.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Nursing Covers

Another ridiculously overpriced yet seemingly "essential" baby item is the nursing cover. I breast fed both boys for a year each, but I'm not one of those these-are-my-breasts-deal-with-it women when it comes to breast feeding in public. Nursing covers like these provide needed privacy and convenience, but $36 and up is steep. I made a couple, but I ended up using the eyelet the most, since I needed a more breathable fabric. I made mine 24 x 36" with boning about 13" long. With fabric, boning, D rings and thread, I think I spent about $10 for two covers. Here's an easy tutorial.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Halloween Me

This is my Halloween centerpiece for our dining table. I don't use the tray much. I'm going to switch out the giant spiders with gourds and nuts for Thanksgiving or maybe make some pom-pom turkeys. I already had the spiderweb tulle. I glued four chenille rods onto a clothes pin. Once dry, I glued two giant pom-poms on a clothes pin. I added google eyes and bent the legs. Don't know how that red fuzz got on the one in front. Spooky.

This is on my mantle. Pumpkins were a big theme this year at our house. Used the foam pumpkin shapes and cut paper to size of vase. This is also something that can be stored easily and reused.

Baked Rigatoni with Sausage & Broccoli

Made this last night. I make this about once every couple of months, more in the wintertime. Yum

Baked Rigatoni with Sausage & Broccoli
1 1/2 lb. Italian sausage, halved and cut
into 1/2-inch-thick slices
2 bunches broccoli, cut
into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup dry white wine
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup olive oil
½ onion, thinly sliced
3 fresh thyme sprigs
1/2 lb. rigatoni, cooked until al dente
1 cup ricotta or cottage cheese
Pinch of red chili flakes
2 oz. Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated

Preheat an oven to 400°F.

In a sauté pan over medium heat, brown the sausage for 2 to 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a large bowl. Add the broccoli to the pan and cook until tender, 6 to 8 minutes, adding the wine after 3 minutes. Season with salt, then add the broccoli and cooking liquid to the bowl with the sausage.

In the same pan over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the onions and thyme, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are very soft and caramelized, about 15 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to the bowl with the sausage and broccoli rabe; reserve the oil. Add the pasta and garlic to the bowl and season with salt and pepper.

Spoon half of the pasta mixture into a 3-quart baking dish and dot with half of the ricotta. Top with the remaining pasta and ricotta. Drizzle with the reserved oil and sprinkle with the chili flakes. Bake for 20 minutes, then sprinkle with the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and bake until hot and golden brown, about 10 minutes more. Serves 6.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Baby Sling

I came late to the whole baby-wearing phenomenon. I didn't consider a sling of any type until I was pregnant with Monkey. I started pricing them and...gasp! You want how much? For that? That's like two yards of fabric and some stitches! Now, I'm not a great sewer, but a baby sling for $40+? Come on, people. So after tooling around online, I found this great tutorial. The most difficult thing was figuring out the french seam. Why are things described as "french"-something always more complicated? Anyway, I got a sturdy, yet pretty denim for $2/yd. You can make two out of two yards. Mine doesn't have all the bells and whistles, but it sure came in handy trying to carry an infant and chase a 2 year old.

Play mat

Oh, play mat, ye have been good to us. Both boys got some good use out of this. I made this for Tater as a play mat to help introduce shapes and associate those simple shapes in the world around him. Life is complicated; we need visual aids. It was also used to cushion the inevitable tumble while he was learning to sit. Interestingly, this process of breaking down/deconstructing objects into simple, manageable shapes is what I spend a good bit of time trying to get adult art students to do.

I recall a conversion I had with a student in a landscape painting class...
Me: See that bush as a shape. Create that shape. When defining that shrub as a form, don't try to mix every imaginable green. Simplify the gradations into a few shades. You'll have a more convincing-looking shrub.When he did that, he was so pleasantly surprised, he looked at me like a just told him a good fortune that came true.

Learning to draw and paint isn't so much about acquiring a skill, but acquiring new ways of seeing. Alter your perception and it's like seeing things for the first time. Kids see the world this way, but somehow we work it out of them. I think they call it "formal education." I'm hoping my boys can hold on to it for as long as possible.

Back to the play mat. I'm taking it apart and adding some more blocks to make a big blanket for Monkey. It's in honor of his soon-to-be transition to a big boy bed. Let's hope I finish it before his high school graduation. This was a great mat, but the white fleece is pilling and for some reason, that drives me crazy. The various shapes are from left to right: circle - ladybug with folded ribbons for feet, star, rectangle - truck, oval - crab, square - cheese, triangle - sailboat.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

It's not an art gallery. It's my fridge door.

I'm overrun with art projects produced by Tater and Monkey. I've got them up all over the place, including the fridge. I had an idea to turn their artwork into magnets.

When I taught school, we had extra copies of a Scholastic art magazine. I purchased some business card self-adhesive magnets from an office supply store. I cut out images of famous artists' work from the magazines and attached them to the magnets. I put the magnets on the chalkboards and used them to hold examples of projects, student work, etc. I just happened to have a few of those magnets lying around. I did the same thing with one of Tater's mixed media drawings. I'm think about making a few more of these for the grandparents.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Tater's Birthday

Here's the birthday cake. I was very pleased with the end result. I used a Wilton train candy mold I purchased on ebay for the train. I haven't decorated a cake in a very long time. I could tell you all the things I goofed on, but the important thing was that Tater loved it. He had a wonderful party. It was his first "friend" party, and everyone had a blast.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Lantern Ghost

I've been hanging on to the lantern for 6 years. I'm a pack rat. I can't help it. I saw a similar idea somewhere and put this together. I have a covered porch, so it won't get wet. I taped some bandage gauze that I had to the base. I picked up some craft foam halloween faces and added one on. Poor Casper lost an eyebrow in a wind storm. It has a battery powered light, but it's pretty dim. I usually end up putting an led light in there, since they don't get hot, and it gives off a ghostly blue glow.