Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Blueberries and Apricot Cookies/Bars

Sunday, February 5th, 2017

Well, sort of on both counts.   As usual, when I get really busy I neglect the blog (but you know that already, don’t you?  Thank you for coming back even when I’m a bit absent)!  I’ve been working on a smallish art quilt, 18 x 33, and have posted tidbits of progress on Facebook.   Because we all like pretty things, here’s a sneak peek:

A wicked tease. I’ll tell you about this quilt and what I’m doing eventually …probably in March. The tidbit for reading my blog… Quilting Arts TV tapes in March….

I also mentioned that for family dinner last night, I made some new cookies and posted about that over on FB also.

Apricot, Pistachio and Cranberry bars…YUM! Add decaf tea in winter, lemonade or something citrusy and sprightly in warmer weather.

A couple of you asked for the recipe, so I’m sharing right here.  I looked at my cookbooks and decided that for once I wouldn’t fix something chocolate, and I didn’t want to trek into town, so I had to be able to use what I had on hand.  I ended up using a recipe for Peach Bars from one of my favorite small cookbooks, Country Cookies:  An Old-Fashioned Collection by Lisa Yockelson.  Yockelson used to write about food and do recipes in The Washington Post when we lived there.   The brilliant news is that this 1990 cookbook is available for a penny at Amazon!  I also have her Country Pies, but didn’t get the one on cakes because really, is there a cake (other than perhaps coconut) other than chocolate?

Peach Squares (page 104) uses (duh) dried peaches, peach preserves, golden raisins and pecans.   None of which I had.  However, I had a lot of leftover dried apricots that I took with me for the Women’s March on Washington and apricot jam in the pantry.  I had dried cranberries (great on a salad with Balsamic vinaigrette and walnut bits).  And I had some  hazelnuts and some walnuts, though not enough of each.  THEN I spotted pistachios–bingo!   Atlantic Bakery in Rockland makes an awesome oatmeal cookie with apricot and pistachio.  So here is my variation,

Apricot Squares (with pistachio and cranberries) batter

Apricot Bars

  • 1 1/4 c. unsifted all purpose flour
  • 1/4 c. unsifted cake flour (which I didn’t have so I used regular)
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/s tsp ground ginger
  • 1/s tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves (scant)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom (optional but I love it)
  • 8 T (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temp.
  • 1/2 c. firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 extra-large egg, at room temp (mine was cold)
  • 2 extra-large egg yolks at room temp (mine were cold)
  • 1/2 c. apricot preserves, (Lisa’s recipe calls for blending with 1 tsp vanilla extract, which I totally missed, I’d do that next time)
  • 1 c. chopped dried apricots
  • 3/4 c. dried cranberries
  • 3/4 c. chopped pecans

Makes 24 squares.

I actually made a half recipe–getting half an egg was a challenge but I managed!   I used a small glass pyrex dish which made timing iffy…smaller recipe, but pan doesn’t heat/brown as well as metal.  I ended up cooking longer than the recipe specifies because my apricots were quite moist.

  1. Lightly butter and flour a 13 x 9 x 2 baking pan (I used baking spray); set aside.  Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Sift the flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, cloves and cardamom.
  3. Cream the butter in the large bowl of an electric mixer on moderate speed for 2 minutes.
  4. Add the brown sugar and beat for 2 minutes.
  5. add the granulated sugar and beat for 1 minute longer.
  6. Beat in the egg and egg yolks, one at a time, blending well after each addition.
  7. Blend in the preserves.
  8. On low speed or by hand beat in the sifted mixture in 2 additions, beating just until the particles of flour have been absorbed.
  9. By hand, stir in the dried apricots, cranberries and pistachios.
  10. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, spreading it into an even layer with a spatula or flexible palette knife.
  11. Bake the squares on the middle-level rack of the over for 25 minutes, or until set and firm to the touch.  (The cake will begin to pull away from the sides of the baking pan when done.)
  12. Cool the cake in the pan on a rack until it reaches room temperature.  Cut into squares or long “fingers” and store in an airtight container.

There!  We agreed this was definitely a make-it-again recipe.  Feel free to copy this recipe into a document to print and try on your own.  If you come up with some great variations, do SHARE with us all in the comments!

