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Eclecticisms: July 2010

Monday, July 26, 2010

Tickled Tuesday - Birthday Week!

I know, I know, it's technically Monday. BUT... I have a feeling with as busy as I've been, I'll forget to write my Tuesday blog if I wait until Tuesday. So here it is, Tuesday's blog. Think of it as a travel in time.

As of Saturday, I will be 28 years old. (2 years to 30 makes me "eek" a little bit...). I decided to celebrate this week by sharing a link to two of my favorite comics.

Here's a timely Natalie Dee one!

Go check them out... I guarantee you'll find plenty that make you laugh. If you don't... well, go back to the Land of the Lame!

Happy Mon...err, Tuesday!


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tickled Tuesday

Happy Tuesday, piglets! Today I'm going to hit on two topics. Flowers and music.

Sunflowers are my favorite flower, which watching Harold and Maude made me realized. As Maude would say, "They're so tall and individual!".

Since I mean for this blog to be (at least some what) educational, here are a few facts about this marvelous plant. Click here to go to the site I "borrowed" these from... hee.

-The sunflower is native to North America.
-Sunflowers have a lot of calcium. (If you haven't tried sunflower seed butter, please do! It tastes a lot like peanut butter, but better. You can get some at Trader Joe's for about $3.)
-Sunflower heads consist of 1,000 to 2,000 individual flowers joined together by a receptacle base. The large petals around the edge of a sunflower head are individual ray flowers which do not develop into seed.
-Sunflowers turn to face the sun through out the day, a phenomenon known as heliotropism.

I love looking through Van Gogh's sunflower paintings... they really show  so many different sides of this flower's personality.

Here's a picture I took last summer, of a sunflower next to my house.

Next Tuesday topic... music. Here is a great Patty Griffin song (ok, amazing) that is one of my personal favorites. It can always lift me up when I'm feeling crappy and beat down, and I was lucky enough to see her perform it live when I saw her last month. The words to this song are so powerful (as is with pretty much everything she's written) and usually make me feel like quite a bad-ass when I sing along. :) 


"No Bad News"

Don't bring me bad news, no bad news
I don't need none of your bad news today
You're a sad little boy, anyone can see you're just a sad little boy
That's why you're carrying on that way
Why don't you burn it all down, burn your own house down, burn your own house down
Try to kill your own disease
And leave the rest of us, there's a lot of us, leave the rest of us
Who wanna live in peace to live in peace

I'm gonna find me a man, love him so well, love him so strong, love him so slow
We're gonna go way beyond the walls of this fortress
And we won't be afraid, we won't be afraid, and though the darkness may come our way
We won't be afraid to be alive anymore
And we'll grow kindness in our hearts for all the strangers among us
Till there are no strangers anymore

Don't bring me bad news, no bad news
I don't need none of your bad news today
You can't have my fear, I've got nothing to lose, can't have my fear
I'm not getting out of here alive anyway
And I don't need none of these things, I don't need none of these things
I've been handed
And the bird of peace is flying over, she's flying over and
Coming in for a landing


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Congratulations are in order!

I don't have a recipe to post about right now, but today my brother graduated from the Chicago Police Academy! That makes two cops in the family now, my Dad and brother. Here are some pics from the ceremony.

Brian and Mayor Daley, who complimented his Chicago flag tattoo. (Other than that, he was NOT very impressive... I'll leave it at that, since this is not a political blog.) :)

Brian and my future sister-in-law, Sara!

Such a good lookin' family... minus one brother. For a small fee, we will make appearances at your parties and gatherings. (Note: Payment may be made in the form of cheese and wine, for me anyways...)

Congratulations, little brother! We're all very proud!


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Tickled Tuesday

You know how long it took me to think of a happy or positive word that started with "t"? Thanks to, not too long. Still, there aren't a whole lot of "t" words that fit what I was looking for, so I'm settling on "tickled" for now.

I've decided to write at least one blog a week that has to do with something joyful, happy, funny, etc. I might post quotes, I might post stories, I'm not sure yet. I just want to keep up on blogging, and hopefully send some smiles out. I know I need them myself, more than I'd like to admit. I'm going to try and include images as well. This one is a multi-media collage I did several years ago.

Tuesday is the day I've picked for these posts, and here is my first Tickled Tuesday blog.

"In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure."

-Bill Cosby

I'm going to try and really think about this message every day. I'm ready to make some changes in my life and fear is definitely holding me back from too many things. Fear creates apathy and ignorance... it's a survivial instinct in a way I think. This quote helped put a couple of things into perspective for me. Thanks, Mr. Cosby. :)

See you next Tuesday (or sooner)!


Monday, July 12, 2010

Chocolate-Strawberry Thumbprints

I feel like I'm finally back! Two bakings and three new recipes within a week? Yowza! It might be a week or two before I bake again though, since I still haven't cleaned the pie drippings out of my oven (which I remembered about while baking these cookies... though it didn't cause a problem since they bake so fast). I have to get off my butt and give my oven a thorough cleaning. Last weekend my brother and I spent a few hours cleaning and organizing the pantry and fridge, so I needed a bit of a kitchen-cleaning break.

