Friday, August 31, 2012

Friday Food: Orange Sponge Cake

I'm a cookie baker and I seldom bake cakes. I usually have a craving for something sweet and make something without consulting my husband. This time, though, I asked him what he would like and he said, "cake!" "What kind?" I said. "Pound cake!" he said. Well, I looked at several recipes that required over a pound of butter. I just couldn't make a pound cake for the 2 of us in good conscience. I found this recipe for a sponge cake instead. It was a good compromise: my husband liked it and I know just from the ingredients that it didn't do as much damage to our figures as the pound cake would have.

This recipe is from an old Taste of Home magazine and with all the egg beating required, it's the only time I've ever really needed a stand up mixer, but alas, I don't have one and managed just fine with the electric hand mixer. The cake is light and tasty and well worth the effort!

Orange Sponge Cake

6 eggs, separated
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
1/2 cup orange juice
3 tsp grated orange peel
1 1/3 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp cream of tartar

1/3 cup butter
2 cups confectioner's sugar
3 to 5 tsp water
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Let eggs stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. In a large mixing bowl, beat egg yolks on high speed for 5 minutes or until thick and lemon-colored. Gradually beat in 2/3 cup sugar. Add orange juice and orange peel; beat 3 minutes longer. Gradually add flour, 1/3 cup sugar, and salt and mix well.
In a large mixing bowl with clean beaters, beat egg whites and cream of tartar on medium speed until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in remaining sugar, 1 Tbsp at a time until stiff peaks form. Gradually fold into batter.
Gently spoon into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan (I used a bundt pan). Cut through batter with a knife to remove air pockets. Bake on lowest oven rack at 325 for 45-55 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly touched. Immediately invert pan; cool completely, about 1 hour.
Run a knife around side and center tube of pan. Removed cake to a serving plate.
For glaze, melt butter in a medium bowl in microwave. Add confectioner's sugar, water and vanilla. Stir until smooth. Pour over cake, allowing it to drizzle down sides.
Yield: 12 servings, approx. 310 calories.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Inspiration Monday: Frank Lloyd Wright

My inspiration today is not all of Frank Lloyd Wright's architecture and design work, but his art glass window patterns in particular. I have always loved geometric patterns and enjoyed his window patterns, but hadn't really looked that closely at them until the other day. I decide to try to sketch one to give me some additional ideas for my own work beyond basic simple geometry. Since I wasn't real successful at finding the kind of photos of his work I was looking for on the Internet, my sketch will have to suffice today.

This is a window from the May House in Grand Rapids, Michigan that I found in an old Frank Lloyd Wright calendar we had kept for the wonderful photographs. This is a simpler window than many that he created, but it's still not as straightforward as it might seem. It took me several tries before I got the gist of his geometry, thought the proportions are still not quite right (the window is taller and skinnier).

What's interesting and inspirational are the different divisions of the window's rectangle at work here. If you look above the bottom row of alternating squares, the window seems to be divided into fourths with the right and left panels divided again in half. Simple enough. The quarters are divided into fifths in the center and thirds farther up on the right and left. Then 2/3rds is split into thirds and there's 1/3rd + 1/5th and 3/5ths and then there's the squares at the top and bottom of the window....And wow!

So what's the inspiration here? Don't limit yourself! If you've got a rectangle, maybe just a piece of paper or a canvas, and you decide to limit yourself to straight lines, you still have all sorts of beautiful options. If you divide the rectangle into quarters, don't stop there! Don't make those divisions hard and fast. Think of them as guidelines for part of your canvas and let your imagination run wild. Divide and conquer. And make beauty!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Friday Food: Tomato Sauce

It's that time of year when many of us have a plethora of fresh tomatoes in the garden, so what better for Friday Food than a recipe for Tomato Sauce? I grow my tomatoes in a planter and didn't get around to fertilizing them this year so I only had a small plethora. I'm sure you can increase this recipe as needed. This recipe is based on Mary Ann Esposito's Ciao Italia Pronto! recipe for Salsa di Pomodoro.

