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Eclecticisms: July 2011

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Mushroom "Caviar"

I've been in a cooking/baking mood lately, but haven't spent a whole lot of time trying any new recepies. This is partly because I've been exhausted by the time I get home and partly because my appetite isn't what it usually is, with this record heat and the humidity. This past weekend, I was having some family over and wanted to make something new from scratch, but was having trouble finding something simple enough that still looked fun and different. Just when I was about to give up and buy some cheese and crackers (which we had anyways... of course!) I found this mushroom caviar recipe. Vegetarian, easy, delicious and versatile - this appetizer is a winner. I printed the recipe out but already gave it away to my Aunt by request, who absolutely loved it.

Hints of shallot, lemon juice and garlic give this the slightest tang, and the sour cream, mushrooms and pine nuts balance it perfectly. This dish has a creamy richness that is sure to please any mushroom lover.


3 Tbsp butter
1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, wiped clean and finely chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup of minced shallots
1 Tbsp dry white wine (e.g. Sauvignon Blanc)
1 garlic clove, minced
2 Tbsp pine nuts
2 Tbsp sour cream
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 Tbsp chopped parsley
A couple dashes of cayenne pepper, to taste (I left this out)

Chop up all ingredients and set aside. Melt butter in a large skillet. Add mushrooms and shallots- cook about 5 minutes. Lightly salt and pepper as they cook.

While that's cooking, toast the pine nuts by putting them in a small, ungreased pan. Cook on high heat stirring frequently until they begin to brown. This happens very quickly- do not let them burn. Once toasted, remove from heat and place them in a small bowl to cool.

Add garlic and wine to the mushroom mixture. Cook about 1-2 more minutes and remove from heat, placing in a medium/large bowl. Allow to cool.

Once cooled (I was in a terrible rush and cooled it in the freezer which worked perfectly), mix in sour cream, lemon juice and parsley. The recipe recommends you chill it before serving, but it tastes wonderful when slightly warm.

Serve with crackers, cheese, toasted crostini, or whatever sounds good to you.


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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

BEadECLECTIC - The Future

It's no secret that I haven't been advertising my Etsy shop or doing giveaways lately. In fact, I haven't been adding or making new items for the most part either. The ones I have made I love, but have kept them for myself. Between the economy and difficulty selling on Etsy (it really takes a lot of work) sales are non-existant, and I have to admit I feel beaten down by it. Selling an item is thrilling. To know someone wants something you created, you thought of, you made... I can't begin to explain the joy I feel from that. Maybe that's why I am on the other end of the spectrum right now. I'm going through total bead withdrawl but don't have much desire to work on anything.

I started setting up an art studio on my basement but while working on it got sick... really sick. Once I recovered from that, we had record breaking heat. Because the room is in the basement, there's no air down there; Moving and setting things up isn't exactly what I'd had in mind. In between all these road-blocks I was simply keeping busy with friends and family... enjoying the summer. I'd planned to finally get the room in order this week when bam... I pulled a muscle in my back. (As I write this, I'm lounging against a heating pad, wishing I had some good strong drugs!) I'm no good at cheering myself up in these situations. OK- maybe I'm not so bad... but I really, really need things to go my way for awhile, so I can get back into the groove of things. Maybe when fall hits? If things don't start to fall back into place then I'll just have to depend on my muse to get off its ass and put me to work.

Speaking of fall- I am itching for it to get here. After my B-Day (Sunday), I'll offiicially be ready to see the leaves change, smell that evening chill in the air, and wear long sleeves and jackets. There is something so magical about that time of the year and I thrive during it.

All that being said, I guess BEadECLECTIC is on a hiatus while my blog Eclecticisms drives. My muse is still directing, even if only as a back seat driver.

Here are a couple items I made not long ago and meant to post on Etsy, but well, haven't. I'll get to it eventually though. I hope you like them!

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tickled Tuesday

I'm back! Sorry for missing last week- with Peace Fest and the insanely hot weather, everything was sort of put on hold while I did my own thing. I'm back though!

This song was in Harold and Maude, my all time favorite movie. It makes me feel really good and is super fun to play/sing along with. I hope you love it!

Happy Tuesday!


Saturday, July 23, 2011

Peace Fest 2011

Michigan Peace Fest is an event I've been attending each summer (save last year) since 2007. The camping, music, people and relaxation keeps me going back- not to mention I get to see my main bitch Juliea and her crew. This summer has been a great one so far, and I've spent a lot of time with friends and family. Here are some pics of the fun we had this time around.

I hope everyone else if having a great summer! What have you done so far this year?!
*Several of these pics taken by Juliea. I'm getting good at stealing my friends' pics lately.

Mid-day, Saturday. What can I say... it was hot!

"Happy Peace Fest!"


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Macaroni Salad

This summer, my Mom has made several delicious salads that I've been able to enjoy. One of my favorites so far is her take on this macaroni salad recipe. There's no cheese (usually blasphemy) like in many pasta salads, and although that doesn't make this a healthy dish, it's a really delicious one that is a wonderful counterpart with a hint of sweet to balance the salty and heavy main courses you're making on the grill this season.


