To Amuse and Delight

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Good Friday/Baking Day

I started baking for Easter on Good Friday (Bad Friday as my girls refer to it). I planned to do some on Friday and some on Saturday, but one thing led to another and I went and did it all. Here are my traditional hot cross buns that we have every Good Friday for tea.
Another tradition for me and my Polish Easter meal, the Babka. Babka baking is one of the best smells.
Hot Dog Buns, not exactly the usual Easter fare at my house, but I wanted to have something to take to church on Friday night. Something to share that's easy to eat. I don't have TV but I do have a couple of Youtube channels I watch faithfully. One of the is Kumigar, The Dancing Chef. I recently saw her make these. She calls them "Sexy Buns", for me they are just hot dog buns. Anyway, they're a handy portable snack. 
I make chick and bunny shortbread cookies each year, but this is the first year I am really happy with them. They are always good (butter, sugar and flour-what's not to like?), but never that perfect shortbread I've always been looking for. Until now. I think I have it. Everyone in my house has dubbed these the best so far. They are from my newest favorite tea book, Vintage Tea Party. It's really good if you want traditional tried and true British tea recipes.  It's visually inspiring as well. All of the ingredients are measured out on a scale, the European way instead of using measuring cups. Maybe that's why they came out better. I like the easy cleanup of using a scale, one bowl and no cups to wash. I'm considering converting my American recipes to ounces after spending years converting the other way around!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

the coat:the project

It all started with this coat. My husband was shopping for a winter coat. He lost weight after finding out he has diabetes and all of his warm coats look like tents on him. He was trying on coats, I was hanging around waiting to give my opinion. That's when I spied the faux fox collar poking out from the sea of black and gray. I meandered over just to touch it. I tried it on and looked in the mirror. I was smitten. 

From that moment on I needed a coat like that. I have never worn a light colored coat...ever. It's all black and reds over here. 
My logical (frugal) mind said, "But you do not need ANOTHER coat." OK,  but now I really really want a coat with a collar like this. Isn't it funny how you could have no idea that you "need"/want something until you see it. The advertisers can count on it. I walked away with that coat stuck deep in my mind. 

So, I made a deal with myself. I decided to look at it as a project, a puzzle. I calculated the amount of money it would cost (not to mention time and effort) to make the coat. Way too expensive and thinking about putting in that lining made me sure I wasn't doing it. I began scouring Ebay for a wool camel colored coat. 
 I struck gold with this beautiful vintage coat. I always say that God loves to surprise us with little treats and it's true. I bid on it and waited. Nobody else bid and I got this coat for $7.50!! The original coat had cheap black plastic buttons ( I would have changed them). My coat has gorgeous big wooden ones. It is beautifully tailored, the lining is perfect.
 Now, about that fur collar. Again it was Ebay to the rescue, I found the perfect faux fur. Just what I wanted, it was around $15 for 1/2 yard. Yay! 
I love this coat way more than the one I first had my crush on. It's longer, the fabric is richer, the color, cut and fit is perfect. I don't even like the other one at all when compared. Isn't it funny how fickle we can be? In our instant gratification culture it can be hard to wait for something when you want it badly. Every single time I have waited though it has been well worth it. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

Asian at Home

Do you love Asia food? I do! All kinds, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, you name it, I like it. My husband went on a mission trip last spring to Cambodia, not only did he fall in love with the people, but he fell for the food also. He bought us a Cambodian cookbook so I could try the delicious foods he had over there. We have become very close with some of the Cambodians and American missionaries over there through the wonder of the internet. In fact one of them just visited us last week, it was her first time in NY. I was able to go over my cookbook with her and get some tips on the methods that they use to make their incredible dishes. Of course there are things I just can't find over here, certain fruits especially. For the most part you can get some pretty authentic results if you have access to an Asian market (if not try online). Not only is this type of food super tasty, but it is quite healthy. Lots of veggies, fruits and fresh herbs.  At the Asian stores I can pick up all kinds of noodles, spices, nori, teas, and condiments. Compared to what it would cost eating this kind of food in a restaurant, it is for a pittance. 
Here's my version of the Korean dish Bi Bim Bap. Pickled veggies, fresh and sauteed veg, tofu (instead of the traditional ground beef) and egg all sitting on top of a bed of rice. It is so good! We eat this with Korean garlic chili paste and kim chee. Small amounts of each thing makes this a great dish for a crowd.
A favorite of mine, Vietnamese spring rolls. They are also called summer rolls and sometimes they are all I feel like eating in the summer heat. Veggies and herbs wrapped up in soft rice paper. I like a lot of basil and maybe a little mint, any raw vegs,with lime and garlic in my dipping sauce. This time I rolled it up with some cold shrimp.
OK, this is pretty extravegant. Not my usual dinner at home. We got together with a few friends for a sushi party. All the fancy rolls were done by the host, but we all tried our hand at the simpler ones. I don't know how much this would have cost in a restaurant. We all chipped in for a really great time, it's an activity and a meal! 

If you have never tried to make foods that you love because they are from different cultures you should. We have so much at our fingertips, even in "regular" grocery stores. We have every recipe available online. I found my perfect chai on YouTube. I watched an elderly man from India make his chai, I tweaked it a bit and now it is my own.
Sometimes you just can't find something that you need in a store. I have japanese cook books and they often call for shisho. Shiso is an herb in the mint family. I can find the green version in my local Asian market, but many of the recipes call for the red. It is used not only for flavor, but to color the food. I ordered a seedling and grew it myself. That was a few years ago, now it is everywhere! It is quite invasive, being like mint. In the fall it turns from bronzy red to this brilliant burgundy when it goes to seed so I bring it inside to enjoy another facet of it's beauty.