The recipe makes a sweet tomato sauce. You can serve it on whatever type of pasta you like. I happened to choose quinoa because I had some already made and because it adds some protein to an otherwise vegetarian meal. I grated some Parmesan cheese on top - not really necessary, but it's a nice touch. Enjoy the bounties of your garden (or farmers' market)!

Tomato Sauce (Salsa di Pomodoro)

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 small onion, chopped
4 large tomatoes
1/3 cup red wine
salt to taste
coarse black pepper to taste
1 bunch fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces
1 Tbsp sugar

Heat olive oil in a 3 quart pot (or larger if you increase the recipe). Stir in garlic and onion and cook over medium heat until they begin to soften. Do not let brown.
Lower heat and stir in remaining ingredients.
Bring sauce to a boil, then lower heat to simmer. Cover pot and cook 20 minutes.
Serve over quinoa, pasta, or freeze for later!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Inspiration Monday: Joel Penkman

I probably should have found my inspiration earlier today rather than waiting until that evil hour of the afternoon when lunch is long gone and replaced with the munchies. This happened one other time, and Wayne Thiebaud's pastries showed up on my blog. Today, it's the British sweets of Joel Penkman.

Blackpool rock. Egg tempera on gesso Joel Penkman.

I love that you feel like you can pick up one of the candy sticks, unwrap it, and take a lick. I can even hear the cellophane crinkling as I unwrap it. Pretty impressive for a 2-D painting! The strawberries below are similar - I'm ready to cut them up and put them on my yogurt!

Strawberry Punnet. Egg tempera on gesso Joel Penkman

And when's the last time you saw someone paint a jello salad? Inspiration to see art in even the most everyday things. And to go find a healthy snack.

Jelly rabbit and grass. Egg tempera on gesso board.
by Joel Penkman

(All images are the works of Joel Penkman. Click on the images above or visit Joel Penkman's website to see more of his work.. The works featured on Inspiration Monday are those that I enjoy and I have not been compensated in any way to include them on my blog.)

Friday, August 17, 2012

Friday Food: Chocolate Mint Dreams

Sometimes a girl craves chocolate and mint. This girl did last week and, being out of cocoa powder and too lazy to go to the grocery store, decided to make Chocolate Mint Dreams which use unsweetened chocolate squares and chocolate chips to get that deep dark chocolate taste. Mmmm....

I've made these before as part of my Christmas cookie baking spectacular. I usually do make the icing green to make them look more festive. You can also put a drizzle of chocolate on top to pretty them up more. I was making these for me and was more interested in eating them than making them look pretty, so you'll notice the icing is white and there aren't any drizzles on top. They're still good though!

Chocolate Mint Dreams

3/4 cup butter (no substitutes)
2 squares (1 oz. each) unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
1/4 tsp peppermint extract
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup chocolate chips

2 Tbsp butter, softened
1 cup confectioner's sugar
1 Tbsp milk
1/4 tsp peppermint extract

In a large mixing bowl, melt butter and unsweetened chocolate in the microwave. Let cool slightly.
Mix in confectioner's sugar and peppermint extract. Gradually mix in flour. Stir in the chocolate chips.
Drop cookie dough by tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Note that if you'd like pretty cookies, you'll need to shape the dough at this stage - these don't flatten as they're baking.
Bake at 375 degrees for 6-8 minutes or until firm.
Cool for 4 minutes before removing to wire racks to cool completely.
Combine icing ingredients (add 2 drops green food coloring if desired) and spread over cooled cookies. Let set.
If you'd like, drizzle on top 1/2 cup melted chocolate chips and 1/2 tsp shortening mixed together until smooth.
Yield: 4 dozen cookies.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Fun with Printmaking

I went to the Artisans Center of Virginia Statewide Conference in Roanoke on Saturday. I met talented artisans from other parts of the state; listened to guest speakers Vanessa Bertozzi of Etsy and James Thurman from the University of North Texas; attended a networking workshop by Sarah Beth Jones of Nary Ordinary Business Services and a panel discussion about technology and the handmade; and watched Hollins University professor Jennifer D. Anderson and her students print a very large wood block print.

