Friday, September 28, 2012

Friday Food: Skillet Tomatoes

Still coping with an excess of produce from the garden. Try this Skillet Tomato recipe for a side dish, light lunch, or appetizer. Be creative with it and you can use all kinds of produce, different cheeses and herbs, and create a taste sensation all your own!

Skillet Tomatoes

3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
2/3 sleeve Ritz crackers, crushed
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp salt
Garden produce equivalent to 4 large plum tomatoes (I used smaller tomatoes, cut in half; chopped red peppers; and a small onion, chopped)
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese

Heat the olive oil in a saute pan, add the oregano, salt, garlic, onion, and pepper. Cook until garlic begins to brown and onion becomes translucent. Add the tomatoes and cook, over medium-low heat for about 3 minutes or until they just begin to soften and shrink. Turn the tomatoes cut side up.
Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the vegetables. Cover the pan and allow the cheese to melt.
Sprinkle the Ritz crackers over the top of each half.
Serve immediately as is or on top of toasted bread slices.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Inspiration Monday: Cathy Horvath-Buchanan

As much as I hate to see summer go, I'm enjoying the fall colors and simple subjects of Cathy Horvath-Buchanan's paintings today.

"Abstract Mountains & Tree Colors"
acrylic painting by Cathy Horvath-Buchanan

 I love the reflections in the water. Cathy's folk art paintings have a precise simplicity that attract me to them.

"Abstract Red Shirt Line"
acrylic painting by Cathy Horvath-Buchanan

There is motion to Cathy's paintings - I can feel the crisp wind blowing the clothes on the line. But there is also peace and familiarity to the paintings. I've been to the places and I want to go back. Fall inspiration for a late September Monday.

"Abstract Town Welcome",
acrylic painting by Cathy Horvath-Buchanan
(All images are the works of Cathy Horvath-Buchanan.. Click on the images above or visit Cathy's Etsy shop, Solo Work Studio, to see more of her 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, September 21, 2012

Friday Food: Choco-Nut Chews

I think I've mentioned before the many sweet delights that one of my grandmothers had in her freezer that she'd offer me when I visited after school. Choco-Nut Chews was one of those. This recipe is labeled "Terri's special" so apparently I was quite enamored of them at one time. They ARE good, but unfortunately, I just don't remember them! My grandmother was on a bake-it-in-the-microwave craze at that time and this is a microwave recipe that I've adapted to my world where I absolutely refuse to bake in the microwave (it just seems weird), so maybe they taste different if they're microwaved instead of baked?

Choco-Nut Chews

1 1/2 cups quick oatmeal
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
1 14oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup chunky style peanut butter

1/2 cup chocolate chips
1 1/2 Tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup chopped salted peanuts

Combine first 6 ingredients in a bowl and spread evenly into a greased 8" x 8" x 2" baking pan.
Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Let cool.
Combine chocolate chips, milk, and vanilla in a small bowl. Microwave on high for 45 seconds. Stir until melted. Spread on bars and sprinkle with peanuts.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Inspiration Monday: Laurie Pollpeter Eskenazi

I enjoy pottery and have wanted to try a wheel ever since I first played with clay in elementary school. I haven't done that yet, but will one day. It seems like craft shows have their share of blue, green, and brown mugs and plates. Those are fine, but I've seen so many of those pieces now that I'm far more attracted to bright colors and less traditional shapes. What attracted me most to Laurie Pollpeter Eskenazi's work was one of her "Vases with Attitude" that I first saw on the Arts Business Institute blog.

A Vase with Attitude
by Laurie Pollpeter Eskenazi

I love the posture of this vase and that Laurie was imagining a utilitarian vessel as a being with style and attitude. The vase seems to be saying, "Hey! You! Put some flowers in me already, will ya?" The application of color on the vase would be beautiful as a flat painting, as would the colors and motifs of her bowls and dishes.

Flowers Bowl by Laurie Pollpeter Eskenazi

I am inspired by Laurie's work to remember that anything, no matter how utilitarian, is an opportunity for creating beauty and art that can be used every day. Or maybe, I should think of it this way, just as I wouldn't wear sweats to go out in public, the every-day, utilitarian items in my life should look their best too!

Vase by
Laurie Pollpeter Eskenazi

(All images are the works of Laurie Pollpeter Eskenazi. Click on the images above or visit Laurie Pollpeter Eskenazi's website or her Artful Home shop to see more of her 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, September 14, 2012

Friday Food: Chicken Divan

I really like the combination of chicken, broccoli, and a little cheese flavor. Throw in a little wine and it makes the recipe all the heartier. So when I saw this recipe in a recent Parade magazine, I had to try it. I made a couple of changes from the original recipe based on what I had on hand, which you'll see below. The recipe was quite tasty and you could make the presentation fancy enough for friends. Enjoy!