 

Insalata, a Food for Thought Quilt

Friday, April 17th, 2015

A short while ago I shared with you a first peek at my new quilt, Insalata:

Insalata, (c) 2014  Sarah Ann Smith.  Premieres April 10, 2015, at the Food for Thought exhibit at the National Quilt Museum, Paducah, Kentucky, USA.

Insalata, (c) 2014 Sarah Ann Smith. Premiered April 10, 2015, at the Food for Thought exhibit at the National Quilt Museum, Paducah, Kentucky, USA.  Size:  40 x 42.5 inches.  For sale.

When I made the tomato quilts that were the featured project in my workshop DVD for Quilting Arts, From Photo to Threadwork, including fabric collage and machine quilting (see here for the DVD or here for download), I knew I had one more tomato quilt in me.

I grew up in a town called San Anselmo, California, and mom lived there until she moved to Maine in 2008.  She and two friends would go out for lunch once a month, and often went to a restaurant called Insalata.   So she took me there, too, when I visited.  I LOVED the Chicken Fattoush salad, inspired by Lebanese and eastern Mediterranean cuisine!  I also loved the artwork.  The restaurant is in a building that, when I was a kid, was the Crocker National Bank.  If you were alive in the 60s you remember those banks with the really high (like 2-story) ceilings!  What to do to decorate the place?  She painted the ceiling a dark brown, used something warm colored on the walls (don’t remember what) and had some over-sized paintings made including some of persimmons that were each larger than a beachball.  The canvas wasn’t stretched, but hung from gromments/hooks on the wall; these pieces were easily 4-5 feet tall and over 12 feet wide.

Detail of raffia "roots" on the shallots. Insalata by Sarah Ann Smith. (c) 2014

Detail of raffia “roots” on the shallots. Insalata by Sarah Ann Smith. (c) 2014  Click for larger view.

Detail photo 2, Insalata, by Sarah Ann Smith (c) 2014.  Click for larger image.

Detail photo 2, Insalata, by Sarah Ann Smith (c) 2014. Click for larger image.

Each of the tomatoes is about the diameter of a beach ball!   So now I think I’ve finished with tomatoes.  For the time being.  Hope you enjoy!  And if you like this one, please be sure to visit the slideshow on the SAQA website of the entire Food for Thought exhibit, here.

The new Food for Thought catalog from Studio Art Quilt Associates.  Available to order here.

The new Food for Thought catalog from Studio Art Quilt Associates. Available to order here.

My pages in the catalog.  Great layout and design on the pages--love the enormous detail photo on the left.  The booklet is about 8.5 inches square.

My pages in the catalog. Great layout and design on the pages–love the enormous detail photo on the left. The booklet is about 8.5 inches square.

Food for Thought! A SAQA Exhibit

Thursday, April 9th, 2015

The Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA)’s newest touring exhibit of art quilts debuts this month at the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Kentucky, just in time for the annual AQS Quilt Show in Paducah.  I’m thrilled to be among the 34 artists in this exhibit, and equally thrilled with the exhibit catalog (which just happens to be available for sale here on the SAQA website–thank you to Deidre Adams for doing such a great job on it.)  More information about the exhibit is here on the SAQA website.

The new Food for Thought catalog from Studio Art Quilt Associates.  Available to order here.

The new Food for Thought catalog from Studio Art Quilt Associates. Available to order here.

My pages in the catalog.  Great layout and design on the pages--love the enormous detail photo on the left.  The booklet is about 8.5 inches square.

My pages in the catalog. Great layout and design on the pages–love the enormous detail photo on the left. The booklet is about 8.5 inches square.  Click to view larger.

When visiting my mother we would often go to a restaurant called Insalata, housed in a building that had been a bank when I was a child. The chef/owner met the challenge of the enormous ceilings by commissioning oversized artwork of fruits and vegetables scaled to fit the soaring walls. I loved the persimmons, especially, and remembered it as I made another quilt in my tomatoes series.   As I worked on these salad ingredients, I recalled the flavors of our food and the company of my mother and her friends as we lunched there.

Insalata, (c) Sarah Ann Smith 2014.  First major presentation in public at lecture, Tuesday, How Did She Do That?

Insalata, (c) Sarah Ann Smith 2014.  For sale.  40 x 42.5 inches.

