Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Saving Summer: S'mores on the BBQ

I just don’t want to let the summer go, so in an effort to bring the coziness of the campfire home from the campsite, I decided to try s’mores on the barbeque.  It was so ridiculously easy that it may end up in our dessert rotation.
What you’ll need:
Jumbo marshmallows
Chocolate-coated cookies (I used Voortman’s Fudge Striped Oatmeal cookies – oatmeal’s good for you, right?)

We placed two marshmallows on each skewer and got our cookies ready.  The chocolate coated cookies save the hassle of wrestling with a separate piece of chocolate.

With the grill on high heat, and the top open, we rotated the skewers for 2 to 3 minutes, until our marshmallows were starting to become golden.  Then we transferred them to our waiting cookies.  YUM!

For more dessert-grilling ideas, check out the recipes at MarthaStewart.com

Good Luck!

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Saving Summer: Use your Herbs

Honest confession:  if you want to reserve a special place in my heart, give me a bushel of basil.  Sad, unloved basil going to rot at the back of the fridge is such a shame, so processing this mass amount of basil was top priority.  Word of advice, enlist your gentleman friend to assist in picking off all those tiny leaves and to capture the errant earwig that somehow was flicked from the basil to your neck.  If he is a really good man, he will patiently and quietly wash up the many dishes while you expand the mess and photograph every step of the way.

Basil Salad
Ingredients:  basil, baby romaine lettuce, bacon, parmesan, pine nuts
I love this salad.  You can control the strength of the basil by playing with the proportions.  I'm happy with it either way because a full salad of basil or that occasional bite, you're still eating one of the best tasting salads.   I like to pair this with a creamy dressing, but it's perfect with anything.  The bacon, croutons and cheese just makes it all the more fantastic.

Basil Compound Butter
Ingredients:  a few cloves of roasted garlic, about 1 c of butter, handful of basil, pepper, pinch of onion powder,  optional - salt.  

I opted to chiffonade the basil (this is a fancy-pants way to  say cut:  Layer a few leaves on top of each other and loosely roll them, then slice on the bias) and cube the butter to make it easier to incorporate.   Try to make sure that your ingredients are incorporated evenly throughout the butter - this is a flavour democracy.

The great thing about compound butter is it can be frozen for about 6 months...but trust me, it won't stick around that long.  Take the butter and place it on parchment paper.  You are going to roll it into a tight cylinder.    note the above mentioned good guy cleaning up after me

Twist the ends to secure, then seal with cling-wrap.  I let it rest overnight in the fridge.  My theory is that it allowed the flavour to perfuse more than if it had gone directly into the freezer.  I also put it into a freezer bag because I am ultra protective of my butter.

So far, I have used this three ways:
1.   There is nothing better than bread with butter.   Find yourself the frenchiest baguette and hopefully a degree of self-moderation.  Despite being chopped and frozen, the flavours stay bright.
2.  Butter poached fish.   [ Ultra quick mini recipe:  Lay haddock on top of a  layer of think choped onions.  Slice medallions off of your compound butter - go with instict, you'll know how much is enough.  Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes (depending on the size of your fish)]
3. On the last of this season's corn on the cob.  Ah-mazing.

Good luck!

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Pushed Pigment: Crayon Canvases

Shannon and I are pretty much professional pintresters.  One thing that captures the mind of most early pinners, I among them, is crayon art. The drippy glue-gun style has never given me the gumption to sit down and create my own, but this watercolour version tickled me.    I am naturally drawn to strong pigment and organic shapes, so when I found this inspiration, I finally broke into my canvas reserve.  It has the flow of watercolours but with bolder colour.  Words of wisdom for starting your canvases:  be patient, be impulsive and watch your fingers.

Step One: Preparation
Pick your colours and peel them. Don't worry about keeping them pretty, get a blade and strip those suckers.  Your necessary supplies will be canvas, a hair dryer (an extra 5 points if it's pink) and possibly a fork if you need extra finger protection.  I had read on another blog that a fork might be a good idea, but as I had a bunch of brand new crayons, it wasn't really necessary.