The block was cut from MDF and inked up using very large brayers.

They laid the block on the ground for printing and used a strong Japanese washi paper. I learned that "rice" paper is a misnomer and that the paper is not made of rice at all. However, the word for rice in Japanese is similar to that of one of the types of paper and so it became known as rice paper. The paper is made of natural ingredients other than wood pulp.

If you don't have a printing press big enough for your block, what do you do? Use wooden spoons? A little baren? You'd be there all day and have difficulty keeping the pressure consistent. You could use a steam roller like Jennifer did at Roanoke's Marginal Arts Festival. But that was a little too big for this print. So how about a sod roller?

And the final result (drumroll please...)....

Monday, August 13, 2012

Inspiration Monday: Billie Ruth Sudduth

It's been called MAD: Multiple Artist Disorder. And, yes indeed, I have MAD (notice I didn't say that I am MAD). If you've followed my blog long enough, you'll have noticed that I dabble in many creative areas: printmaking, painting, embroidery, beading, jewelry making, photography, writing...I'm also a basket maker. Most of my basket weaving has taken place at Tennessee Basketry Association conferences that I've gone to with my husband and mother-in-law who are more proficient at it than I am. I tend to get a bit frustrated with all those unwieldy pieces not bending in the direction I want them to go. That's not to say that I haven't made some pretty wonderful baskets with some great instructors at those conventions, just that I don't usually weave on my own.

For those in the basket world, Billie Ruth Sudduth is a maker to emulate and admire. Her basket prowess is well recognized as her work is in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian Institution and New York's Museum of Art and Design. The shapes of her baskets are just wonderful. Made without a mold, all of the shaping is done by hand, pulling the damp reed into place to create the 4 feet of the cats head at the bottom, the wider curves of the center, and tightening to the much smaller rim.

Illusions basket by Billie Ruth Sudduth

I've used some of our own baskets to create  linoleum block prints - the woven patterns and negative spaces really lend themselves to the medium. I've also made some Carolina Snowflakes like this one, though I made them from wired ribbon rather than fighting with the basket reed. I think a linocut of one of these snowflakes might be in my future.

Carolina Snowflake by Billie Ruth Sudduth

It's sometimes hard to decide where to start in creating patterns that make sense for baskets or any other geometric medium. In this case, Billie Ruth took inspiration from the Fibonacci Sequence to create the basket pattern, creating an unusual pattern, but based on a repeatable formula. I'm inspired by these beautiful and unusual baskets with wonderful shapes.

Fibonacci in Reverse basket by Billie Ruth Sudduth
(All images are the works of Billie Ruth Sudduth. Visit Billie Ruth's Etsy shop to see more of  her work or click on the links above. The works featured on Inspiration Monday are those that I enjoy and I have not been compensated in any way to include them on my blog.)

Friday, August 10, 2012

Friday Food: Blueberry Cake

I happened to buy blueberries the same day I ran across some blueberry recipes from Yankee Magazine via twitter. This Blueberry Cake was simple and had good reviews so I made it. I was definitely not disappointed! The cake is good as is, but because it is a rather plain cake, you might consider serving it warm with whipped cream or ice cream or adding a simple glaze or sugar coating to the top to make it more festive.

I happened to be almost out of white flour (how did that happen?) so I substituted wheat flour for part of it. That made it healthier and still tasty, but you can use all white flour if you like. The recipe says to use a 13"x9"x2" pan, but also says it yields 8 servings. Those would be 8 monster sized servings! I compromised with an 8"x12" pan and more servings. The cake seemed to fit that pan size well.

Blueberry Cake

1/4 cup butter
1 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cup white flour
1 cup wheat flour
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 pint blueberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour an 8"x12" pan.
Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the egg and beat well.
Dissolve the baking soda in the milk.
Add flours and cream of tartar to butter mixture alternately with milk, beating well after each addition.
Add the lemon juice and vanilla extract. Fold in the berries.
Spoon into the baking pan.
Bake for 45 minutes or until toothpick in center comes out clean.
Serve warm or completely cooled, directly out of pan.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Inspiration Monday: Michael Sweere

I tend to keep bits and pieces of everything: paper, yarn, tile, glass, metal...I figure I can use it sometime, somewhere. The previous owner of our house was a stained glass artist and I am constantly finding colored pieces of glass in the yard. I keep those too.