My first tomato quilts became the basis of my Quilting Arts/Interweave video workshop which teaches my collage process.  As Helen Gregory, VP of content for F+W said, the title may be the longest ever:  Art Quilt Design from Photo to Threadwork, with Fabric Collage and Machine Quilting (link here, also available as a download here).  But as she also said, there is just so much in it!  Here’s one of the early tomato quilts:

Tomatoes425Green001

Insalata is made of Artist dyed and painted fabrics, commercial batiks, poly-wool blend batting, textile paint, Mistyfuse, crisp interfacing, Superior Threads 40-wt poly and 60-wt poly thread, raffia.  Techniques include dyeing and painting fabric. Fused collage. Intensely machine quilted.

The exhibit will travel to Great Britain (England and Ireland) next year, and additional venues thereafter. Sure hope I get to see it in the cloth somewhere!

 

Daffodils and tulips, oh my!

Friday, October 31st, 2014

Well… the garden sure doesn’t LOOK like it has had work done.  As a matter of fact, it looks like we’ve done nothing.  But there are 86 tulip bulbs and 300 daffodil bulbs in the ground!

Planting daffodil bulbs on our "meadow" (i.e. a place we don't mow).  I told Eli, Paul, Joshua and Ashley they looked like a road crew:  standing around looking at a hole, holding tools, one maybe working....

Planting daffodil bulbs on our “meadow” (i.e. a place we don’t mow). I told Eli, Paul, Joshua and Ashley they looked like a road crew: standing around looking at a hole, holding tools, one maybe working….

On Saturday I started in on planting the tulip bulbs near the house.  All the bulbs in fact are fragrant.  I picked Angelique, Tacoma and another variety that is a pale yellow peony style (12 of each) and in landscape (ie smaller, less expensive) 50 (!!!) Orange Princess, this incredible orange with pink and green stripes.  I figure I can get some help deterring the deer from walking Widgeon nearby.  Ahem.

That comment galvanized them (Laughing here!)--they were a huge help.  With my arthritis in my wrists and hands it would have taken me forever rather than 90 minutes to plant 260 bulbs!  THANK YOU family dears!

That comment galvanized them (Laughing here!)–they were a huge help. With my arthritis in my wrists and hands it would have taken me forever rather than 90 minutes to plant 260 bulbs! THANK YOU family dears!

Then Joshua and Ashley came over and we had a belated b-day celebration for me (we had to wait for the bulbs to arrive) and planted daffodil bulbs.  Joshua, Paul and Eli dug about 17 holes; Ashley and I planted.   Then, Joshua fixed an awesome mac and cheese with about six kinds of cheese, oven-roasted grape tomatoes, fresh basil, bacon….can you say heavenly?  Finally, I had fixed sticky toffee pudding, which is this delectable English cake-like dessert with sauce, served with vanilla ice cream.  SLURP.  A lovely family day.

Now every spring when I look out on our hill and see the bulbs, I will remember this day.  Of course, the bulbs are on about 1/9 of the meadow, so I’m thinking we may need to make this an annual event for several years.  I’ve always dreamed of having an entire field of daffs–how happy can a garden get, to be filled with daffodils?

Eli brought Widgeon out, so I decided to get down on the ground and take a photo from pug's-eye-level of him and the view.  Except he immediate galumphed over to me....

Eli brought Widgeon out, so I decided to get down on the ground and take a photo from pug’s-eye-level of him and the view. Except he immediately galumphed over to me….

and this is the shot I ended up with!

A happy, wild-eyed pug ready to smooch his mama (that would be me)

A happy, wild-eyed pug ready to smooch his mama (that would be me)

Then today I planted the last of the daffodil bulbs, 25 for near the deck/entry, and transplanted a peony.  We tried to kill a baptisia plant near the peony  so that we could SEE the peony and deal with the VW-Beetle-sized baptisia shrub and failed spectacularly, so I’ve decided if you can’t conquer it, move the peony!

Widgeon looking regal and dignified.  Well, he thinks so.  Then we all crack up because he is so funny!

Widgeon looking regal and dignified. Well, he thinks so. Then we all crack up because he is so funny! Can you say LOVE THE PUG!

Now to enjoy the winter blizzards and blinding beauty of snow, then endure mud season, and finally wait for spring to spring and see how the bulbs look and smell.  Joshua and Ashley will be receiving a fragrant bouquet (provided they bloom!).  And I can tell you if those Orange Princess tulips are as glorious as they looked in the photo, there WILL be dyeing of fabric and a quilt of ginormous tulips!  I promise I’ll share garden photos in spring!