I've never made thumbprint cookies before, so I was excited to give them a try. New recipes are always a bit of a thrill (and fear I suppose). Maybe I'm a huge nerd, maybe it's due to estrogen surges, but either way, it has delicious end results!

I had some frozen berries that I wanted to use up, so I looked up berry and cream cheese recipes. I ended up not using the frozen berries (oops), which will give me an excuse to bake again soon. Martha Stewart provided this recipe. This recipe says you will get about 3 dozen, but I got about 20 cookies. If you want the 3 dozen, I suggest doubling the recipe.


3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup plus 6 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 large egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
4 ounces strawberries (about 6 medium), stemmed and finely diced

Sift flour, cocoa, and salt into a bowl; set aside. Melt chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, stirring until smooth; set aside to cool.

Put butter and 1/4 cup granulated sugar into the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy.

Mix in yolk, vanilla, and chocolate. Reduce speed to low. Mix in flour mixture until just combined. Refrigerate, covered, 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put 6 teaspoons granulated sugar into a small bowl. Form dough into 3/4-inch balls; roll in sugar to coat. Space 1 inch apart on baking sheets lined with parchment. Press center of each ball with your thumb. Bake 10 minutes. Press centers again with end of a wooden spoon, making 3/4-inch indentations. Bake until slightly cracked and set, about 5 minutes more. Cool completely on racks. Unfilled cookies can be stored in airtight containers up to 3 days.

Dice up your strawberries...

Stir cream cheese and confectioners' sugar in a small bowl. Toss berries with remaining 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar in another bowl.

Spoon cream cheese mixture into center of cookies; top with sugared berries, dividing evenly.

Eat and enjoy!

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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Strawberry Rhubarab Pie

The night I made strawberry basil martinis, I followed them up with a pie using a recipe I found on Epicurious. It turned out pretty good! Pie crust and I generally don't see eye to eye and I get a bit flustered (read: VERY flustered) while rolling it out, but I figured out a technique that I'm hoping will solve all my pie crust problems. Although this recipe called for a lattice crust, I went with the traditional "full top" crust (not a culinary term... I think i made it up) though I'd like to try the lattice soon.



3 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup chilled solid vegetable shortening, cut into pieces
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
10 tablespoons (about) ice water

1 large egg yolk beaten to blend with 1 teaspoon water (for glaze)

3 1/2 cups 1/2-inch-thick slices trimmed rhubarb (1 1/2 pounds untrimmed)
1 16-ounce container strawberries, hulled, halved (about 3 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt

First, make the crust. Combine flour, sugar and salt in a food processor. Cut in shortening and butter until the mixture appears lumpy (the pulse option works best). Blend in enough ice water 2 tablespoons at a time to form moist clumps, but don't make it too wet!

Gather the dough into ball; cut in half. Flatten each half into disk and wrap separately in plastic; refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.

While that chills, make the filling. Combine first 7 ingredients in large bowl. Toss gently to blend.

Yum... I have a hard time not just eating the bowl of pie filling when I get to this part.

Once chilled, roll out 1 dough disk on waxed paper, 13-inch round. I tried using a floured surface and a floured rolling pin, but even after I finally got it rolled out, it was sticking like crazy and falling apart. Rolling it out on wax paper allows you to life it up and gently flip it into the pan/onto the pie. It worked perfectly for me! (Though I didn't get a pic after I figured this out. The image I have was taken right before I realized the dough was a complete mess.)

Transfer the first (rolled out) disc to a 9-inch-diameter pie pan. Trim excess dough, leaving 3/4-inch overhang.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Roll out second dough disk to 13-inch round. Spoon filling into crust and top with second disc.

Crimp edges decoratively.

Transfer pie to baking sheet. (I didn't read the part about the baking sheet and only used tinfoil under the pie... and what a juicy mess! The house got smoky after awhile, but luckily it didn't affect the flavor of the pie. I still need to clean my oven. Damn!) Bake the pie for 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F. Bake pie until golden and filling thickens, about 1 hour 25 minutes. Transfer pie to rack and cool completely.

Enjoy the deliciousness!

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Saturday, July 3, 2010

Strawberry-Basil Martinis

Summertime is full of "musts", one being a nice, cold, fresh summer drink. A couple of years ago I tried a strawberry basil martini and loved it, and was sad that it wasn't something I'd be able to re-create at home. Or- so I thought! I was going to make a strawberry rhubarb pie anyways (post coming soon!) so I figured I'd pick up some extra berries and take advantage of the plentiful basil in my yard. The result was nothing short of fabulous.

Ingredients (All may be adjusted to taste)
Makes 4-6 drinks

16 oz. Organic Strawberries, halved
approx. 12 large Basil Leaves
Vodka (I think I used about a cup and a half, but you pretty much want to make a 1 to 1 mix)

Using a food processor, blend strawberries and basil until watery and smooth.

Pour the mix into a pitcher, add vodka and ice.

Serve chilled. This drink is perfect for any day, but it really hits the spot during these hot summers.


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