I think my affinity for little pieces of things has made me appreciate mosaics all the more. I have yet to figure out how to use all the little pieces I have to create something beautiful, but mosaic artists have. Michael Sweere has done a wonderful job of using found, recycled objects to create wonderful, colorful mosaic scenes.

"Above Lutsen," salvaged tin and nail collage on plywood
by Michael Sweere
There are traditional scenes as well as those that are a little less conventional made with a sense of humor and levity.

"Raincoat," recycled paper packaging mosaic by Michael Sweere
I like the simplicity of mosaics and that small, often similarly shaped pieces can create such complex designs. Definitely inspiration for collaging and using up all those little pieces I have around!

"Birches and Lupines," glass stone and ceramic
tile mosaic by Michael Sweere
(All images are the works of Michael Sweere. Visit Michael's website to see more of  his work or click on the links above. The works featured on Inspiration Monday are those that I enjoy and I have not been compensated in any way to include them on my blog.)

Friday, August 3, 2012

Friday Food: Western Beef & Corn Casserole

This is a good hearty recipe that's pretty easy to put together with what you probably have around the house. You can change the flavor depending on the type of barbecue sauce you use or how much chili powder you put in it. You could probably use beans or quinoa in place of the beef and make a vegetarian dish. This came from an old Taste of Home magazine.

Western Beef & Corn Casserole

1 pound ground beef
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp chili powder
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup barbecue sauce
1-15oz can corn
1-8oz can tomato sauce

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup butter
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (divided)
1/2 cup milk
1 beaten egg

Brown ground beef; drain.
Stir in the remaining filling ingredients and set aside.
To make the crust, melt butter. Stir butter together with flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt, and baking powder. Blend in remaining crust ingredients except 1/2 cup cheese.
Spread crust mixture over the bottom and sides of a 9-inch round pie plate. Pour filling into crust.
Bake at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Sprinkle with reserved cheese during last few minutes of baking.
Yield: 6-8 servings.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

One Tired Robin (Part 3)

Our third nest of robins left last week. That makes 9 babies for Mrs. R. this summer. I snapped a photo of the last little one who really didn't want to leave home. The baby got scared out of the nest when the mailman came up on the porch. I thought he was gone, but a bit later I heard a noise and found him attached to the window screen in my office! He fell from there and ended up cowering in the corner of the porch for a while.

It took a bit, but I finally heard some loud tweeting, answered by mom off in the trees. A while later, she came by the nest with a worm. I'm not sure if she was trying to lure him to fly off or if she really didn't know he wasn't in the nest. She did this several times before he finally got out of his corner and onto the porch railing. She came by again with worms and I thought she was going to feed him there on the railing, but instead she flew off! That was enough for the baby to get moving and off he went after her. I haven't seen them since. I miss the little guys, they were right outside my office window so I'd hear them chirping and see mom and dad flying in and out. Since I'm still catless, they were good company!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A Dear Little Deer

I looked out the window the other day and saw a deer on the edge of my driveway! He perked right up and posed when I opened the screen to take a photograph of him.

While deer have become as ubiquitous as squirrels around here, they are unusual at our house. We live on busy Main Street, with houses all around. Several blocks away, the woods get thicker though and the deer do make an appearance now and then. My neighbor said she's seen them browsing under her apple tree, but we've only seen them when we've been up really early and can just make out their shapes in the just-lightening darkness of the backyard. In one of those early mornings, my husband saw a buck strolling down Main Street, looking like he was filming for an old Hartford Insurance commercial. But so close in daylight? Very unusual. Or so I thought. My husband said when he mowed, he could see where the deer had bedded down in the lawn. And our hostas have been eaten to nubs. Fortunately, I didn't plant those and so am not particularly attached to them. I might get more upset if other plants start disappearing!