What I learned today

Thursday, October 24th, 2013
Guess what I did today?  And yes, that is a 7 cubic yard cart behind the lawn tractor nearly full of apples.  From just two trees.  That still have more apples.

Guess what I did today? And yes, that is a 7 cubic yard cart behind the lawn tractor nearly full of apples. From just two trees. That still have more apples.

It’s all about apples.   The prep work for teaching in  Houston is nearly done, and the last of the apple trees are seriously laden.  They won’t last until AFTER going to International Quilt Festival in Houston, so I figured I’d best harvest today.

This tree is so old, and I love the architecture of the tree.  In winter when it is bare, the branches are like sculpture.  In spring the blossoms are a soft pink, and in summer and fall the apples grow and grow.  This year we had these unbelievable clusters, and some of the apples are as large as grocery store apples, not the usual apricot size on most of the 20+ old trees on our property.

This tree is so old, and I love the architecture of the tree. In winter when it is bare, the branches are like sculpture. In spring the blossoms are a soft pink, and in summer and fall the apples grow and grow. This year we had these unbelievable clusters, and some of the apples are as large as grocery store apples, not the usual apricot size on most of the 20+ old trees on our property.

This all started in early 2011 when the owner of this property (which became ours in February 2011) told me the previous summer he had harvested 52 **bushels** of apples and had them made into cider.  Let’s be honest:  I have NO interest in being a farmer, harvesting 52 bushels of anything, let alone turning it all into cider.  But….How could I let all those good apples this year go to the critters and bugs?  I have to do something with them….

I filled this big bucket about halfway with the red apples and twice with the red-green ones.

I filled this big bucket about halfway with the red apples and twice with the red-green ones. 

This year we had a bumper crop of apples and peaches.  We had maybe 30 peaches (the previous two summers our maximum was 3, yep, three) and a gazillion apples and even a tree-full of pears, tho the latter never got above 2 inches long (if that).

Back when rhubarb started growing, fellow Frayed Edges member Kate Cutko made us a rhubarb crumble that was delicious–and really easy:  Ch0p fruit.  Make a crumble topping.  Make a slurry of water, cornstarch and sugar.  Put half of crumble in bottom of baking dish, add fruit, top with remaining crumble, pour sweet slurry on top of everything, and bake.  Then EAT.

I figured I could try that recipe with apples instead, and it worked!   The only problem was that our apples are SMALL–some no larger than an apricot (and not the honking big ones they now grow, but regular apricots), which meant a lot of peeling.  So I boiled ’em a few minutes until it was easy to peel (turns out the peel is thick, these were clearly apples meant for animal feed a century-plus ago!).  Sliced up fruit, etc.  Both Kate’s and my recipes are at the end of this post.  ENJOY!

Here is what I learned today:

  • You really can shake the apple tree.  Well, sort of.  Our trees are not on dwarf stock like you-pick orchards.  They are 20 or more feet tall, and I’m lucky if I can jump up and snag the lowest branch.  So I grabbed the rake and used it to “grab” a branch and shake as many apples loose as I could.  Then I switched to a different branch.
  • It is possible to shake the old apple tree and not get pelted, for the most part.  However it is advisable to look down in case an apple hits you.  Eyeglasses are expensive.   Fortunately, I thought of this before getting whacked.
  • If you shake an apple tree where it hangs over the crumbling old stone wall, any apples that land on it will split open.  BUMMERS.
  • If you shake an apple tree over bare ground it is much easier to retrieve the apples than if they fall into the thicket under the trees.  Next year I will learn how to use the bushwhacker (a weed whacker on steroids) and will use it to clear under the trees FIRST.  Then I will shake.
If you are going to shake the apple tree, it is better when the apples land on dirt.  Not so good when they land on the rocks.

If you are going to shake the apple tree, it is better when the apples land on dirt. Not so good when they land on the rocks.

  • Our wild turkeys are  thorough, effective groundskeepers. If apples fall, and they can reach them (there were some old windfall apples in the crevices in the falling rock wall), they will eat them.  All of them.  Do not delay in picking up fallen apples.
We have two clans of wild turkeys this year.  One is about nine, the other about 19.  That's a lot of turkey!  The bunch of them moving through the woods is suprisingly pretty noisy.  And I know they like apples because they were rather startled from a tasty meal the other day as I walked pas with Pigwidgeon.