Though I was looking for it to look random I knew I wanted a few things:  I wanted strong colour contrast and opportunities for gradient tones.

Step Two:  Start Pushing
 Start heating and moving pigment around.   I was surprised by how the crayon broke down through the process; this might have been because I was using no-name brand crayons, but you could clearly see the pigment suspended in a clear oily wax when thinly spread on the white surface.   I found heating up the crayon prior to touching it to canvas helped distribute the maximum amount of colour.   Also, you might not be able to tell, but I stuck with darker colours to compensate for weak tones.   Remember to keep changing the direction of your canvas so that you don't fall prey to an unintentional pattern.

Step Three:  Consider the Whole
For me, keeping it organic meant that it the colour shouldn't just end at the edge of the canvas.   Using a two inch wide canvas, it would look pretty odd to have it blank or harshly trimmed in a solid colour.   Propping up the canvas let me work at the sides of the canvas.

I'd say it's a vast improvement on the blank canvas I have kicking around my desk.  For me, this is a great way to bring a pop of life into a room.  I think it would feel more complete with a contrasting geometric silhouette  or even  if  it were a proper triptych.  I will probably revisit it again in the future with variations on this method, so keep an eye out for Pushed Pigment redux.  
 Good Luck!

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

A + Smoothie

Need to introduce more Vitamin A into your diet?  Kale is a fabulous source of Vitamin A, among other things; but if you’re not crazy about how it tastes, try this smoothie!  This smoothie is delicious and incredibly healthy.  The kale alone will give you over 17,000 iu of Vitamin A per serving.  It also goes a long way in keeping me feeling full during the morning.  I was shocked to discover that a 12 oz. smoothie would keep me feeling more satisfied than my old standard breakfast of a bagel with peanut butter!

2 c. kale (green or red)
1 c. strawberries
1 c. other berries (blackberries, blueberries or raspberries)
2 bananas
1 Tbsp. honey
½ tsp. vanilla
1 ½ c. milk – I use almond milk, but skim is also a great choice
(Makes two 12 oz. smoothies)

** TIP – Now that I’m making smoothies for my hubby and me every day, I’ve come up with a few strategies to help me manage the process.  Since I don’t want to have to spend a lot of time on this every morning, I’ve started prepping everything I need on Sunday afternoon.  I wash, measure and divide the berries into Ziploc bags which then go into the freezer – freezing the berries works even better than using fresh since we like cold smoothies.  Then the kale is removed from the stalks and the large veins are removed, it’s washed and placed into a large plastic container and placed into the fridge.  Once this is done, I’m ready for the week.  Spending 20 minutes on this on the weekend saves me at least 5-10 minutes every morning.


Saturday, 1 September 2012

Welcome to Building Beautiful

It's the beginning of September, the beginning of a new school year, and a the beginning of a new project for the two of us.   This blog is about finding the best parts in life.  Not settling for average.  It's about participating relentlessly in the task of making this the most beautiful life possible.

So who are we?   We are friends who are lucky enough to be related.   We are both at a point where chasing this beautiful life nourishes, inspires, motivates and excites us.

This is us in a nutshell:

Jess in 10:  Always chooses the sparkly thing.  Isn't the girl in the boat.   Highlights when reading anything 90% of the time.   Loves to cook.   Unnatural love of squirrels and blank notebooks.   Thinks big hair and lipstick are as good as war paint.  Is not musically inclined.  Whatsoever.   Anthropomorphizes all animals (or nouns in general). All the time.  Happy moods are accompanied by a off-tune sung narrative [ref above].   Has a tiny but fiercely loyal family.

Shannon in 10: Married into an incredible family 5 years ago.  Loves the smell of the ocean.   Has mastered the art of procrastination.  Feels separation anxiety when she gets rid of books.  Has a serious love/hate relationship with her old home.  Uses baking as diy therapy. Tries to resist brand names. Believes every day needs laughter and a good cup of tea.  Loves the sound of rain, champagne corks popping, and the quasi-meow the cat makes.  No matter how tough a day is, she still loves her job.

Shannon & Jess