4 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 Cup sour cream
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons prepared yellow mustard
1/2 large onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup grated carrot
Salt and ground black pepper to taste

Cook the noodles as directed on the package and run under cold water to cool.
While the noodles are cooking, chop up all the veggies and put them into a large bowl. Mix them together with some of the mayo and sour cream.

Once the noodles are cool, add them to the bowl. Mix in the rest of the ingredients and salt/pepper to taste.

This is a great dish to take to a cok out or on a camping trip (like I did!). Make a large enough batch to have over a couple of days and you won't have to use your oven again for awhile!


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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Making a Difference

I missed Tickled Tuesday this week. I'm taking the week off from it though and have a couple new blogs coming, so watch for a recipe and Peace Fest report!

As most of you guys know, I'm a vegetarian and have been for over 12 years now. I've never been one to push my beliefs on anyone and feel that the most important factor is that you are aware of what you are putting in your body and where your money is really going to. This article demonstrates some of the extremely important reasons we need to cut down on our dairy and meat intakes (I'm not vegan, so I'm "guilty" too) and I feel I'd be doing a disservice to myself, my readers and the planet if I didn't share it.

"According to the EWG, if everyone in the U.S. chose vegetarian foods over meat or cheese for just one day a week, the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions would be the equivalent of taking 7.6 million cars off the road per year. "

One day a week... we can do that!

I hope you enjoy this article, and learn something new to help keep you healthy and happy!

New Environmental Study Urges Americans to Eat Less Meat and Cheese

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Friday, July 15, 2011

Featured Herb: Basil

One of my absolute favorite herbs is basil. The fresh taste, the "zing" it gives any dish, the ease in growing it (we have about 5 plants) and its versatility are just a few reasons I love this green plant. Virtually calorie and cholesterol free, basil is a guilt-free way to add kick to many dishes.

Growing basil: Grow some in your yard for fresh, "free" basil all summer long. It's asinine what they charge for basil in stores ($3 for a few leaves? Gimme a break!), but luckily there are many ways to freeze it so you don't have to worry about getting it from the store. I plan to blog about wintering basil at the end of summer, so keep an eye out for that.

Health benefits/Nutrition: Basil is high in anti-oxidants, beta-carotene, Vitamin A, Vitamin B9 and Vitamin K.

Cooking: Fresh basil loses a lot of its flavor swiftly when cooked, so it is best to add it to dishes only a couple of minutes before they are done. A great method for cutting basil is to roll up the leaves (you may do several at a time, stacked upon each other) and slice them lengthwise. This will give you long, thin strips of basil, just like you see at fancy restaurants.


Basil Aioli

Basil Aioli is a fantastic dressing for sandwiches, grilled veggies or dipping steamed artichoke leaves in.

Measurements are estimates on what I used to make enough for about 6 or 7 sandwiches. Adjust as needed.

3/4 cup fresh basil leaves
2 cloves garlic
2 tsp lemon juice
3/4 cup mayonnaise

Using a food processor, chop up the basil and garlic.

Mix together with mayonnaise and stir well. Add lemon juice (not too much, as it will water it down) and stir well again.

This dressing is best served cold and will keep 3-4 days if kept refrigerated and sealed.

I had some on my pseudo-chicken sandwich with melted brie and tomato. Yum!

Happy noshing!

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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tickled Tuesday

This world is but a canvas to our imagination.
-Henry David Thoreau

I "stole" this picture from my friend Leslie. She has such a knack for capturing the beauty in where she lives!

Happy Tuesday!


Monday, July 11, 2011

Chocolate Crinkles

"Who bakes cookies in 95 degree heat?", you ask? Well, me of course. I was craving cookies this weekend and planned on making double chocolate chip cookies, but opted to try a new recipe instead, so I would be able to share it with you. I know, I'm generous as hell.

I got this recipe from the new baking book, which has provided so many winners. I'm really glad I got it, and in brand-new condition at a used book store, no less! This recipe was a HUGE hit, and I already have gotten requests for the recipe. So, without further adieu, here it is.


3 eggs
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted
1/2 cup coconut or vegetable oil
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
Sifted confectioners' sugar

Using a mixer, beat together eggs, sugar, chocolate, oil, baking powder and vanilla until thoroughly combined.

I used coconut oil which gave the cookies a subtle yet noticable coconutty taste. I'm generally not a huge fan of coconut but I think that's due to both the texture and the fact that many things made with coconut have an overwhleming flavor. Neither of these is the case with these cookies, if you opt to use the coconut oil in place of vegetable oil.

Now gradually beat in the flour until combined. Refrigerate dough for at least 1-2 hours, covered.
If this doesn't make you want chocolate, I don't know what will!

Pre-heat oven to 375°. Allow dough to sit out for a few minutes so it's easier to work with, and then roll into 1" balls. Roll the balls in the powdered sugar (be generous!) and place on an ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake for 8-12 minutes, or until the tops look done.

Happy eating!

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Friday, July 8, 2011

In the Summertime, When the Weather is Hot...