We have two clans of wild turkeys this year. One is about nine, the other about 19. The babies are now nearly full-grown. That’s a lot of turkey! The bunch of them moving through the woods is surprisingly  noisy. And I know they like apples because they were rather startled from a tasty meal the other day as I walked pas with Pigwidgeon.

  • From the deer scat, it appears our deer are also very effective groundskeepers.  We almost never see them other than hoofprints in the driveway (or snow), but they are clearly here.  Recently.  Pooping.  The apples will be VERY WELL WASHED.  Very well.
  • If the turkeys and deer don’t eat the apples, the slugs and bugs will.
  • It’s a good thing we have an old spare fridge in the basement.  And it works.  It’s the kind with the plastic freezer compartment inside.  It is now filled with apples.  The smallest ones are in the built-in egg spots.  Every available space if filled:  the door shelves, the whole thing.  Full.  I will be busy when I get back from Houston!
  • Homemade apple crumble is really good.  Ice cream or just plain heavy cream poured on it is delectable.

After moving to Maine, I learned that a barn is just a two-horse (or even one-horse) garage of yesteryear.  And I learned that every farm had at least two apple trees.  We now live in Hope, one half mile from Appleton (as in AppleTown).  Everywhere in Maine you see in the re-grown forests apple trees, still living on for decades after those who planted them died and the farms disappeared.

And recently from Fedco Garden Supplies, I learned that most of those apples were used for animal feed and cider.  Guess there’s a reason why the previous owner had ’em made into cider!  Fedco has a totally cool page about old Maine apples here and more information on how to prune and revitalize old trees.   Wonder how much it would cost to have True (Bragg, Eli’s wrestling coach who has a tree business) come prune these two trees?  But only after I take more photos.  That tree needs to be a quilt!

I’m planning on turning some of the apples into applesauce.  The others will become fixin’s for crumble.  I think I’ll slice up and freeze the larger apples.  Then I’ll make a batch of crumble, and just bake up one portion at a time.  However, I can attest that if you make an entire crumble and no one else in the house will eat it (what is WRONG with them?), your crumble will keep up to a week and re-heat very nicely in an oven-proof bowl in the toaster oven.   Good with cream.  YUM! Next time I’ll take pictures before I eat it all.  Ahem. I have no one to blame for my tight pants but me, but at the moment I’d eat a bowl in a nano-second!

Here’s Kate’s recipe (which is Jane’s Recipe):

Janes rhubarb Crumble

1 c brown sugar
1 c oats
1 c flour
1 stick butter

Mix all together and spread half of the mixture in the bottom of a greased 9×11 pan.
Over that, spread 3-4 cups of chopped rhubarb.  Top with remaining crumble mix.

In a small saucepan, mix
1 c water
1 c sugar
1 heaping Tbl. Cornstarch.
Heat until thickened. Pour over rhubarb\crumble.
Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes.
Best served with vanilla ice cream or yogurt.

And my variation:

Topping:

  • 1 c brown sugar
  • 1 c oats
  • 1 c flour
  • 1 stick butter
  • Cinnamon, cardamom and any other spices you like…I think I used 1 tsp. (heaping?) cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom and a pinch of ground cloves.  Next time I’ll add a bit of ginger and a bit more cardamom, cloves, and maybe some fresh-ground nutmeg.

Mix all topping ingredients together and spread half of the mixture in the bottom of a greased round casserole dish.

Liquids:

  • In a small pyrex measuring cup, mix
  • 1/2 c water
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 1 heaping Tbl. Cornstarch.
  • Heat in Microwave for 1-2 minutes until thick.
  • I think I added a bit of cinnamon and cardamom here, too.

Peel, core and slice apples.  Toss with thickened liquid. Place in pan.  I used a round souffle / casserole dish–probably 3 inches deep, 9 across, and I filled it nearly to the top with apples.

Add remaining topping to (well duh!) the top.

Bake at 375 degrees (sorry, haven’t a clue what this would be in Europe…we bake cakes at 325 to 350 degrees, so just a bit warmer temp).

I forgot/misread Kate’s recipe, so I put the liquids on the apples instead of on the top (I thought the crumble would get soggy).  I think next time I will try it on top as the crumble was powdery from the flour.  Or I’ll pulse the crumble in the mini food processor to get the butter into much smaller pieces.