Chicken Divan
1 bag frozen broccoli
1/4 cup butter
5 Tbsp flour
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup well-chilled heavy cream
3 Tbsp red wine
lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp butter
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 pound boneless chicken breasts, cooked and sliced thin.

Cook broccoli as directed on package. Drain and set aside.
In a heavy saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Add flour and cook, stirring for 3 minutes. Add broth and bring mixture to a boil. Cook on low, stirring, for 10 minutes, or until thick.
In a mixing bowl, beat cream with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form, then add to flour mixture along with red wine and lemon juice to taste. Season with salt and pepper.
Arrange broccoli in a 13" x 9" x 2" baking pan. Top with half of sauce. Stir 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese into the other half of the sauce. Arrange cooked chicken on broccoli, pour remaining sauce over top and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan.
Cook at 450 degrees for 20 minutes or until sauce is golden and bubbling.
Yield: 6 servings, 370 calories.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Inspiration Monday: Architectural Salvage

In our spare time, my husband and I are working on renovating our early 1900s house. We try to use period hardware, doors, windows, fixtures, trim, and whatever else we can in our renovation. Fortunately, most of the pieces are still in our house and just require stripping or sandblasting to get them back in shape to be reinstalled. Sometimes, though, we need to go to an architectural salvage store to get pieces or just look around and get ideas. This weekend, we had the pleasure of visiting Caravati's in Richmond, Virginia to search for a piece to attach one of the feet to our newly reclaimed claw foot tub. It's lots of fun looking through the store and being inspired by the craftsmanship of times past.

I'm inspired by the color and pattern of an old stained glass window and the intricacies of the cast iron swirls and curlicues in the porch below.

I loved the color of this Italian crystal chandelier, though we don't have a room for it. Architectural salvage is a reminder to take the time to craft things well and to give old, well-made things a good home rather than consign them to the trash and buy new.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Friday Food: Rich Raspberry Swirl Brownies

It was birthday baking time last weekend. I made these amazing brownies for my grandmother's 92nd birthday. All reports are that they were a perfect gift. Since the original recipe was for a 9x9" pan and I wanted to keep some for myself, I doubled the recipe. You can halve it to get the original recipe, but do cut the cooking time by 5 minutes or so if you do. I also used dark baking cocoa so they are extra yummy chocolatey. If you don't think you can handle that much chocolate, use regular baking cocoa. The original recipe came from an old Taste of Home magazine. Enjoy!

Rich Raspberry Swirl Brownies

1 1/2 cups dark baking cocoa
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
4 tsp vanilla extract
6 eggs
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup seedless red raspberry jam
3 cups chocolate chips

In a large mixing bowl, melt butter in microwave. Add sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla and mix until creamy. Add 4 eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually add cocoa, flour, and salt.
Spread 2 cups batter into a greased 13"x9"x2" baking pan. Sprinkle pecans over batter. Stir jam until smooth and drizzle over pecans.
Beat remaining batter and egg in same large bowl until light in color. Stir in 2 cups chocolate chips. Spread evenly over raspberry jam. Top with remaining chocolate chips.
Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until center is set. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Cut into squares.
Yield: 32 brownies.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Inspiration Monday: Completion

Or maybe, since it's now Tuesday, I should title this "Inspirationless Monday." I've been having difficulty being inspired lately and I think it's due to the number of incomplete projects I have cluttering my head and my life. I see my incomplete house in the midst of renovation, that half-carved printing block, the unfinished baskets, the still packed boxes, the partially read business book. I think about that half-forgotten thesis, the almost-complete certificate program, the never-ending work projects. All of that clutter inhibits inspiration.

 The clutter of incompletions caused by a lack of motivation (sometimes it's just hard to get started on those things again, particularly if they are out of sight out of mind or if you've looked at them so many times they just become part of the landscape), boredom (sometimes I just get tired of the process or the next step in the process or decide it's just not worth the effort, but some part of me doesn't totally give up on the project), or fear (what if I mess up the entire project with the next step? what if it doesn't turn out as well as I hope it will? what if the project fails completely?)

I can be inhibited by the incompletions or I can celebrate and be inspired by the many projects I have completed. For all of our house that's unfinished, there's a lot that's finished too. I've made 23 roman shades. We've unpacked most of the boxes. I've got great new cabinets in my office organizing all my art supplies. I've published 4 books. I've finished lots of linocuts and baskets that I'm quite happy with. I learned to paint this spring and finished 5 paintings. I've completed a thesis. For all the never-ending work projects, I've completed many more.

In honor of the unofficial beginning of Fall, I am working to clear the clutter from my desk and my head. I finished the novel I'd been reading for too long. I am finishing the baskets that are sitting around. I am finishing a work project that's been hanging around too long. I'm going to complete that half-carved printing block. I'm celebrating the many things I have completed. I am inspired by completion and the promise and excitement that brings of new projects, new creativity.