I haven't been writing much lately. I haven't baked much lately. I was feeling so bad about it, but you know what? It's summer! That means my schedule is so much busier than usual, and I've just lost some focus on some of the "normal" things I do, like blogging. Vacuuming too, but let's leave that out of this. I usually try to keep my blog more DIY than narrative, but I really enjoy others' posts on what and how they're doing, so I'm going to try and work a few more of those into Eclecticisms. I hope everyone enjoys them!

I've been humming this song almost every day on my walk to and from the train, in downtown Chicago. It's been putting me in a good mood and making the heat even more bearable. I have a bad sunburn right now, but other than that, I'm adjusting to the heat and sun better than I have in past years (pretty much ever). Fall will always be my favorite season, but not feeling like puking every day, breaking out in splotches or peeling/blistering (YET!) is making me love summer a whole lot more.

This 4th of July weekend was fabulous. I spent a lot of time with family and some friends, BBQing, in the pool, in the yard, playing volleyball, etc. Sara's bridal shower was also at our house a couple weeks ago which was a bunch of fun. I made the layered-basil-roasted-red-pepper-spread that was a hit, along with a lemon-glazed cheesecake and shitake mushroom and goat cheese quiche.

Here are a few pics of what's been going on so far this summer. (If you're my friend on Facebook, you've probably seen some or all of these.) I can't wait for MI Peace Fest next weekend, and will definitely have pictures to share when I get back! I took next Monday off to recover, so hopefully I will get them up right away.

Foose and I. Ain't he handsome?!

After the bridal shower.

The guys getting ready to paint my house, during the shower. Hurrah!

Mom's side of the family on my porch

Sunburn resulted....


At Sara's side's shower. My brother John, Sara and my folks.

John eating his yummy B-Day cake in Red, White and Blue. My Momma made it from scratch!

Sara with her Mom and sister.

Brian (AKA Sgt. Batista) and Sara. Love birds.

Summer fun!

Some of the ladies on our (groom's) side of the family at the shower. There are more of us too... we are a force to be reckoned with!

I hope everyone is having as fantastic a summer as I am! There have been some really bad bumps in the road so far this year, but I am surrounded by such incredible people that I feel I can overcome just about anything. Good people, good times and good memories can really make life amazing.

Happy Summer!

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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Biscuits and Veggie-Sausage Gravy

I can't remember the first time I tried biscuits and gravy. I know it was at a friends house when I was in my early teens- but I do remember thinking that I'd been cheated for too many years out of one of the best breakfast foods around. (To be fair, I think almost all breakfast foods are amazing. Still, I'm passionate about the food I like!) McCormick makes a gravy mix that is vegetarian (not sure if it's vegan, but I'm doubting it) but as much as it was nice to relive biscuits and gravy that way a couple years ago, it just wasn't the same. At all.

A couple of days ago I was browsing through some of my favorite blogs and saw a delicious looking veggie b-fast recipes which got my gears turning. What could I make that wouldn't be a repeat on a past post, and would also be delicious and relatively fast and easy to make? I had my doubts that using vegetarian meat substitute would work for this recipe, since it seems to have meat grease as its heart and soul, but it really does work wonderfully. I'm SO glad I tried it out, and will definitely makes this again!

My recipe isn't exactly original, but I winged it based on 5 or 6 others (some veggie, some not) that I found and compared. I guess it's "my version".

Veggie- Sausage Gravy


1 bag (12 oz) Morning Star Meal Starter Crumblers (or another sausage substitute, such as GimmeLean)
*I only had a little over half a bag, so I threw in a veggie burger (MS Grillers) which worked just as well.
Vegetable or Canola Oil, approx 3-4 Tbs)
Paprika (to taste, approx 1 tsp)
Onion powder (to taste, approx 3/4 Tbs)
Garlic salt (to taste, approx 1 Tbs)
Black Pepper (to taste)
Flour (approx 1/4 Cup)
Soy milk (approx 1/2 - 2/3 Cup)

Begin by pre-heating your oven and getting some fancy, store bought buttermilk biscuits in the oven. (AKA Pillsbury.) You can make your own of course, but even though I'm a cooking snob and hate using pre-made stuff, I caved. I wasn't gonna make those from scratch on a 90 degree day!

For those of you who don't know, I'm extremely jumpy, especially when it comes to loud popping noises. When it came time to open the biscuits, I realized this might cause an issue, as I had flashbacks to childhood Thanksgivings where the cans of rolls were popped open. Let's just say I spent a good 5 minutes thinking about the best way to open them with the least amount of noise and discovered a knife and gritted teeth don't make it a plesant experience. I screamed at the top of my lungs when that thing popped open! I swear, it sounded like a gun shot.

Add oil in a large pan over medium, medium-high heat. Add "meat" and cook until completely defrosted and warm.

Add all seasonings (be liberal, but taste test so as to not over-do!).

Once the "meat" is thoroughly browned, sprinkle in enough flour to soak up any grease/oil. Gradually add milk (about 1/4 Cup to start), mixing well. Bring to a boil and stir constantly.

Keep adding flour and milk alternately, always bringing the milk to a boil, until the gravy is to a consistency of your liking.

Finally, serve over those hot biscuits and enjoy! I hope you love this veggie take on a breakfast classic as much as I did.

Happy Eating!

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